Customizing the Learning Environment with 3D Printing

Here are some ideas I shared with a couple of Assistive Technology Trainers about how 3D printers could be used to customize and personalize the learning environment.

Customization: A 3D printer can create a variety of customized brackets, mounts, hooks and grips. A camera, microphone, button or gadget can be positioned and oriented in a customized stand or case to fit a student’s range of motion and ideal viewing angle. Devices can be attached to the frame of a chair or walker. Open source designs are available for swing arms and telescoping arms so a device can quickly be used and then put away.

Grips can be designed for tools such as a stylus or interactive whiteboard pen to allow a student to hold it more comfortably. All of this can be done cheaply and the design can be adapted and changed multiple times until it meets the needs of the student and teacher.

One of the Assistive Technology Trainers suggested that a mold could be created of a student’s grip using play-doh or clay and then scanned and printed in plastic.

Objects can also be printed with text or pictograms on the surface.

Personalization: There are a variety of colors of plastic available for 3D printers. Any of the printed customizations can be printed in a student’s favorite color. The size, shape and texture of any of these prints can be personalized to the student’s preferences. A design or name can be added to further personalize a print.

Personalization improves the interaction with instructional and assistive tech. Personalized gear is cool for the student to use.

Low Tech Alternatives : There some low tech products that can also be used to customize and personalize the learning environment.

Instamorph or Shapelock: Plastic that melts in hot water and locks in shape at room temp.

Sugru: Self-setting rubber that can be formed by hand. It moulds like play-dough, bonds to almost anything and turns into a strong, flexible silicone rubber overnight.

Model Magic: Modeling compound that is soft and lightweight. It dries within 24 hours.

Why 3d Printing? The Assistive Technology Trainers asked a very good question. Why would you use 3D Printing when the low tech approach is faster and simpler? I’m still thinking about that but feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Or send a Tweet @DesignMakeShare