How 3D Printing and Extended Reality are Changing The Face of Education

By on June 3rd, 2023 in Ideas, news

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3D printing in education [Source: Pexels / Vanessa Loring]

The education industry has experienced remarkable transformations in recent years, driven by the relentless advancement of technology.

From online learning platforms to personalized training experiences, the face of education has evolved to accommodate the changing needs and expectations of students. Amid this revolution, two technologies have emerged as significant resources, poised to revolutionize education even further: extended reality and 3D printing.

We’re going to take a moment to explore these tools a little further. How can they improve students’ learning experiences? What challenges does the education industry face in adopting them?

Extended Reality in Education

The education landscape has been undergoing a significant technological evolution over the last couple of decades. Advanced tools have played a pivotal role in transforming the way students learn and engage with educational content. One such groundbreaking technological approach that has gained significant traction in recent years is extended reality, which encompasses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR).

One of the most prominent advantages of extended reality in education is its ability to provide immersive learning experiences. Unlike conventional classroom settings, extended reality transports students into virtual environments where they can interact with digital content in three dimensions. Not to mention it can offer a safe yet practical training ground for risky procedures, such as medical procedures or handling hazardous materials. Indeed, extended reality allows such a curriculum to provide an impactful transition from purely virtual to fully physical activities. 

Another key way in which extended reality is transforming education is by supporting collaborative learning. The combination of tech tools can enable students to connect and work together virtually, regardless of geographical limitations. Through shared virtual spaces, students can collaborate on projects, solve problems collectively, and exchange ideas. This helps to foster a sense of community and promotes more diverse interactions that everyone can benefit from.

3D Printing in Education

Another key transformative tool in education at the moment is 3D printing. As 3D printers, materials, and software have become far more accessible over the last decade, more educational institutions find it practical to incorporate this tech into curriculums. As a result, it can be instrumental in providing students with hands-on learning experiences and expanding their creative horizons.

One of the primary benefits of 3D printing in education is that it can help make abstract concepts more tangible through models and prototypes. In subjects such as science and engineering, 3D printing can enable students to create physical representations of complex structures, molecules, or mathematical concepts. These models may enable students to grasp intricate ideas by visualizing and manipulating them in a hands-on manner.

In the field of medicine and biology, 3D printing has revolutionized the way students learn and practice. Traditionally, medical students relied on specimens acquired from deceased subjects for anatomical study. However, 3D printing offers a synthetic alternative to cadaver bones that can be more ethically sound and accessible.

There is a growing range of synthetic materials to replicate structures realistically, to the extent that they may even be used to create transplant organs in the near future. In the meantime, this technology gives students the opportunity to practice surgical procedures, analyze complex conditions, and develop skills without the limitations and ethical concerns associated with traditional cadaveric specimens.

It’s also important to consider that 3D printing can nurture creativity and innovation in students. This hands-on approach encourages experimentation, problem-solving, and critical thinking, fostering a sense of ownership and pride in students’ creative endeavors. Not to mention that 3D printing empowers students to explore innovative solutions to real-world problems. This extends to students having the chance to design new 3D printing materials that could be transformative for industries in the future.  

The Challenges of Utilizing These Tools

While 3D printing and extended reality continue to show great promise in education, their widespread adoption still faces several challenges. These range from financial constraints to curriculum integration and ethical considerations. In order to fully leverage the potential of these technologies, it is crucial to address these hurdles.

One significant issue remains the cost and accessibility of implementing 3D printing and extended reality technologies in educational settings. While these items are becoming lower in cost, the initial investment required for procuring 3D printers, VR headsets, and related software can still be prohibitive for many schools and institutions. Ensuring equitable access to these tools across different socioeconomic backgrounds is essential to prevent the creation of a digital divide in education.

Another challenge is the integration of 3D printing and extended reality into existing educational curricula. Incorporating 3D printing and extended reality into lessons effectively requires careful planning, teacher training, and the development of relevant educational resources. Collaborative efforts between educators, instructional designers, and technology experts are essential to design curriculum frameworks that seamlessly integrate these tools into a variety of subjects and grade levels.

It’s also vital to understand that ethical considerations come into play when implementing advanced technology in education. As students interact with extended reality environments or wider online communities, it is essential to safeguard their privacy and ensure responsible use of technology. Educators and institutions must prioritize student safety and develop clear guidelines and policies regarding the ethical use of connected extended reality tech in particular technologies.


3D printing and extended reality are poised to revolutionize the education industry. Extended reality has the potential to transport students into virtual environments, enhancing their understanding of complex concepts and offering practical training in various fields.

Meanwhile, 3D printing allows students to create tangible models that bring abstract concepts to life and encourages creativity and innovation. However, challenges such as cost, curriculum integration, and ethical considerations must be addressed for these technologies to be widely adopted.

In addition, it’s worth considering the need for ongoing research and evaluation. As these technologies continue to evolve, it is crucial to conduct studies to measure their efficacy, identify best practices, and understand their long-term implications. By continuously refining the implementation of these tools, educators can continue to meet the changing needs of students in the digital age.

By Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering technological advancements, social justice, sustainability, and more. In her off time you can find her deep in the mountains with her two dogs. Follow her work on Twitter @indianalee3 or reach her at [email protected]

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