I’ve talked before about 3D printing, mostly about STEM education applications, and the projects that our boys have worked on at home and at community learning groups.
The Morph Pen comes in a great storage box, with five colors of filament, a replacement head, power cord, (little tiny) tools for maintenance, and a user manual. I’m going to say right here, I was very favorably impressed with the user manual. On a regular basis, I receive products where, if there is a manual included, the content is written poorly, was not proofread, and can be more confusing than helpful. This manual is very well written and well organized. Not only did I find no typographical or grammar errors, it was easy to look things up when I had a question.
Because, the truth is, watching my son test this, I got really antsy to get my own hands on it. More about that later.
We got set up to work. We set out silicone mats (my son’s was orange, mine was blue) for work surfaces. His was sold to work with 3D filament printing pens; mine actually came with a dehydrator. But to be honest, I think you could use any silicone baking mat. And you really only need a mat like this if you need to protect your work surface.
My son also has a little spatula – kind of like a scrapbooking tool. I found that was very helpful.
My son taught me this little trick. When I first started, my filament went, just everywhere. He said to “print” as if I were drawing, and right onto paper. The filament sticks (just a little) to the paper until it cools. This keeps it in place so you can create the shape you want. Once it’s cool, it comes right off. Here, he has drawn a couple shapes to outline and fill in with the pen.
Later, he combined his shapes to make this:
It’s a spoon. Or, well, a sculpture of a spoon. This puzzled me, and he explained it was a gift for his brother, based on some joke.
And then he was gone. (Off to deliver the gift.)
And then I got to start making things.
I had been wanting to re-create a wreath I saw on Facebook, but I wanted a little more pizzazz. So I printed out some shapes, warmed up the pen (it has an automatic shut off if you don’t use it for a certain amount of time),
and got busy tracing.
I learned the hard way to trace on the back of the paper. Apparently, the graphite from the pencil my son drew does not come off on filament. However, the toner from the printer did come off the paper, and this first snowflake was grey on the back (flat) side. 🙁
After that, I knew to use the back side, and I was really pleased with how things came out. The trick seemed to be: be patient (go slow); outline; then, fill in.
Next, I did a bell.
I was really pleased with how the individual ornaments were turning out.
Time to put them together. Some candy canes, a lot of hot glue, and a little more time and I had this:
And then, this!
So. Yes. 3D printing is still a great tool for kids to get some hands on experience with their STEM learning. And you can make some really useful things (not just wreaths and joke spoons). But they are also a super tool for creative expression, and could be an excellent way to get kids who are less-than-excited about STEM concepts involved in some activities.
And, of course, if all else fails, you could let them make a wreath. 😉