We posted about 3D printing in 2015, but if, like me, you are new to the 3D printing game, a refresher course could be helpful. Not to mention, there are also some additional resources worth highlighting. All resources are free unless otherwise marked.
So enjoy some resources for getting teens engaged in making and learning with a 3D printer!
Thingiverse is a classic destination for printer files, but it’s still one of the best free resources for prints out there.
My Mini Factory (also an iOS app)
Much like Thingiverse, My Mini Factory provides free files for 3d printing. The education section (linked above) offers great manipulatives!
NASA 3D Models
Models of NASA spacecraft and other technology, in addition to models of lunar and Martian landscape, asteroids, and more
One of the great free all around web-based design tools. Requires creation of an account.
Another free web-based tool, with the possibility to download software. Pairs well with Google Suite, which could make account creation easy in schools that use Google emails.
Sculptris (Windows/ Mac download)
Shape virtual clay into 3D sculptures that can be printed.
Makers Empire 3D (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)
Makers Empire offers easy-to-use mobile design software, lessons, and daily challenges. The app is free and downloadable for computers (not just mobile devices), and a paid school subscription with advanced teacher and education options like a grading dashboard is available.
Trnio (iOS, $.99)
Create 3D scans from photos! While this probably isn’t for true beginners because files usually need to be cleaned up and adjusted before printing, it’s a cool way to get to the next level of 3D printing and great to give motivated teens a challenge.
Qlone (iOS, Android, free but exporting files requires payment)
3D modeling app that exports to a variety of flie types.
Many lesson plans come from companies selling printers, so they recommend their own tools, but most can be adapted to use the tools and software you prefer.
A classic for a reason. This is, to my knowledge the largest lesson plan database for 3d printing out there.
Ultimaker Lesson Starters
These lesson ideas are a great starting point for programming or collaboration with teachers.
Several standalone activities that would make great library programs, but could be built into a larger curriculum as well. Includes the printer files needed to make designs.
Dremel Digilab Lesson Plans
Lessons for Elementary through High School illustrate STEM concepts. While the Digilab partners with mystemkits.com for paid .stl files that go with each lesson, but lesson ideas could be built upon for use with other files if desired.
Learn By Layers (requires purchase of curriculum bundles)
This curriculum does require purchase, but it’s very comprehensive and sequenced, starting from true beginner lessons and systematically moving up to advanced design challenges. Includes assessments.
Functional Print Reddit
Seeing the functional designs from others could inspire teens to move beyond toys and trinkets and into the world of more functional printing.
If your teens are motivated to work with materials beyond what your printer can handle, consider having them design their object and send it to Shapeways.
NIH 3D Print Exchange
Scientifically accurate print files for prosthestics, neuroscience, heart disease and molecules. Teens might not have use for many of these prints because many are quite technical, but this showcases the potential applications of the technology.