When we received a copy of 3D Printing Projects, a new children’s book published by DK, we were really excited. This book is brilliant for introducing children to the world of 3D printing with a wonderful range of child friendly 3D printing projects for children to try at home or to run as projects in school.
In our latest guest blog, DK Senior Editor Ben Morgan shares the details of this book with us. DK have also kindly shared their Phone Stand Project from the book which you can download for free and try for yourself.
Here at DK we were very excited to produce a children’s book about 3D printing, a topic that children’s book publishers hadn’t tackled before. The idea was partly inspired by the amazing buzz that has surrounded 3D printing in recent years and partly by the dramatic fall in printer prices – good printers can now be had for as little as £200, which means 3D printers could soon be household items. Although 3D printing has until recently been a specialist adult hobby, we thought the ability to design and print your very own toys, models, and other creations would be even more exciting to children – but only if we could get the book right and make the topic accessible, easy and fun. We didn’t want to produce a technical reference book about 3D printing, we wanted to create a book that felt like a collection of fun, creative, craft-like projects that anyone could have a go at.
The first thing we realised when planning 3D Printing Projects is that most of the existing literature about 3D printing is horrendously technical, long-winded, and totally unsuitable for children. So we did a lot of work figuring out what the basic essentials are, and then we used this stripped-down information in the first chapter of the book to construct a learning curve for beginners, designed to get readers up to speed quickly and painlessly whatever their level of technical ability. Actually this chapter turned out to be easier and shorter than we’d expected – 3D printing is not particularly technical or difficult once you cut through the jargon.
Using a 3D printer can be time-consuming – large prints can take hours – but isn’t really much more complicated than using a paper printer. The steepest part of the learning curve is finding how to create and manipulate 3D models and getting them ready to print. As a result, the majority of 3D Printing Projects is about what goes at the computer, before you fire up the printer. Our experience with previous children’s books has taught us that hands-on activities are often a better learning tool than pages of facts and theory. So we divided the book into a series of CAD projects that work like tutorials, each one showing you how to build a different 3D model in foolproof numbered steps, all of which are illustrated in colour. As it’s a children’s book, the focus is on fun toys and gadgets, from a cute smartphone-holder key ring to a medieval castle complete with drawbridge and battlements.
What’s the best CAD software to use? Again we did a lot of work looking into this and realised that we could focus on features common to most CAD programs and so make the projects relevant to an audience with a range of different software packages. However, we used Tinkercad to construct all the models for the book and recommend this one as the best program for beginners and the best one to accompany the book. As well as being free and super easy to use, it runs in a browser, so no downloading is needed. Tinkercad is owned by Autodesk, who make most of the professional CAD systems used by architects, illustrators, and engineers, so it is also a great stepping stone for children who may go on to learn professional CAD programs later.
Like most CAD programs, Tinkercad uses very geometric shapes to build more complex models. We wanted to include some more organic, natural models in our book, so a couple of projects are based on a different program called Sculptris, which is also free. This works like a virtual ball of clay that you can mould with just a mouse. While the Tinkercad projects are quite prescriptive, the Sculptris projects give children a little more scope to express their creativity and sculpt their own designs.
Either way, we hope that all the projects in 3D Printing Projects will be as fun to children as building LEGO toys or Minecraft cities, but with the added advantage that they learn useful career-building skills along the way.
Ben Morgan, Senior Editor, DK
In The Classroom
If you are introducing 3D printing, this book provides a series of interesting projects to tackle with the students along with simple introductions and explanations of the technology and software tools. This book also makes the perfect addition to any school library, and as the suggested software tools are free students could try producing the CAD drawings at home.