Life in 3D

Emma's story is an example of one of hundreds of innovative solutions to problems that 3D printing has made possible. While many of the objects made by a 3D printer could be manufactured differently, the prospect of making inexpensive models, testing their efficacy and making modifications in real time make 3D printing a breakthrough technology.  A 3D printer is a complex combination of mechanics, electronics and software. It has moving parts and motors; electronic systems that drive the motors and liquid plastic delivery systems; and software to design the model. Mathematical software slices, processes, and creates the coded instructions for the electronics. In this series of lessons and tutorial, students engage in the essentials of each of these aspects by making a 2D plotter model from scratch, connecting electronic controllers and microprocessors, and then modifying software to control the course of a drawing pen.

LA STEM Story:  Life in 3D

Read Emma's story here. You can also view this video about Emma:

YouTube Video

It is important to engage students in the story in order to spark their interest in the unit. Prompt students to ask questions and to note interesting information. You can use questions such as: "What do you find interesting about the story?" "What would you like to know more about 3D printing?" "What questions do you have from reading the story about the technology?"

For more information about how students can read the story go to Reading LA STEM Stories.

Students should record observations or questions in a notebook. See directions for the STEM Notebook here.

The following sections need to be done in order because each stage provides the necessary background, skills and needed devices for the next step. 



B. The Mechanics of a Plotter

C. Controlling the Motors Manually

D. Controlling the Motors with a Microprocessor

E. Software Control of a Microprocessor


F. Take Apart a Printer

G. Motors Basics

H. Stepper Motors

I. 555 Circuits

3D Printer Product Design

I. CAD Software