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3D Printing with AIM Institute

Have you ever printed out an assignment on paper for school? Obviously, sure.

How about a violin? Ever printed a musical instrument before?

Maybe not so much. But with a 3D printer and about $70 worth of materials, you can print your own playable acoustic violin, called the Hovalin. It really works, and if you know how to play, it sounds great. (And if you don’t know how to play, you can make one and learn! The complete instructions and blueprint are available for free from the Hova Labs website. Don’t try this without a parent or teacher’s supervision, though.)

A violin is just one of countless items that can be 3D-printed. In fact, you can print pretty much anything with a 3D printer.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is the process of creating solid objects from a digital file, often using lasers. 3D printers add layer after layer of material (such as plastic, metals, concrete, ceramics, paper, and even chocolate) until the object is formed. It’s called an additive process because the machine is adding material, rather than carving it out.

3D Printing through AIM Institute

Kids aged 7 to 17 are learning how to use a 3D printer to make all kinds of objects with help from the AIM Brain Exchange. The Brain Exchange offers free tech educational experiences to youth, with the goal of sparking curiosity and interest in technology.

Since January, students involved in AIM’s Upward Bound after-school program have been learning how to 3D print their own objects. They’ve made name tags, medallions, cartoon characters, and jewelry boxes. They design their objects in Tinkercad, a web-based computer-aided design program, and then print them out with the help of Brain Exchange staff. This can be a time-consuming process. One object, a medallion featuring a galloping horse, took over three hours to make.

Tenth grader Savannah was deep in focus on her Chromebook. Before this design session, she had already printed four objects, including a lightning bolt striking from a brain, and a heart with a pair of glasses that she plans to use as a logo.

“What I like about you,” Brain Exchange staff member Lana told Savannah, “is you just dive right in, and if it’s hard and you make mistake, that doesn’t stop you. You just keep going.”

“A happy little accident is never a mistake,” Savannah said, quoting painter Bob Ross.

If you want to experience what the Brain Exchange has to offer—from 3D printing to underwater robots and more—sign up for a family-friendly weekend class! Click here to find a list of upcoming events.