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Three free ways schools can get started with 3D printing in their classroom 

A teacher with a primary school pupil looking at a 3D printed object with a 3D printer in the background of the classroom.

There are two things, in the current climate, that teachers see as barriers to implementing innovation in their classrooms – time and money! Budgets and staff time in schools are being squeezed harder than ever, making innovation in the classroom more difficult, or at least a much more considered option. 

At CREATE Education, we want to support teachers and educators to access 3D printing technologies in the most affordable and timely way; in fact, it’s literally at the centre of everything we do! The A in CREATE stands for accessibility. 

The global additive manufacturing market is estimated to reach USD 76.16 billion by 2030, as current Year 7’s reach employment [1]. However, in 2021, GCSE DT and Engineering entries fell by 8 and 11% [2]. This is worrying as “71% of the UK engineering workforce…are experiencing internal skills gaps” [3]. At CREATE Education, we want young people to be able to access innovative 3D printing and 3D design technologies, giving them the employability skills they need to access high-quality STEAM careers of the future. 

So, here are three free ways we are doing this in the academic year of 2022/203: 

Free 3D Design Software for your classroom 

Secondary student using 3D design on a computer. She is designing a nose cone to a rocket for 3D printing.

Before you even consider investing in a 3D printer, there are lots of 3D Design projects that you can try out with your students for free! The additive manufacturing industry is based on an open-source ethos, meaning that you can find lots of design files and software packages for free on the internet! 

For Primary school students, we recommend Tinkercad. This is a cloud based software with online accounts allowing pupils to share their work. Tinkercad is made for young children and so adheres to the US COPPA requirements (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and has an easy set up for teachers to create and manage their class’ accounts, linking them to staff emails. Tinkercad can be used from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 3, but a mouse and the teaching of mouse control is essential to make Tinkercad manageable for your pupils. 

For Secondary School and Sixth Form, we recommend Onshape and Autodesk Fusion 360. Onshape again is a cloud based CAD platform, which integrates product data management. Onshape is a great platform to use for Year 7 – 9 students as an introduction to CAD software, whereas Autodesk Fusion 360 moves learners in Year 10 – 13 to software that is used in the industry, giving them the step up to seamlessly progress onto further training or employment. 

At CREATE Education, we deliver free webinars to introduce Autodesk Fusion 360 and Tinkercad on a monthly rolling basis. All webinars are at 4pm, to fit in with your school day, and will introduce you to how to set up and manage the software, as well as further resources and lesson projects you can use the software in. You can sign up for a webinar here.

Free Resources

A close up of a 3D printing nozzle, the 3D print that is on the bed is printed in silver FFF filament.

You might have been lucky enough to turn up to your new position in September to find that the school already has a 3D printer! If so, that’s amazing…but what can you do with it? 

Again, the open source nature of 3D printing and the additive manufacturing industry is your friend in this situation! Developers in the 3D printing world are extremely good at sharing their designs and files for free, which you can use to develop learning materials and inspiration for your own 3D printing projects. 

Thingiverse, which is owned by the American 3D printing manufacturer MakerBot, is an online platform boasting 1,000’s of design files, ready for you to 3D print; from a full set of teaching aids to show how mechanisms and gear systems work to hands on maths games to teach prime numbers.

Using ready-to-print files not only gives you low-cost 3D printed resources but can also develop hands on STEM or STEAM learning investigations with your class to see what other maths games could be designed or how the mechanisms could utilised in an end product.

We also have an amazing stock of 3D printing resources and lessons plans on the CREATE Education website that we have developed in collaboration with our community members – just log on, download and use them to get 3D printing off the ground in your school!

Free 30 minute consultation 

A CREATE Education workshop, one of our leaders talking to pupils who are taking part in 3D design before they 3D print.

At CREATE Education, we are really keen to work with teachers and educators to explore any barriers that might be stopping them in getting 3D printing into their classrooms from money to ideas to training, we have the answers to solve (most!) of your problems! 

Why not book a 30 minute consultation with one of our education experts who can take you through the wide range of support, resources and networks that are available to get 3D printing into your classroom quickly and easily? 

Book at a time that suits you here.


[1] Global Additive Manufacturing Market Analysis Report 2022-2030: Growing Adoption of 3-D Printers by the Incumbents of Automotive, Healthcare, and Aerospace & Defense –, Business Wire, 15 June 2022.—

[2] Provisional entries for GCSE, AS and A level: summer 2021 exam series, 27 May 2021, Ofqual.


Half of new engineering recruits lack the right skills, Engineering UK, Dec 22, 2021

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