Are there resources that you recommend to teachers and students for them to start exploring the design side of 3D printing?
Excerpt of an interview with Polar 3D Co-Founder William "Bill" Steele by design experts Tom and Tracy Hazzard, of Hazzard Design Consulting
Design is one of the biggest questions that I think any user, not just teachers or students would have, but any user of 3D printers, has. Where do I get the things I want to print or how do I create the things that I want to print? And there are many, many resources out there to do that. I'll break it down into two classes. One you can take resources that have already been created by others.
There's a website called Thingiverse (Thingiverse.com.) That's a site designed to allow users to share models or things that they've designed with anybody else in the world with their permits of licensing on those.
YouMagine is another example. It's an online community for everyone who’s eager to explore the world of 3D printing. You can just download a file, or project, which somebody else designed and load it into your printer and print. That's a nice way of doing it.
Trimble, SketchUp, Tinkercad
The neat thing about a lot of those sites, or a lot of the users, is that they also post the source files for those. So they might have designed it in Trimble SketchUp, (sketchup.com), or Tinkercad. They can design it in those tools, and they include the source files so that you can go and modify and do whatever you want to.
Learn to Build 3D Objects
The other side of that, is again, the designing of the project themselves. SketchUp or Tinkercad, those sites are fantastic for learning how to build three-dimensional objects. We're going to start off with a simple two-dimensional object, and then we'll extrude it up into the third dimension.
One other fantastic resource that most of us adults don't use, but kids use it all the time is something as simple as Minecraft. Microsoft bought Minecraft recently and we've seen a huge explosion of tools built around this concept of using blocks to build objects. Now we did it as kids using Lego's, but the benefit that the kids have today with these tools is that they can size the Lego's differently, digitally, and they can zoom into a small spot and put really tiny Lego’s to make it fine detail, and then when we zoom back out, you just see a smooth surface. The neat thing about that is the printer or these tools that work like this will generate the appropriate files for 3D printing.
In addition, Minecraft has a service called Printcraft that you can actually develop something in Minecraft, and then send it to the Printcraft server, and it will email you your SDL file which you send to the printer.