Watch the video below to see how this school was built!

Bennie Khanyizira/Homeline Media/

How 3-D Printers Are Changing The World

The world’s first 3-D printed school recently opened. Where will this technology take us next? 

Imagine waking up one day and—poof!—there’s a new school right across the street from your house. It appeared overnight. 

This happened in June in a small village in Malawi, a country in Africa. No, it wasn’t magic. It was 3-D printing. The village is now home to the world’s first 3-D printed school. Its concrete walls were built in about 18 hours. 

Before the school opened, many kids in the area had to walk miles to reach the nearest school. Other villages in Malawi face the same problem. Now 3-D printed schools can be created in a fraction of the time it takes to build one the traditional way. 

The first 3-D printers were developed in the 1980s. But the technology has changed since then. Just ask Easton LaChappelle. He founded Unlimited Tomorrow in 2014, when he was 17. The company makes TrueLimb, a 3-D printed prosthetic arm. 

“3-D printing has come a long way in the last decade,” he says. “It’s a lot faster now.” 

Around the world, 3-D printers now crank out everything from houses to shoes. What’s next? 

How They Work

A 3-D printer is different from a regular one that uses ink and paper. 3-D printers use materials such as plastic, metal, or concrete to create solid three-dimensional objects. 

Today’s 3-D printers have many advantages over traditional manufacturing. For one, they allow people to make things as they need them. That can save time and money.

Take NASA, for instance. The U.S. space agency sends about 7,000 pounds of spare parts to the International Space Station each year. Shipping goods from Earth to space costs $10,000 a pound! What if the astronauts could simply 3-D print supplies on demand? NASA is exploring the possibility. 

“With 3-D printing, you can update and change your designs in minutes and test the changes the same day,” says LaChappelle. 

Another plus to 3-D printing is that it cuts down on waste. The printers use just enough material to make an object.

These printers can also create complex shapes that many machines can’t. This allows people—and animals—to get prosthetic limbs custom-made for their bodies. Doctors even hope to one day 3-D print human organs. 

A 3-D Future 

So why don’t we 3-D print everything? For now, it’s still cheaper to produce large quantities of items in factories. 

Even so, 3-D printing is changing the game, piece by piece. At the school in Malawi, for example, the walls were 3-D printed. The doors, windows, and roof were built the usual way. 

LaChappelle went from using a 3-D printer in his bedroom to using the technology to help others. And he can’t wait to see what the future holds. 

“We can expect to see 3-D printed objects become more a part of our everyday lives,” he says. “It’s amazing to think about what might be next!” 

  1. What is the author’s purpose in the first three paragraphs? 
  2. How does the article support the idea that 3-D printers have advantages over traditional manufacturing? 
  3. Based on the article, why is 3-D printing not used to make everything we see at the store? 
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