The possibilities and accessibility of 3D design and printing are growing every day, including many applications for kids. As kids are growing up with technology as part of their lives from very early ages, companies are looking to get them involved through designing their own toys, design classes and even designing prosthetics!
Design Your Own Toys
Who didn’t want to build their own toys as kids? Today’s kids can as many companies have created apps for children to design and 3D print their toys. What better way is there to help create a stronger bond with engineering than through play?
Additionally, kids can learn while they play. Below are some ways to start playing with 3D design. The level of difficulty varies somewhat, covering everything from pre-made templates to customization:
- Mattel: Mattel has partnered with Autodesk to offer easy-to-use 3D design and printing apps to give kids hands-on learning experiences. Launching in the second half of 2015, Mattel will offer an online hub where kids can create and customize their own toys. There are no details yet on which toy lines will be included.
- Autodesk Tinkerplay: With the Tinkerplay app, kids can design their own robot by selecting body parts, textures and colors. Then, they can print their 3D design on the app through the 3D Hubs 3D printing community.
- Toyfabb: Bringing toys to the future through digital production and 3D printing, Toyfabb is looking to offer safer and more creative toys that you can make on your own 3D printer!
3D Design Classes and Tools for Kids
For those kids that are inspired to learn more complex design skills, there are classes and tools available. Some schools are beginning to offer 3D printers in the classrooms. There are multiple options, from free online tutorials and videos to paid tools and interactive courses:
- Youth Digital: Their mission is to make technology accessible, engaging and effective through 3D Printing and Modeling courses (among others including video game design). Interactive lessons, software and 1-year online support are included for each course.
- Shapeways: Shapeways partnered with Youth Digital to offer a free video tutorial: Introduction to 3D Design and Printing for Kids. Through these three videos (less than an hour total), kids learn how to use Blender, an open source 3D modeling software, to design a robot for 3D printing.
- Doodle3D: If you don’t want to take a class, Doodle3D allows you to easily 3D print your own drawings. The Doodle3D WiFi-box connects your 3D printer to your device (computer, laptop, tablet, phone, etc.) and provides a simple sketching tool. Kids can 3D print their simple line drawings without needing to know how to use any 3D design programs.
3D Printed Prosthetics
Oftentimes, school classrooms and youth organizations search for 3D printing projects to help teach students and members how to use the technology. One organization, e-NABLE, has worked with many of these through their “3D Mechanical Hand – Maker Movement.” This program creates 3D printed prosthetic hands and fingers for children in need. Here are two examples of their work:
- Peter Graven was a teacher who had a 3D printer for his 8th grade class, but needed a project to use it in the classroom. With the help of e-NABLE, the class created a 3D printed Spider-Man hand for Dante Mercado, a 5-year-old who was born without a complete left hand.
- e-NABLE also worked with Limbitless Solutions executive director Albert Manero and the #CollectiveProject to create an arm 3D designed and printed to look just like Iron-Man’s arm for 7-year-old Alex. They even brought in Robert Downey, Jr. to present the arm to Alex.
These are just a few ways that 3D design is being used by kids or to benefit kids. As we look at the future of 3D and CAD design, getting them involved early is preparing them to be the designers of the future.