7 Free Online Courses to Learn about 3D Printing

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3D printing may have gotten very popular in the last couple of years, but it remains unexplored territory for a lot of people. As with any technology-based skill, learning about 3D printing can be an intimidating prospect. Before taking the plunge into 3D printing, how about learning about it with no investment?

This selection of free online learning courses will teach you the basics of 3D printing and show you the possibilities of what you can do with a 3D printer. If you’re stuck indoors, then why not spend some time to learn something new?

1. 3D Printing Basics – Udemy

3D Printing Basics - Udemy

This course designed by Airscrew Academy is the perfect starting point for those who are curious about 3D printing but have little to no experience. Through a series of videos, the course will introduce you to entry-level concepts about 3D printing, the different types of 3D printers, and the different materials used in 3D printing. The course also gleans on some applications of 3D printing, although the examples are either too general or too specific.

The videos are short, engaging, and fairly easy to follow. The coverage of the course does cast a very wide net. It does not discuss a lot of detail about how to design a 3D model or how to use a 3D printer. If there’s a specific facet of 3D printing you want to learn about, then this course might not be the best one for you.

The course provides about 38 minutes of on-demand video. A paid version of this free course is available, should you wish to receive a certificate of completion. The paid version also allows you to directly communicate with the course instructor and access a Q & A section.

2. 3D Printing Applications – Coursera

3D Printing Applications - Coursera

Investing all that time and money into 3D printing might seem silly if it’s just a hobby, right? The thing about 3D printing nowadays is that it has become a valuable technology in many commercial industries. This free course offered by the University of Illinois will introduce you to all the ways that 3D printing has been used for business, science, education, and research by both individuals and corporations.

This course is a lot more involved than other free online courses and will take you about 20 hours to finish. With more than 30 videos, reading materials, and quizzes for each module, this course has a more formal structure which should facilitate learning.

This also means that you’ll need to pay this course more attention to get good marks, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Deadlines are flexible, though, so there’s really no need to be pressured to finish it once you enroll.

This course is ideal for those who are considering starting a career in 3D printing and buying a 3D printer to start a business. Although the information is very general, it would be useful to see which industries you can get involved with.

3. The 3D Printer Hardware Guide – Udemy

The 3D Printer Hardware Guide - Udemy

If you’re already familiar with the basics of 3D printing, then the sensible next step would be to learn about how a 3D printer works. This course focuses on the hardware of the 3D printer – its individual components, how they are assembled, and how they work together. The course also starts with a short view of the basics of 3D printing and its history.

Over the course of 30 minutes’ worth of videos, the instructor will discuss individual hardware components of a 3D printer and how each one works. We will then go through the whole process of putting together a 3D printer, taking note of which component goes where. The assembly phase also includes a quick tutorial on wiring.

Although there are a lot of advanced topics that the course did not cover, this course provides a great introduction for anyone using a 3D printer for the first time. At the end of the course, the instructor also touches on a few industrial applications of 3D printing.

4. 3D Printing Software – Coursera

3D Printing Software - Coursera

Once you’re already familiar with the hardware that makes a 3D printer work, then the next step would be to understand all the software that support it. This course by the University of Illinois discusses two techniques to create models for 3D printing – 3D modeling from scratch and 3D scanning a physical object.

This is a hands-on course that provides several exercises using actual software. There are two modeling platforms you will have to download and install – Tinkercad and Autodesk Fusion 360. These are among the most popular programs used for 3D modeling. By practicing these programs, you will have a solid foundation on which to build more advanced skills.

The course will take about 15 hours to finish and includes more than 2 hours’ worth of videos, several pages of reading materials, and a quiz at the end of each module. It’s certainly useful for anyone interested in 3D modeling or looking into starting a profession in 3D printing. The specific software used in the course is limited to those from Autodesk but the basic principles on sculpting should apply to any platform.

5. 3D Printing Workshop: How to Use and Maintain a 3D Printer – Udemy

3D Printing Workshop: How to Use and Maintain a 3D Printer - Udemy

This 2-hour course by Core Electronics is easily one of the most comprehensive ones among the selection of free online courses. Covering a huge scope of 3D printing principles and working instructions, this course is a great introduction on how to use and care for your 3D printer. If you just bought a 3D printer or are planning to buy one, then we highly recommend taking the time to go through all the lectures.

The course starts with the basics – the different 3D printing technologies, the basics of FDM printing, the hardware involved, and how CAD drawings are translated into a form that 3D printers understand. The students then move on to preparing their first model for 3D printing using the slicer software.

The most valuable part of the course touches on the usual problems and challenges that the user will encounter throughout the 3D printing process. Some of these challenges, like warping and overhangs, are very common. The expert guidance provided by the course will go a long way towards helping students perfect their 3D printing technique.

Finally, the course culminates with tips for proper maintenance of 3D printers and guidelines on when and how to replace damaged components. With so many moving parts, there will inevitably be problems popping up on every 3D printer.

6. Introduction to Blender for Beginners – Udemy

Introduction to Blender for Beginners - Udemy

For a lot of people, the main draw of 3D printing is the ability to print the designs that you have made yourself. However, achieving this will require that you also learn about 3D modeling. This course will take you through a step-by-step guide in creating a 3D model in Blender. This software is recognized as one of the most popular 3D modeling platforms worldwide.

This course was designed for students who are absolute beginners in Blender. With over 60 modules distributed across almost 5 hours of content, the course will take you through the basics of the platform’s interface to more advanced functions like sculpting, texturing, and lighting.

To be fair, some modules of the course cover topics that go beyond the requirement of 3D printing. However, you may find an undiscovered passion for 3D modeling by going through the Blender course. In any case, Blender is an industry-standard software that many artists and designers use. At the end of the course, you should be at a proficiency where you can come up with your own 3D models.

7. 3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing – CanopyLAB

3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing - CanopyLAB

This course focuses on a more specialized topic – the effect of 3D printing technology on traditional manufacturing. If you work in the manufacturing industry or are expected to offer services in the field, this course provides a great glimpse of how manufacturing can be revolutionized by 3D printing.

The course is sponsored by digital manufacturing firm Thurmer Tools and thus has a module focused on how 3D printing is used in digital manufacturing. They do zoom out shortly after, taking a look at the application of 3D printing in the food, medical, and construction industries.

The course also touches on the more unconventional uses of 3D printing. Did you know that there are studies exploring the possibility of 3D printed tissues and organs? There have also been cases of houses being 3D printed in just a few days. These aren’t fully developed applications of 3D printing, but it’s still nice to look towards the future.

Final thoughts

Learning about something new is one of the best ways to while away the hours, especially if you find yourself having to spend more time indoors than you’re used to. If you’ve always been curious about 3D printing, then now is the best time to read up about it. Each one of the courses we have listed here can be accessed for free and will take you one step further to being a full-fledged 3D printing professional.

Warning; 3D printers should never be left unattended. They can pose a firesafety hazard.