In what, up till now, has been a niche market, 3D printers may be ready for prime time as manufactures of the technology are looking at the education market as a way to help mainstream the technology.
Engaging Solutions is ramping up its efforts to offer 3D printing technology to the educational market for the 2014-2015 school year. The company is a K-12 educational consulting firm based in Katy, Texas, that is focused on bringing advanced technologies into the classroom environment.
The company is in early discussions with 3D print leaders MakerBot to bring 3D print technology into classrooms around the country. For the past several years, MakerBot has been focused on markets such as engineering, architecture, designing and, to a far lesser extent, the consumer space.
"3D printing is the quintessential disruptive technology in education today, revolutionizing the way students create, collaborate, and comprehend," said Erica Stietenroth, CEO of Engaging Solutions. "It unleashes the potential of students who can now go from an on-screen concept to a 3D object they can literally hold in their hands and easily modify, refine, and enhance to achieve their desired results."
The education market is perfectly suited for 3D print technology as a way to better engage students, Engaging Solutions said.
"This capability takes student engagement into an entirely new dimension," explained Mary Beth Kreml, a professional development specialist for Engaging Solutions. "Students go far beyond Hear, See, and Do and now take the amazing leap to Create. When students work together to develop an idea and then watch it take form before their eyes, it makes learning real and exciting, and demonstrates what they are capable of achieving."
After MakerBot made a splash with its 3D printers a few years back, the technology has been slow to catch on outside the industrial sector. It has been generally priced out of range for the consumer or education markets.
That has changed in recent months as brands such as MakerBot (most recently with its Replicator Desktop 3D Printers) are now offering models that retail between $1,375 and $6,499. The tech is now far more accessible at the department and even classroom level.
The drop in cost is also seeing 3D print technology begin to appear in more science and physics labs, and in design and drafting classrooms. It also is now becoming a must-have, hands-on tool in cross-discipline, project-based STEM programs.
Is the mainstream consumer next? We'll see.