MaxWhere at the service of digital education - and more
The development of digital or ICT competencies is a critical strategic goal of the European Union since adults who know how to use modern tools can more easily succeed in the labour market, which is closely related to the region's long-term development. Several international projects help public education develop students' primary and professional digital skills. Nowadays, in most cases, public education institutions have computers and tablets. Especially since the pandemic, tablets, smartphones, and laptops have reached disadvantaged areas (even if not necessarily in sufficient numbers). The experiential education that can be implemented on these devices is a crucial tool for skill development. According to the theory of learning by doing, the student must experience a specific knowledge element in practice to achieve permanent knowledge expansion and skill development. However, if these tools are difficult to reach or implement in educational institutions, simulation solutions are available. MaxWhere offers a simulation with the space of a 3D Printing Workshop, making it accessible to anyone and can also be opened from a browser.
The STEAM Upgrade project
Among the founders and developers of MaxWhere are many university lecturers and educational technology specialists. Thus, as part of social responsibility, the MaxWhere team is committed to developing educational applications. In this spirit, we joined the so-called STEAM Upgrade project at the request of Tallinn University and the Johannes Kepler University of Linz. One of the focuses of STEAM Upgrade project is the development of 3D printing as content in STAM (Science, Technology, Arts and Mathematics) courses. Craftbot, a well-known manufacturer of 3D printers, is also a member of the working group.
The STEAM Upgrade project aims to create a digital competence development system for learning STEAM subjects in primary and secondary education, including a freely accessible knowledge base and a virtual STEAM laboratory.
Thus, the University of Linz asked the MaxWhere team to present the 3D printing process in an interactive virtual space and simulate the operation of a 3D printer. The printer simulated in MaxWhere 3D Printing Workshop models the operation of a Creality Ender 3, a device developed by one of the world's most important 3D printer manufacturers. However, the knowledge gained here can also be applied to any other printer due to the same working principle.
How does the 3D Printing Workshop work?
This MaxWhere space is available from the browser, so it is not necessary to install the MaxWhere client. A user account is not required either. After loading MaxWhere, we find ourselves in the space immediately. Anyone can open this space without special training. A basic user level of MaxWhere (navigation, use of smartboards) is required.
Entering the space, we see smartboards. On these, we can learn the basics of 3D printing: from the history of 3D printing to the operating principles of today's printers. In the center of the space is a virtual twin of a Creality Ender 3 printer with a simple control panel. We chose this model because it is common, popular and accessible, so anyone working with an actual 3D printer will already be familiar with the device.
After successfully loading the space, you can start printing by following these simple steps:
- approach the printer display and select the Browse button
- in the file browser window, you can select the gcode file you want to print
- at the bottom of this article, we also recommend two gcode files with which anyone can try the printer simulator
- click the start button
- the printer starts the job
The space is fully customisable. On the one hand, users with Editor role can modify the content of the smartboards. On the other hand, the operation of the 3D printer can be illustrated by importing any gcode file that was created for the Ender 3 printer.
The international impact of the 3D simulation project
Every year, hundreds of people from all over the world study at the doctoral school of educational methodology at Johannes Kepler University in Linz. In addition, many workshops and conferences are organised. In this way, the project, with the participation of MaxWhere, can become known to a wide range of doctoral students, which may also indirectly stimulate the creation of many other experience-based learning and simulation projects. The role of virtualisation solutions in education is growing, so it is essential that they are developed with a scientific basis and then validated by experts.
The importance of the 3D printing simulation space in education
The space serves both public education and science communication purposes. The operation, maintenance and eventual repair of a "real" 3D printer can be expensive, time-consuming, and require knowledge that a teacher with general training does not necessarily have. The price of an entry-level 3D printer and the cost of the materials needed to operate it would be too high for most schools. Furthermore, not all institutions have trained staff to handle an actual 3D printer.
Anyone can open the MaxWhere 3D Printing Workshop space, then bring it into their class and introduce students to the process of 3D printing. Thanks to the virtually printed objects, learning becomes experiential and fun. The space can be made public once the development is complete so anyone can use it.
Learning does not end when the object is printed: students can even create the geometry to be printed, so the whole process unfolds under their hands. An easy and short task can be transforming a hand-drawn 2D contour into a 3D figure with interesting and free software like Tinkercad and Kiri:Moto, then start slicing and printing.
The value of the space for professional use: industry, logistics
The creation of the 3D printing simulation space led to developments that further expanded the basic capabilities of Maxwhere. The challenges encountered during the simulation of the technology thus represent a much broader development for MaxWhere. It became possible to display the three-dimensional objects formed from the filament during printing in "real-time". Such display capability is also needed to visualise other additive technologies, but material removal can also be modelled similarly.
Gcode files: https://mw-public-downloads.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/3D-printing-resources/mw-logo.gcode