SOLID Learning Files

In SOLID Learning, I have been focusing on the educational integration of 3D Printed objects more than the specific format for object storage. Because MakerBot Education has been kind enough to sponsor my research, their Thingiverse open-access repository provides an excellent platform for storing and providing access to SOLID Learning 3D object files. SOLID Learning Lessons will also include other file types such as slide decks, programming files, classroom handouts and other related materials necessary to integrate the 3D objects into the class setting.

For 3D objects the common .STL (stereolithography) file format seems to be the current standard for object storage whether sourcing from any of the following:

  • Existing archives like Makerbot’s Thingiverse
  • Shape modeling through TinkerCAD or AutoCAD
  • 3D scanners such as ZScanner and live-action full body scans from XYZ_RGB
  • Photo extraction such as the AutoDesk 123D Catch cloud service.

To limit translation issues, the SOLID Learning implementation is being planned around integrated .STL file sets together with lesson plans, multimedia files, slide decks and other related components of each lesson – however, the preliminary software design could easily include additional object model files, provided that the queueing software can handle them for the solid object generation process (currently investigating wrappers for ink-jet style fusing and G-code extrusion technologies).

An image of multiple chess pieces grouped as a single print sheet.

In order to simplify a teacher’s workload, items necessary for a particular lesson will need to be grouped together to be able to print with a minimum of human interaction. This will reduce the number of individual pieces a teacher needs to print and remove, although a failure in reproduction due to misalignment or any other adjustment variance will produce a large bundle of extruded plastic without someone watching the print jobs.

Waste filament and malformed 3D printed objects.

Filament-style 3D Printers, stereolithographic systems and other forms of additive manufacturing all suffer occasional issues with environmental conditions – failure to adhese successive layers, filament inconsistencies and impurities, bubbles in the extruder, and accidental interaction between the extruder heads and the object being constructed are good examples of why this is not a start-and-come-back operation for all types of objects.

The tendency for lost filament and time is reduced by using a robust manufactured product as opposed to hand-built one-offs, but while both can and do provide excellent potential for good prints, both can also produce the melted bundle of plastic if not managed properly.

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