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World’s First Online Program for 3D Printing

Charlie Chung

3D printing is hot. The technologies are advancing rapidly, the costs are going down, and individuals and businesses are jumping on the bandwagon, resulting in an explosive growth of new applications. A new 3D Printing Specialization of four courses, with a capstone project, was announced by the University of Illinois MakerLab. It’s on the Coursera platform, and it will be co-taught with industry practitioners Autodesk and Ultimaker.

The first course in the Specialization, The 3D Printing Revolution, is being taught by Dr. Aric Rindfleisch, who is a Professor of Marketing at the University of Illinois and Executive Director of the Illinois MakerLab. Class Central sat down with Dr. Rindfleisch to understand more details about this course and the state of 3D printing.

There has been a shift in the usage of 3D printing: just a few years ago, most of the applications for 3D printing were for making prototypes. “Now, about half of all 3D printing is used for manufacturing,” says Dr. Rindfleisch. It certainly helps that 3D printers have gotten cheaper. Dr. Rindfleisch estimates that there are perhaps half a million 3D printers in the world, and that over 50% of them are lower-cost desktop models costing $2,500 or less. “Prices should be coming down even more over the next couple of years,” Dr. Rindfleisch predicts.

But the main reason 3D printing is used more and more to create actual products is because of technology advances. “The main type of 3D printing technology is fused deposition modeling (FDM), which allows people to create items that are cheaper than store-bought products,” Dr. Rindfleisch states. This is only one of the many advances in materials and methods that will be discussed in the course.

With this type of technology on the rise, it will literally change our world and what we see. It will turn the economics of manufacturing upside down. To become a part of this revolution, or to be better informed about it, it’s not too late to take Dr. Rindfleisch’s free two week MOOC: The 3D Printing Revolution.