You’ve picked up a copy of our book and are ready to share what you’ve learned with other people. Now what? If you are unfamiliar with 3D printing, see our “Getting Started” section. If you are ready to try, here is some information to help you incorporate this material into any educational setting.
If you’ve read the book, you likely already know this. If you have stumbled across this website without the book, or would like a recap, here’s a quick overview:
3D printing is a process where a type of material such as plastic, metal, or an organic substance is continually added layer by layer to formulate the object. There are types of 3D printing, but one of the most increasingly common is “on-demand processes of 3D printing” where you can 3D print from a small machine available from many stores.
Perhaps the most common material for 3D printing is a Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament. PLA is a biodegradable plastic made from cornstarch and other natural materials so it’s safe to use with your learners.
How does 3D printing work? The filament is fed into the printer through a print head. Print heads in the 3D printer heat up and melt the filament, which is extruded in a pattern specified by digitally modeling and slicing into layers. The model builds up, layer by layer, on the print bed.
One potential concern for your learners with 3D printing models to represent astronomical objects is the prints are solid and static. However, objects in space, often made of things like gas and dust, are constantly changing and dispersing. To avoid this misconception, you may want to mention to your students or audience that a 3D print is like a single photograph, a snapshot in time, printed in plastic for human handling.
Another area that often causes confusion is the issue of scale. Any 3D printed objects of the Universe being held by the learners are greatly scaled down from their actual size. This may seem obvious to some, but it might not be to all. We recommend using reference points or analogies to scales, which can greatly help people appreciate the enormous scales of objects in space. A 3D print of an exploded star for example might be 40 million billion times smaller than the remnant actually is (or was) in outerspace.
Most of the 3D models in this book are based on data that are captured by telescopes in light. The word light usually makes one think of the colors of the rainbow or light from the Sun or a lamp. If you’ve read the book, you know that the kind of light humans can see is only one type. The full range of light is called the electromagnetic spectrum.
Light, or electromagnetic radiation, comes in a range of energies, or frequencies. Going from the lowest energies to the highest, the most common categories are radio, infrared, visible (what we can see), ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays. This is a fascinating subject of its own, or at least we think so. In fact, we wrote a book about it!
Figure out what astronomical objects you are going to share.
Read up on what the object is and some ‘fun facts’ like how far away it is, how big it is, etc.
What kind of object is it? What makes it interesting?
How do scientists know what they know about it? That is, where did the data come from?
While we hope you use our book as a jumping off point, we know the internet is chock full of great resources on astronomy and space science. We recommend starting with reputable sources online like NASA, its missions and centers like JPL, or the European Space Agency.