Solving a problem through 3d printing

Solving a Problem through 3d Printing

Summary of the project:

This project encourages students to solve real problems that they are currently facing. Using the design process, students are asked to generate multiple problems that they face on a consistent basis. Students may elect to do some general research and/or complete a survey to help them identify a problem. Next, they create multiple sketches of a design that will hopefully help solve their identified problem. From there, they create a very basic prototype using cardboard, paper, tape, etc. If they like what they see, the next step is to take some measurements and create a detailed Inventor drawing. After they have the drawing completed, I like to create a quality prototype using a laser engraver (this step isn’t necessary, especially if you don’t have a laser engraver). This process is quick and will also help the students visualize whether or not their design will work. Finally, the student can print their part on a 3d printer.

Print Settings:

Printer Brand:

Lulzbot Taz 6

Usually not needed

Depends on the design


*Tips and Tricks:
By allowing students to design something that is functional for them, that will help right off of the bat. They really become vested in the project. Let them know that there is no such thing as a bad idea (problem identification). The more ideas that they start with, the better. Prototyping is also critical as sometimes students don’t have a concept of size. Not only will that save them time, but it also will save you printing time. Don’t be afraid to challenge the students designs or ideas…if it is good, they will be able to back it up.

As far as printing the students work, always do your research as far as what material you are printing with. Play around with the settings and you will be off and running. Make sure your build plate is clean. Sometimes a PVA based glue stick is all you need (obviously, don’t go crazy with the glue stick).
It is also important to check everyone’s work prior to printing. Assuming the part is good sometimes leads to bad prints. As I mentioned before, students sometimes don’t have a concept of size or they fail to dimension their drawing. Obviously, either issue will lead to a print that is not functional.


Pitching your idea/design:
After creating your final printed part, students will now be pitching their design to a panel of judges.

How I Designed This:

Inventor Professional
*Any CAD platform that will allow you to specify dimensions should work.

Overview and Background

Students are first introduced to Inventor as it can be quite intimidating without any prior experience. We start off with 2 basic projects: a keychain project (allows students to learn basic drawing tools) and a phone stand project (allows students to create a part that needs dimensions as well as multiple sketches). After that, students are introduced to the big design project. This activity works best in small groups (2 or 3). Once paired up, students will essentially split up for the next 5-6 weeks. One partner is the design expert and the other is the marketing guru. If you have a group of 3, they can help where needed and also help with communication. At this point, your groups will start identifying their problems and go through the rest of the process to get to the point where they have chosen a solution to test.


This project is designed to force students to become creative problem solvers. It teaches them a process that they really already use on a daily basis without knowing it. Lastly, this projects teaches them to have confidence in their work.


This lesson was run in a co-taught class (a tech ed teacher as well as a multimedia teacher). The general concept though of going through the design process can really be run in any class.


Common Core Standards:

Technological Literacy Standards (ITEEA):
*pretty much most of them

PA Technology Education Standards:

Lesson Plan and Activity

Step 1
Students are introduced to Inventor with 2 design projects (a keychain and a phone stand).

Step 2
Students are introduced to the major design project (creating a functional part based off of a problem that you are facing - ie. iPhone cords fraying)

Step 3
Students are grouped into groups of 2 or 3. From there, they complete a brainstorming sheet listing as many problems that they can (maybe 15-20 minutes). Next, they pick a problem and start identifying solutions (another 15-20 minutes). They should create sketches with labels. Pick a solution.

Step 4
Students create a generic prototype of their solution using basic materials (cardboard, tape, paper, etc.). Once completed, they determine if it looks the part or not.

Step 5
Students take measurements from their prototype and create a detailed drawing in Inventor.

Step 6 (optional unless you have a laser engraver)
Students will create a quality prototype using a laser engraver. If you don’t have one, you can still make a quality prototype to scale using your detailed drawing. I still have them utilize cardboard here. You may also choose to use wood or another cheap material that will better represent your design.

Step 7
Students will 3d print their design and complete any post-processing or assembly that they need too.

Step 8
Students will present their project to a panel of judges.

Step 9 (also optional unless you have some time)
Students will have time to reflect on their final product. What would you change if you had more time?

Duration of Lesson

After students have gone through the initial design projects, the keychain project and the phone stand project, I usually a lot about 2 weeks for them to create a detailed drawing and 2 more weeks for the prototyping/final product.


Students need to know
Students will need to have some general background knowledge of sketching prior to completing this unit.
Students will need to know how to read a ruler or a dial caliper.
Students will need to know how to use some type of design software (we use Inventor Professional).
Students will need to know how to use some basic tools to create the initial prototype.
With that being said, all of my students are required to take a safety test prior to being allowed in the workshop.

Rubric and Assessment

Teacher Wish-List Prior to Starting this Activity or 3d printing in general:

More than 1 3d printer for sure - 3d printing takes time, so having more flexibility with numbers is awesome
A printer with a heated build plate (I love my Lulzbots - they work great!!)
MatterControl Tablet- these tablets will give you a lot of flexibility since you don’t need to be connected to a computer. Plus, it allows you to manage and see your prints remotely.