3D Printing

3D Printing in K-12 Grows; Average Contract $39,000

Designs for 467 models of bone structures, proteins, scientific tools and other objects have appeared in the new exchange created by the National Institutes of Health to allow users to share, download and edit 3D print files in health and science. NASA is testing the use of 3D printing in zero gravity for potential use on the International Space Station. And maker spaces with 3D printers are popping up in public libraries as far apart as Nevada City, CA; Denton, TX and University City, MO.

A company that monitors federal, state and local contracting has discovered that the expansion of 3D printing is growing in the public sector — including school districts.

Onvia, which maintains a database of contracting deals, reported that references to "3D printing" in awards made in all education (both K-12 and higher ed) grew from 18 in 2012 to 27 in 2013 and is expected to grow dramatically from there in 2014, where 24 awards have already been issued for the first half of the year. More than eight of 10 awards since 2011 were issued in K-12 settings, the remainder in colleges and universities.

For example, Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia awarded a one-year contract for $97,356 to 3D Printer Technology to supply the school system with 40 to 50 MakerBot Replicator 3D printers. Enfield Public Schools has already introduced a number of manufacturing technologies into its courses, including 3D printers, plasma cutters, mills and vinyl cutters. Now the Connecticut district has proposed an increase in its equipment expenditure to purchase additional 3D printing technology for the John F. Kennedy Middle School.

"The opportunities in 3D printing extend beyond manufacturers and distributors of 3D printers," noted Onvia in a blog entry on its Web site. "Consultation, training and maintenance are involved as [are] software, design tools, scanners and finishing machines." Some schools, the report said, "plan to have students build and use their own dedicated 3D printers, using open-source software to program them, and then design and create products." The company cited Turlock Unified School District as an example. The California district references this intention In its 2014-2017 technology plan.

According to Onvia, the average 3D printing contract value in K-12 was $38,981. The median value was $21,200.

For projects slated to start in 2015, "3D printing" shows up in budgets and agency planning documents, the majority (97 percent) related to K-12 projects and the remainder (3 percent) for higher ed.

"Onvia's database has solid evidence of a growing trend in 3D technology opportunities with increased state, local and education activity happening over the next few years as educational institutions and local municipalities embrace this new technology to teach, educate and improve quality of life for their local communities," said Onvia Senior Marketing Manager Kelsey Voss.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.