Breaking barriers in education with 3D printing

  • Education

3D printing fuels creativity and enhances problem solving when students get to see, hold, and test their ideas in real life. But what is it actually like to have a 3D printer in the classroom? Mark Peeters, the 3D print artist, Technology Director at Comstock Public Schools in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA, and active contributor to our community, is here to share his experience.

Meet Mark, the Magician

Mark has been working in K-12 public education since 1991. In 2013, he was chosen to lead the development of a 3D printing curriculum and became a special in-house expert in 3D printing. With diverse mechanical skills, deep love of mathematics, and basic understanding of design tools, Mark could get three 3D printers up and running for the start of the school year. Since then, he has been collaborating with teachers to develop 3D printing lessons and activities for K-12 students.

Mark lab
Mark Peeters working in his lab

In 2014, Mark saw the need to jumpstart others’ success in 3D printing by offering Ultimaker Original+ 3D printing build workshops for schools, youth clubs, small businesses, basement tinkerers, etc. As Mark says, “These workshops are designed for a team of 1-3 people (tech/educators/helpers) because I strongly feel 3D printing in schools works best as a team effort.”

Bringing the first 3d printer to the classroom

For Mark, bringing their first 3D printers into the classroom wasn't hard, but it did require a lot of time upfront. What he had to learn was:

  • slicing

  • optimizing printer settings

  • finding 3D design programs appropriate for younger students

Luckily, he had about two months to prepare. They were opening a brand new K-5 school and they wanted to bring the reality of 3D printing to all the students by giving them an object that was 3D printed to take home. This way, it would become a tangible part of their everyday life. Mark worked hard trying to find just the right thing to print. It had to be easy to print due to time constraints, but Mark also wanted it to look cool to children. He made a trilobite model that turned out to be a big success. The students really liked the trilobites and became genuinely excited about 3D printing.

I have been pleased to witness how engaged students become in engineering, art, and mathematics when the final product is their own 3D printed object. 

The first lesson

Mark made his first 3D printing lesson extremely simple. The kids had to create their own personalized rings. And there were several reasons for that:

  • to be able to use the same K-5 lesson

  • to make it possible to complete it in a single 45-minute session in the computer lab

  • to have kids leave the class with their own 3D printed object

  • to make children see their own hand in the final printed object

Mark started with the 4th graders and then moved on to the 2nd, 3rd and 5th grade classrooms. With the expert advice of the teachers, they decided that for the 1st grade and Kindergarten kids they would use the 4th grade kids as a tech buddies to help them with the lesson.

This lesson was a good place to start since none of us had ever done 3D printing. I learned a lot about organizing files and printing. The students learned a lot about manipulating a 3D view, downloading and naming files, using the discussion forum and creating a unique object in PLA to take home.

Today, there are seven 3D printers in Comstock Public Schools. Mark has helped other school districts get started with 3D printing by assisting with the building of Ultimaker Original+ kits. And even now, Ultimaker Original+ remains Mark’s favorite machine for many reasons.

As for materials, Mark only prints in PLA, since:

  • it is biodegradable

  • it does not release toxic fumes when printing

  • it does not require a heated bed

  • it still strong enough for any of the jobs he needs

Mark has actually replaced the clutch gears on his reel lawn mower using PLA and they outperform the original parts.

reel lawn mower
3D printed clutch gears

The most exciting projects

I really like all the projects I do with the kids because I have intentionally built in openness for the students to create something personal, and it’s very fun to see what each student comes up with. At the top of my list would be projects where students were allowed the most freedom.

One of the projects that Mark really enjoys is at the high school level where they have teams of 3 kids design chess sets. The only constraints are that the six pieces should match visually and that they fit a standard sized chess board. "It is great to see how these simple requirements of size and form yield a wide range of interesting chess sets. Students learn when they need support for printing and when to actually change the design or break up the object for post-printing assembly,"Mark says.

Another Mark’s favorite is the Ultimaker Gumball Capsule Challenge he won this year. Once again, students had a very open-ended project with the extra motivation that their objects would be seen and judged by an audience outside of the school.

3d chess
Educational drooloop projects

And of course, customizable drooloop flowers! A drooloop is Mark’s special term to describe a more artistic way of using filament while printing. Instead of building each layer on a solid foundation, 3D printer spits out plastic into mid-air creating flowing and organic looking strings of material. Mark can tweak angles, speed, and other variables to produce diverse and surprisingly amazing results. Be sure check out the detailed drooloop print guide here.

What’s next?

With a desktop 3D printer, teachers can empower their students to design, collaborate, and create amazing things they never thought possible. We’ll continue exploring the many ways 3D printing can enhance education. Stay tuned!

3D printing in education

Read more customer success stories

  • Ultimaker-idea-reality

    Idea Reality: Rapid prototyping and the art of failing forward

    Product design and development studio Idea Reality is using 3D printing to reduce costs and save time in bringing consumer-targeted projects to market.


    Schubert: A digital warehouse for on-demand manufacturing

    Schubert uses 3D printing to deliver tools for its future-proof, high-performance packaging machines, making them even more versatile and easy to operate.

    Ultimaker and Killa Design

    Killa Design: 3D printing the buildings of tomorrow

    Killa Design uses 3D printing to create iconic designs that are fast becoming landmarks – including one of the most complex structures ever built.

  • heineken-ultimaker-ensuring-production-continuity-with-3d-printing

    Heineken: Ensuring production continuity with 3D printing

    Learn how Heineken increased line uptime and efficiency at its Seville brewery using 3D printing to create custom safety devices, tooling, and functional parts.

    Reducing costs and improving efficiency

    Reducing costs and improving efficiency with the Ultimaker S5

    IMI Precision Engineering, a leader in motion and fluid control technologies, use 3D printing to help create solutions that provide speed and precision for machinery.

    Ultimaker S5 at Health+Design Lab

    Enhancing patient care with 3D printing at Jefferson Health

    Jefferson Health, a hospital system located in Philadelphia, is at the forefront of healthcare technology, have integrated 3D printing into their Health+ Design Lab.

  • 3D-printed-mold-cores-on-Ultimaker-S5-build-plate-hero

    3D printing custom refractory mold cores for industrial ceramics

    Discover how a Czech industrial ceramics supplier benefits from Ultimaker 3D printers to create bespoke 3D printed refractory mold cores.


    Ford: Reinventing efficient manufacturing using 3D printing

    Ford has been working on creating an optimized workflow to create jigs, tools, and fixtures for Ford’s manufacturing process.

    royal netherlands

    Royal Netherlands Air Force: Speeding up maintenance with 3D printed tools

    The Ultimaker 3D printers help mechanics of the Royal Netherlands Air Force to speed up the maintenance of helicopters, fighter jets and large cargo planes.

  • Rosewood Bangkok

    Transforming the face of architectural design with 3D printing at KPF

    The role of physical models within the architectural design process has evolved over the past few years. At firms like Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) desktop 3D printers enhance the day-to-day iterations of design and the three-dimensional understanding.

    Owens Corning XSTRAND™

    Owens Corning: Creating the perfect material profiles for customers’ solutions

    To help customers get the best out of the XSTRAND™ range, Owens Corning collaborated with the engineers at Ultimaker to create optimized material profiles that are now available in Ultimaker Cura.

    Ultimaker at New Lab

    New Lab innovators print their way to faster iterations and design freedom

    In an era when startup incubators and co-working spaces spin up as a matter of course in densely populated urban centers, New Lab offers a fresh take on what it means to bring people and companies together to work under one large roof.

  • Florenradic Ultimakera 3

    Producing customized fashion solutions with Ultimaker 3D printers

    Florenradica is a design company fabricating prototypes and end-use parts for fashion houses. After discovering 3D printing, they were interested in exploring it further, as it allowed them to realize products that were not possible with CNC machines.


    BOSEbuild: Accelerating design and testing phases with 3D printed parts

    Learn how BOSEbuild took advantage of Ultimaker 3D printers to quickly and seamlessly prototype their latest build-it-yourself headphones, saving time and money through in-house iterations.

    Ultimaker at Make Architects 1

    Make Architects: From 3D print to award-winning building

    Learn how Make Architects have transformed their model-making and prototyping process thanks to a suite of Ultimaker desktop 3D printers.

  • NYU-Tandon

    Empowering student innovation at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering

    The NYU Tandon School of Engineering is more than just a resource for students who want to learn about the technology of today and tomorrow. It prepares students to be motivated and self-sufficient when tackling science and engineering issues.

    3D printing for product development

    3D printing for product development to cut costs and save time

    Hartfiel Automation is a specialized high-tech provider of pneumatics, motion, and mobile control solutions. With the addition of an Ultimaker 3D printer to their product development process, Hartfiel Automation was able to save time and money while diversifying their services with product offerings...

    Ultimaker S5

    The Ultimaker S5 is here

    We are proud to announce our most advanced 3D printer yet – the Ultimaker S5. Built for the office, the Ultimaker S5 is a powerful, reliable, and versatile 3D printer that delivers industrial-class results.

  • 3D printing prototypes to save money and minimize risk

    3D printing prototypes to save money and minimize risk

    NoiseAware, the startup behind a noise monitoring and management system for high-risk, short-term rental properties, designed and prototyped their product with their in-house Ultimaker 3 printer. Saving thousands on the initial prototyping process for all parts, the NoiseAware team is able to create...


    Research on the benefits of 3D printing in a trauma hospital

    3D printing is seeing increasingly widespread adoption in the medical field. It has already been used to visualize bone fractures, but pioneering researchers believe it can also be used to help treat trauma patients.

    Fittle IVPEI

    3D printed puzzle breaks down braille barriers

    For visually impaired people, learning to read braille is essential. But for many, braille learning devices are either too costly or ineffective. Now a 3D printed puzzle is making this vital skill accessible to all.

  • Iris-van-Herpen-Exhibit

    A study in innovative design at the Cincinnati Art Museum

    Dedicated to promoting inventive art-related exhibits and programs, the Cincinnati Art Museum is exploring the relationship between 3D printing and fashion by highlighting the work of designer Iris van Herpen.

    Astronaut Necklace Stern Design Works Model

    3D printing and the jewelry boutique: A model for small business success

    Cameron and Rebecca Stern, co-creators of Stern Design Works, bring together their innovative approach to traditional jewelry manufacturing with a fleet of Ultimaker professional desktop 3D printers.

    Cassiopeia A and SN 1987a 3D models by NASA CXC K.Arcand

    Exploring our galaxy – and beyond – with 3D printing

    With the help of 3D printing, the communication team at NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory makes it possible for inquisitive learners of all ages to hold supernovas right in the palm of their hand.

  • sylatech-header

    Casting metal parts for prototyping from 3D prints

    Sylatech uses Ultimaker 3D printers to optimize their metal casting prototyping process. The accelerated placement of tooling orders and reduced number of tooling modifications result in significant time- and cost savings.

    Cost-efficient, functional prototypes for small bore motorcycle parts

    Cost-efficient, functional prototypes for small bore motorcycle parts

    With Ultimaker, MNNTHBX found a more efficient way to design and produce prototyped parts in the small bore motorcycling industry. By switching from traditional methods of manufacturing to 3D printing, the team replaced dozens of hours at the CNC mill and saw a 90% reduction in raw material cost.

    jessica joosse designer 3D printing

    3D printing and the future of personalized fashion

    For designer Jessica Joosse, the fourth industrial revolution is transforming fashion, and an Ultimaker 3D printer is the perfect tool to explore possibilities.

  • farmshelf

    Farmshelf: Cost-effective custom parts for an urban farm system

    By using Ultimaker 2+ 3D printers, Farmshelf was able to iterate designs and print hundreds of custom parts; far more quickly than other methods of fabrication.

    3D Printed Texas Bridge

    Taking architecture from dream to design with 3D printing

    3D printed architectural models do more than simply provide tangible build site plans. These 3D prints show clients how key architectural features can bring the entire design to life.

    3D printed chess set

    An innovative 3D printing venture at Atlantic University College

    With support from students knowledgeable in 3D modeling and CAD software, Professor Vicente Gasco has set out to send 3D printing-savvy graduates into the working world through courses featuring the latest technologies.

  • HERO - Faulkner scale model with sky Faulkner 00

    Faulkner Industrial: 3D printing the future of architectural design

    Thanks to a streamlined digital-to-physical pipeline and a reliable Ultimaker desktop 3D printer, Faulkner Industrial is able to deliver architectural scale models at a fraction of the cost and turnaround time compared to competitors.

    Morrill 3D print Ultimaker

    St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day Maker Lab: Inspiring through innovation

    By providing a space for students to design, iterate, and print objects from their own imaginations, the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day Maker Lab is able to amplify the learning experience in meaningful, impactful ways. Keep reading to learn more.

    MIT Launch Students using Ultimaker

    Entrepreneurship at MIT Launch: 3D printing for the future

    The minds behind MIT Launch understand that there are limitless possibilities for 3D printing. By challenging students and encouraging innovation through the latest technologies, Launch is preparing young minds for the challenges that lay ahead.

  • 3D printing fashion heels store

    Eram heels: 3D printing personalized shoes in-store

    Have you ever been shopping for shoes and found it hard to get exactly the style you want? Now, with the help of a couple of Ultimaker 3D printers, fashion retailer Eram and Unistudio design studio are giving customers the power to create their own heels.

    Snow Business

    Snow Business: 3D printing final parts for high-value snow machines

    Snow Business is the world leader in snow and winter effects. The company uses their Ultimaker 3D printers for prototyping, functional testing, and creating final parts for their snow machines.

    Gantri team with Ultimakers

    Gantri: Shedding light on unique 3D printed designs

    Prototyped and manufactured with an Ultimaker 2 Extended+ print farm, Gantri products celebrate traditional techniques bolstered by new technologies that save time and money for a passionate community of designers.