Many schools have acquired 3D printers to help students develop the skills for design thinking. 3D printers take design files of designs created in 3D and create plastic objects. Most smaller printers work by laying down plastic layer by layer until the object is created. To use 3D design in the science classroom, students often create designs to solve or demonstrate solutions to authentic issues.
Digital tools for 3D design can be used with or without access to a 3D printer. While many secondary technology departments have high-end 3D design programs installed on computers, teachers and students can access free design programs for introductory 3D design. Some of these tools are in the table below. The 3D files (often in the format of .stl or .obj) can be saved and used if/when access to a 3D printer is available.