2D Designs Come to Life with 3D Printing – Projects for Students

By Amy Reyes

3d printers.jpg3D printing is changing the way we think about… well, everything. From Oreos and other foods to surgery and heart transplants, you would be hard pressed to find an industry that’s not affected by 3D printing.

Like any technology, 3D printing continues to become more affordable and accessible to those outside of corporations with many resources. Store-bought options are now available for a few hundred dollars; you can even make your own 3D printer using a kit or from scratch. Schools are now incorporating 3D printing into the classroom as well. This creates an awesome opportunity for parents and teachers to introduce children to 3D printing and all of its possibilities!

A perfect place to start is with Catchbook. You can download free lesson plans for some fun and awesome projects that will introduce students to basic engineering workflows. Catchbook is so much more than a drawing app; it allows anyone to sketch out ideas quickly, sure, but it leverages some powerful technology “behind the scenes” to transform ink into precise, editable curves you can manipulate with your fingers. Push, pull, move and snap lines to create accurate drawings. Import pics for inspiration or to trace or use in your designs.  It’s just as easy to export a variety of files as well with Catchbook Publishing, so sharing work with teachers or fellow students is as simple as pressing a button.

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In fact, it’s the ability of Catchbook to export files as DXF that makes it such a powerful tool for creating real objects via 3D printing. The file can be brought into computer-aided design (CAD) software such as Solid Edge and used as a starting point to create a 3D model. That 3D model can then be saved as an STL file that can be 3D printed. Some software solutions like NX 11 support 3D printing direct from within the software.

In fact, students will walk through the exact workflow described above when they follow any of the 2D Design to 3D Printing lesson plans from Siemens PLM Software. The lesson plans are available for free on Teachers Pay Teachers. Students and teachers can also download Solid Edge for free, and the Catchbook app is available for roughly the price of one latte per year. Not only is it low cost, students will learn project management, design, and engineering skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.

Start with the how-to guide using Catchbook and Solid Edge. The app and software are pretty intuitive, but should students encounter any trouble, there are always forums in which they can ask for help or troubleshoot.


Now, we get to the good part. Here are the different 3D printed items students can make by following the lesson plans and projects:

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Sink Strainer – Fun to make, and yet practical for everyday use.

Sink Strainer Grip – Goes with the sink strainer for easy removal from soapy dishwater.

Cookie Cutters – As if cookies aren’t enough on their own… Baking is even more fun with custom shaped cutters you designed yourself.

Spaghetti Measurer – Who doesn’t love a good bowl of pasta? The spaghetti measurer ensures you cook only the exact amount you need.

Desk Organizer – What kid doesn’t need to be a little more organized? With a few simple modifications, the spaghetti measurer from the previous activity transforms to a desk organizer that keeps pencils and other clutter in its place. This is a great lesson for budding engineers on design reuse as well! Smiley Wink

Light Switch Cover – A project that is as practical as it is fun to make. Your student can proudly use it every day and be reminded of their craftiness.

Toy Top – This spinning toy is a classic that doesn’t require batteries, electricity, or Wi-fi! Parents should enjoy that.

Dice – Why buy dice when it’s easy to make your own? You can customize the size to scale easily with the accurate dimensions in Catchbook.

For more free lesson plans you can use with Catchbook, visit the Siemens PLM Software Teachers Pay Teachers site.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at