3D Printing and Design

Growing Gears designs and builds 3D printing labs and training programs for specialized workforce skills development. These programs emphasize a modern approach to integrating twenty-first century technologies into the learning environment. Our programs enable the production of 3D-printed gears, tools, machines, robots, and other designs using specialty materials including plant-based, biodegradable materials and metal-infused filaments. These programs help participants become competitive in the global economy through the development of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, research, and innovation. 3D printing has a foundation rooted in computer science and can engage interest in areas such as architecture, industrial design, and advanced manufacturing.

Examples of 3D Printing Topics

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Additive Manufacturing (AM) refers to the group of technologies used to create 3D objects by adding material layer by layer. 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing. There are many different types of 3D printing technologies. These technologies include Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). Each technology uses a different method to produce a print. Some technologies use liquid resins while others use spools of plastic. The most common 3D printing technology used in schools is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). This technology uses a heated extruder to melt plastic, referred to as filament, allowing it to be deposited onto the build plate in layers. The layers fuse together as they cool, creating a solid structure. These printers commonly have a single extruder, while some models do feature dual extruders. The additional extruder allows for the use of dissolvable support materials, making it possible to print intricate designs.  When comparing FDM printers, consider the size of the machine and build plate, the time it takes to print, the noise level, the enclosure, the types of filament it accepts, its durability, its ease-of-use, and the accessibility of parts and filament.


Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) uses plastic filament as its source of feedstock, much like an inkjet printer uses ink. This filament usually comes in spools and is made from a thermoplastic polymer.  This means the plastic becomes pliable when heated and solidifies as it cools. The two most common types of filament for FDM printers are ABS and PLA. ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. This material is impact resistant and strong, but it does release significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when heated.  PLA stands for polylactic acid. It is a biodegradable, plant-based plastic, commonly made from corn or sugarcane, and can therefore be composted or recycled. PLA releases substantially fewer VOCs than ABS. These plastics can be infused with a wide variety of other materials such as wood fibers, carbon, and even metals such as bronze, copper, and silver.  Different materials possess different characteristics.  For example, carbon infused filament is very strong, wood infused filament can be sanded, and copper infused filament can be polished to shine.  Filament can also be made with other materials, such as nylon or polycarbonate, and they can even be glow-in-the-dark or magnetic.


3D Computer Graphics are the foundation of 3D printing. Every 3D print starts with a computer-generated 3D model of the object. The 3D model provides the blueprint that instructs the 3D printer what to build. There are many 3D modeling programs available. An important aspect of the 3D modeling program is that it must be able to export files that are compatible with the 3D printer’s slicing program. A slicing program, or slicer, renders the 3D model into a format that can be read by the 3D printer. File types that are commonly compatible with slicing programs include STL and OBJ.


3D printing can revolutionize the way students learn. Architecture students can print 3D models of buildings rather than construct them from popsicle sticks and cardboard. These designs can be viewed a virtual reality setting, giving the viewer an unprecedented experience. Engineering students can experiment with the strength, stability, and construction of different geometrical shapes and structures, possibly leading to the next breakthrough in construction design.


Instruction for Green Architecture will teach about sustainable buildings that can be designed to integrate the use of green building materials, water efficiency, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.  This introduces students to the integration of features such as low-flow faucets, LED lighting, reclaimed materials, building-integrated photovoltaics, and rooftop gardens.  This instruction will explain the technologies used in developing green buildings as well as the engineering needed for both newly constructing and retrofitting buildings.


Video: 3D Printers in Action

This video demonstrates Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers and objects they can print.  It gives an understanding of how 3D printers work, depositing plastic layer by layer to create a structure.  Ranging in size and purpose, 3D printers can build everything from stationary objects to complex machines, including robotic components that use flexible materials.

Video: 3D Modeling in Action

This video shows 3D modeling examples and the different techniques used to create and move objects.  It displays animated simulations and various ways to interact with a 3D program using a variety of touchscreen devices.  From the simple to the complex, 3D computer graphics provide the instructions which enable 3D printers to turn virtual designs into reality.

3D Printing

3D Printed Objects

The capabilities and versatility of 3D printers can be used in a wide variety of applications.  Pictured here is a shoe that was 3D printed using PolyJet technology.  This technology uses curable liquid photopolymers that allow for the production of detailed and sophisticated prints that can feature a variety of colors and materials.  Some designs are contiguous while others are printed individually and then assembled together.  Whether creating an artistic rendition or specialized part, 3D printing will play an important role in the future of design and manufacturing.

3D Printing

3D Printing for Mathematics

Through 3D technologies, geometry can be brought into the real world, providing for a hands-on experience by literally holding mathematical shapes and structures such as tessellations and fractals. Exposing the workforce to 3D printed mathematics helps them gain a deeper understanding of its importance in many fields such as architecture, advanced manufacturing, and interior design.

3D Printing

3D Technology Labs

Growing Gears designs customized, high-performance labs that provide access to advanced 3D printing and computer technologies.  Each workstation provides access to a computer and 3D printer.  A one-to-one technology ratio is important for interacting with the technology directly.

About Us

Growing Gears provides scientific and technology integration services for the development of a highly-skilled, industry-grade workforce. We design and install high-tech learning labs using advanced technologies and innovative solutions relevant to modernizations in the workplace. We also develop advanced training programs for technical institutions, colleges, universities, companies, organizations, and government agencies that are looking to reduce the skills gap that exists between workplace innovations and the workforce.

We specialize in fields such as 3D modeling and 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality, hydroponics and advanced agriculture, computer science and coding, robotics, and renewable energy. Our mission is to strengthen and support the advancement of a high-tech workforce in a globally-competitive economy.

Contact Us

Office: (877) 355-9950

Email: contact@growinggears.com


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