3D scanning technology has developed significantly in recent years and is now more affordable and better quality than ever making it a perfect compliment to 3D printing to enhance delivery of the curriculum.

The advantage of 3D printing is that it allows students to design and make high quality products with complex geometries that would be difficult for them to produce using other tools and techniques with their limited skills. However this does rely on students mastering 3D modelling software in order to design the 3D models. Designing items with complex curves and “sculptural” properties is difficult to master without the use of specialist “3D sculpting” software and lots of practice. 3D scanners allow students to create models by hand from clay, balsa wood and other materials then scan these models to produce the 3D model file – providing opportunities to create 3D prints of models that would be difficult to design using 3D modelling software alone.

In this blog we look at 5 ideas for how 3D scanning technology can be used to enhance delivery of the Secondary Curriculum.

1. Create Ergonomic 3D printed parts for Design and Technology projects

Designing ergonomic products/parts can be much more difficult using 3D modelling software as the shapes and forms are often very complex and difficult to achieve 

However students can sculpt ergonomic items more easily by forming them using clay or plasticine. These models can be shaped to fit the end users then 3D scanned. The scans can be further edited within the 3D modelling software if required to add  more regular geometric features for example to add surface features such as buttons, create holes and slots or join the sculpted shape onto an existing pre-designed part.

Examples of projects that use this technique include ergonomic handles, pens and games controllers.  Another project that uses this technique is our Custom Bicycle Handlebar Grip Lesson.

3d ergonomically designed pens which have been 3d scanned and 3d printed using FFF filament

2. Scan waste products for use in upcycling projects

3D scanning can be particularly beneficial to use alongside 3D printing as as part of a upcycling product. Students can identify waste items or unwanted products to upcycle then design 3D printed parts that fit or attach to the waste item to create new products with a new purpose.

The benefit of 3D scanning for these projects is that the original item to be upcycled can be 3D scanned and the scan file can be imported into the 3D modelling software. Students can then design the 3D models of the new parts to perfectly fit the existing waste part then discard the 3D scan.

3. Create 3D printed sculptures or sculptural products as an Art or Design project

The ability to 3D scan from a clay model opens up the technology to a variety of uses within Art and Design. Sculptures can be produced from clay and other materials which can then be scanned and 3D printed – allowing multiple copies of an item to be recreated. These can also be recreated in different colours and at different scales. Sculpted forms can also be edited using 3D modelling software to create sculpted products such as lampshades, vases and tea light holders.

Natural objects and forms can also be 3D scanned and 3D printed for use within art and design projects such as seashells, acorns and fruit.

3D scan and 3D print of a hand holding what looks like mushrooms

4. Create models of geographical features and landforms to aid understanding in Geography

Many geographical features and landforms are studied through the use of photographs and labelled diagrams eg glaciation features such as drumlins, arêtes and corries. The combination of 3D scanning with 3D printing provides opportunities for students to create 3D models of these features. Students could use the information provided by photographs and labelled diagrams to create clay models of different features which are then scanned and 3D printed. Not only does this add interest to lessons but the process of creating the models will aid students understanding and retention of physical geographical features. 

The added advantage of this is that the resultant 3D prints of the students’ models will provide the Geography department with sets of re-usable teaching and learning aids. Miniatures copies of these models can also be 3D printed for the students to keep which will aid them in the future whilst revising for examinations.

5. 3D print medical scans to use as teaching and learning aids in the Science department

If you do not have access to a 3D scanner, you can still benefit from 3D scans that are available freely online. One such use of these is in 3D printing medical scans for use as teaching and learning aids in biology.

The Embodi3D Website is a good source for these files with many human 3D scans of bones, skulls, organs and muscular structures shared by the medical community, many of which are available as free downloadable STL files ready for slicing and 3D printing.

3D scan of a skeleton

The technology is also being used widely for a number of applications and many 3D scans that are perfect for education use are being shared freely by organisations around the world allowing you to bring the world into the classroom through 3D printing models of real items and artefacts. Two examples which offer a large number of 3D scan models are:

MyMiniFactory Scan The World – The Open Source Museum
For 3D scans of buildings, landmarks and historical artefacts from around the world.

Smithsonian 3D
Scans from many of the Smithsonian museums and collections.

How to get started with 3D scanning

If you want to try out a 3D scanning project, our partners at PrintLab have several fully resourced 3D scanning projects (some of which use 3D scan data and don’t require access to a scanner) all available within their PrintLab Classroom Subscription these include:

  • Surrealist Structures
  • Digitising Nature
  • Reverse Engineering
  • Organic Homeware
  • Ergonomic Pens
  • Making Classroom Objects

If you want to try out a 3D scanner, the CREATE Education Loan Scheme now includes the ability to loan a 3D scanner for half a term. This gives you an opportunity to try out a scanner to run a practical project with students, see how straightforward the scanners (and scanning software) are to use and how accurate and detailed the 3D scans are. 

We also have a wide range of 3D scanners available from entry level desktop 3D scanners to HD Handheld scanners, take a look at our range of 3D scanners or contact us to learn more about the capabilities of the different scanners.

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