From making pizza for astronauts in space to recreating ancient bones for archaeological research, pupils at a Carmarthenshire school have been learning all about the use of 3D printing technology.
Dr Dimitrios Pletsas, of Swansea University’s College of Engineering, led a morning workshop at Nantgaredig Primary School, where he talked year six pupils through the history of printers, current uses of 3D printers, and exciting technological advances that are expected in coming years.
A digital pioneer school, Nantgaredig primary already has a 3D printer, thanks to funding from Tesco and the Royal Society scientific academy.
The funding also enabled the school to buy an Infento Education Kit to introduce pupils to basic engineering.
Dr Pletsas is among the experts working on the Factory of the Future project led by Swansea University’s College of Engineering due to be part-funded, subject to the approval of a business case, by the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal. The project will see engineering experts working with manufacturers to help future-proof the local manufacturing industry through the use of industrial digital technologies such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence and robotics.
Dr Pletsas said: “The advancement of 3D printing technology is revolutionising manufacturing across the world. Shoe manufacturers like New Balance, Nike and Adidas are already using 3D printers to make trainers, and the first electric cars made by 3D printers are due to go on sale next year.
“3D printers are also being used in many other industries, including housing and aeroplane construction, as well as in the medical sector to make casts for broken bones and models for dentistry and facial reconstruction.
“As well as the Factory of the Future project, a Skills and Talent initiative led by Carmarthenshire County Council will underpin all 11 Swansea Bay City Deal projects to make sure our children have a pathway to access the thousands of well-paid jobs that will be created. That is why it is important to introduce children from a young age to the kind of technology that will be at the heart of so many industries in future.”
Dr Pletsas also showed the Nantgaredig pupils how 3D printers are being used to make chocolate, remote control cars and other toys. This kind of technology, he says, has even been used by vets to make and fit a replacement beak for an injured eagle.
Steffan Griffiths, Nantgaredig Primary School headteacher, said: “It makes so much sense to bridge the gap between universities and primary schools because it exposes young children to technological advancements at an early stage in their development, which will no doubt stand them in good stead in future.
“As a digital pioneer school, we recognise the importance of the digital revolution that’s continuing to unfold across the world, and the vital role schools have to play in equipping our children with the skills and knowledge they’ll need to succeed.
“The continuing support of Dr Pletsas and Swansea University is enormously appreciated.”
Cllr Emlyn Dole, Carmarthenshire Council Leader, said: “This is a terrific example of the continuing work that takes place in schools across Carmarthenshire to give our children the foundations they’ll need to keep pace with the fast-moving digital age.
“These skills are among those that will be essential in ensuring local children are ready to access the kind of well-paid, high-quality jobs programmes like the Swansea Bay City Deal will create in future.”
Other projects due to be part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal, subject to the approval of business cases, include a creative cluster called ‘Yr Egin’ at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David campus in Carmarthen, and a Wellness and Life Science village at Delta Lakes in Llanelli.