3D printing is an exciting new way to help students understand a topic. While it’s based on design (art and design students will pick it up no problem), creating 3D models can be used to explain everything from biology to engineering, architecture and maths.
The good news is that 3D printing is now far easier to integrateinto lessons. Not only have the government set up a fundthat should help schools buy 3D printers and train teaching staff, Adobe have also added 3D printing capability into the latest version of Photoshop Creative Cloud, and it’s incredibly easy! Here’s how:
Step 1 – Creating the frame
Get your students to create a new document in Photoshop (between 2000 and 3000 pixels square). On a new layer, open the 3D panel and click the 3D extrusion option. Ask students to draw the outline of their shape using the pen tool– we’re going to keep this simple and go for a coffee mug. If they’ve gone for something rounded like we have, they’ll only want to draw half the shape as they’re goingto use the tools in Photoshop to create the full 3D version.
Step 2 – From 2D to 3D
Once your students are relatively happy with the shape (don’t worry, it can be tweaked later!), they’ll need to click Create. It shouldpop backwards with an automatic extrusion. In some cases that might be exactly what they’re going for, but we don’t want a square mug.
Step 3 – Achieving the desired shape
Click on the object and go into the Deform section. Here you have the option to move the model freely to create different shapes, but we’re going to use the settings to give our mug some volume.
To do that, set the Horizontal Angle to 360 degrees and make sure the Vertical Angle is on 0. By default, Photoshop assumes that you want to rotate the shape on the central axis. Use the Deformation Angle to pick which point on your shape you want to rotate around. We’ve gone for what will be thevery centre of our mug. At this point, make sure your Extrusion Depth is set to 0 or your model will have a hole down the middle.
Step 4 – Tweaking the model
If something’s not looking quite right, go back to the Mesh tab and Edit Source to tweak the original drawing you did. Once that’s saved, it will adjust your 3D model.
Step 5 – Adding new elements
Students can add elements to their model by repeating the previous steps as needed. If they need to build additional shapes, make sure a new layer is used for each so that they can be moved around freely. We’ve added a handle to our mug below by drawing a ‘C’ shape and inflating it using the bevel option to achieve a rounded edge.
Step 6 – Preparing the model for print
In 3D Print Settings, your students will need to select the printer that they want to use (this should be pre-configured before the lesson). Once selected, the panel will show an overlay of the printing chamber (the space inside the printer that limits the size of your model). We recommend clicking the Scaleto Print Volume button, which automatically resizes the model to the chamber’s capacity so that you get the best use of space.
Next click the Print button. Photoshop will work out where there are failures in the model and where additional supports (scaffolding) will be needed to help during the printing process. Because 3D printers work from the base upwards, if there are any parts of the design that will be floating during the print, Photoshop creates a frame that stops it from collapsing but can be clipped away once the model is complete.
Step 7 – The preview and print
Once Photoshop is happy that the model will be secure, you’ll be shown a print preview and an estimated print time. Hit the print button and away it goes. You might want to leave it to it though, as it’s not a quick process that will finish in lesson time. In fact, it’s a bit like a futuristic equivalent of watching paint dry, but with far better results.
Want to see 3D printing in action?
Get in touch with us on the details below to register for a free demo of this new technology. We’re holding show and tell sessions in schools around the country to show off the latest technology for the classroom. Alternatively, check out this video overview of 3D printing with Photoshop, where Adobe’s Richard Curtis shows off how these new features work.