3D Printing – The Art of Computer Science

Update: You can apply for the course online… click here.

Following a discussion with the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the Garden Route ICT Incubator secured funding to host a short course in 3D printing technology to schools and emerging small business from the region.

The rationale behind the initiative is that 3D printing is a branch of science and technology that is receiving a lot of attention at the moment. The discipline combines hardware, software, electronics and computer aided design skills and is the ideal way to spark interest in engineering and mathematics with school children. The skills involved are also highly sought after in the market and developing an interest and skills in this field directly supports the Garden Route ICT Incubator’s mission to support and promote technology-based businesses in the region. It is also a stated strategic objective to establish the Southern Cape as a hub in the knowledge economy and to this end we want to test the waters for this type of endeavour.

Our objectives for the course are:

  1. To identify local capabilities and talent in science and engineering;
  2. To equip educational institutions with technology and capabilities they would not otherwise have access to;
  3. To create new skills and businesses in a market segment with high demand and high value.

Course Overview

We’ll be building the Ecksbot-ZA RepRap 3D Printer kit as the foundation to introduce schools and entrepreneurs to this exciting field of engineering. In the process of building the kit, the delegates will be introduced to the concepts of mechanical, electronics and software engineering, applied in a practical way that anyone can relate to… making physical things.


The main target audience is schools where the course is attended by the resident ICT teacher and two chosen Grade 10-12 pupils that are showing promise in pursuing a career in this field. Upon completion, the school will take ownership of their very own 3D printer along with the skills to operate and make productive use of it.

The printer may be used as a teaching aid in a number of subjects as well as providing access to creative students to apply their craft.


The secondary target audience is entrepreneurs that can see potential in this line of business and would benefit from the opportunity to gain an understanding of it with access to the technology to make it possible. A good example of this is how the local craft industry has embraced local laser cutting businesses to form a productive alliance and a new line of business for both.

3D manufacturing has the potential to open opportunities for a number of small businesses in the area.


The pilot programme will be run by the Garden Route ICT Incubator as part of the G3ECS Technology Club initiative. Highly skilled and enthusiastic mentors are on hand to make sure it is a success.


The programme will be delivered as 2 hour evening classes over a 12 week period.

Week Module Description Outcomes
1 Introduction   to 3D printing with RepRap(Open Evening) An   overview of the 3D printing scene, explaining the industry jargon and going   over each part in the RepRap kit in detail. Delegates   will have an understanding of this fascinating area of science and   engineering. This will encourage them to do their own further research and   create support for technical fields of learning.
2 Build the frame Getting the frame right is critical to a   well functioning printer.In this module, the delegate will be   assisted in assembling the frame step by step.

An additional 4 hours of construction may be required as “homework” depending on the pace of the builder.

It is surprising how little attention is   given to physical engineering skills today. The learner will be given step by   step construction instructions and introduced to tools like a wrench, allen   keys, callipers and a square.The outcome is the ability to do basic   construction and the confidence to continue tackling their own projects.
3 Build   the controller board In   this module we will assemble the electronic controller board.If   you don’t know how to solder, you will learn today!

Assistance   is at hand to ensure you will have a working board at the end of the class.

Electronics   is an integral part of manufacturing technology today. It is important to   understand the basics of this hardware and get hands-on experience assembling   it.The   learner will get an understanding of the major components in a typical   robotic control system and basic soldering skills to assemble such circuitry.
4 Final assembly & calibration The printer consists of many parts and  getting them to work together is a challenge in itself.In this module we will do final assembly, calibrate it and get it ready for the first test print. There is a lot of science and engineering   behind these printers. It is not a toy.The learner will be introduced to the   concept of quality control and precision and calibration to understand what it takes to take a machine into production.
5 Tools   of the trade: 123D, Sketchup, OpenSCAD, Slic3r, Repetier and Pronterface(Open Evening) 3D   printing works hand in hand with Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer   Aided Manufacturing (CAM).This   module will introduce the most popular tools actively used to make creations and operate the printer. The   technical tools used can be daunting, but once the delegate understands the   basics, they will have confidence to continue learning and experimenting.The   demand for skills in this area is great and highly valued.

The   outcome is to spark interest in the software side of engineering.

6 Using AutoDesk 123D to draw 3D models Demonstrating the capabilities and basic   techniques using AutoDesk 123D.Note that this is a fast paced high level overview of the tool with a few practical excercises to get you going. It is not a formal curriculum.

Participants must bring their own computers pre-loaded with the free software.

CAD skills are and will become in even   more demand. People think it is complex and out of reach, which is not the   case.Autodesk is making great efforts with   their 123D range to introduce amateurs to the fascinating and challenging   field of solid modelling and other Maker activities.
7 Using Sketchup to draw 3D models We will demonstrate how to use Trimble Sketchup to design more complex 3D models and prepare them for 3D printing.Bring your computer to follow along. Sketchup   takes a different approach to 3D design in the form of Surface Modelling.   This is popular with graphic artists, and architects.The   outcome here is to spark interest in the creative design area for those that   have a more artistic flair and want their products to look good as well as be functional.




8 Using OpenSCAD to design parametric 3D models An alternative approach to 3D modelling using a programming language and math. Don’t be scared though… this is addictive once you get the hang of it. Math and Engineering go hand in hand, but   many people are put off by the math aspect.OpenSCAD is a modelling language where you tell the computer what to draw by means of instructions and mathematical operations. The beauty of OpenSCAD is the interactive aspect where you can immediately see the results of your instructions and calculations. It is a   highly motivational way to introduce people to geometry and programming at   the same time.
9 All   together… from design to printed model This evening the delegate will be assisted to design their own 3D model and print it on their own printer. Some troubleshooting is expected. The   outcome of this module is a working 3D printer to take home and become   productive with it.The   delegate will have received knowledge, skills and an opportunity to apply it.
10 Rapid prototyping technologies(Open Evening) 3D printing is but one of the many   methods that can be used to develop prototypes or creations.Local experts from the area will   introduce the class to Laser cutting, CNC machining and model making.

We will also talk about some of the   fascinating projects people in the area are working on.

It is important to create connections   between people in the engineering community and widen their perspective on   what is possible with the technology available.It is expected that new relationships   will form and some delegates will start engaging with local businesses for   engineering work. It is also an opportunity for local employers to scout   potential future talent.
11 Making money with your 3D printer and skills A hobby can become a profitable business.This module will introduce the delegate to entrepreneurial skills and ideas on how   to use the knowledge and equipment for profit. The outcome is a basic understanding of the value chain in this field of science and engineering. People are making good money with these skills and some have started entire new businesses from it. The hope is that some delegates will see this opportunity and enter into further mentorship programmes or gain the courage to sit at the Market on Saturday 🙂
12 Show and Tell(Open Evening) All delegates will bring their printers   and creations for Show and Tell for a photo opportunity with the sponsors and mentors. This concludes the course and is an   opportunity to celebrate the successes and showcase the achievements to   interested parties and the press.

Application Process and Cost

Candidate schools from the area will be personally invited to attend the course and need to confirm attendance to 3d@grincubator.co.za before 21 March so the necessary equipment may be ordered.

The course is expected to commence Wednesday 9 April (to be confirmed).

The cost of the course and the associated 3D printer to the value of approximately R10,000 is subsidized by the Garden Route ICT Incubator. An administration fee of R1,500 per school is payable on registration to secure one of five places. We are calling on advantaged schools to sponsor the registration fee for their disadvantaged counterparts.

A minimum of one and maximum of two students per school is required. The students must be accompanied either by a teacher or parent with IT skills for the duration of the course.

To attract the right caliber of student that will show commitment to the course, it is recommended to run an essay contest in the school that shows the ability to research the field of 3D printing, understand the value and application of the technology and can come up with a creative application of the 3D printer in their school. It is the responsibility of the school to select the appropriate teacher and students.

Two subsidized places are available to tertiary institutions or entrepreneurs. The entry criteria is an essay to explain the potential impact the course and 3D printer may have on the student’s studies or entrepreneur’s business. A random draw of entries will be used to select two participants in this category. In this category the printer becomes the property of the individual and not the institution they study or work at. The registration fee of R1,500 is payable on acceptance of the application.

An additional 5 places are available to private participants willing to carry their own costs of R10,000 which includes the 3D printer kit, software and lessons. Corporate sponsorship for additional seats are also very welcome.

A DIY 3D printer kit may be ordered separately for R7,500 via the Incubator and includes delivery in the Garden Route and one free lesson during the course and assistance with calibration on evening 9.

Attendance of individual sessions is available on application at R250 per person per lesson. This includes support for the construction of their own printer or assistance with the software on the night the relevant module is presented. It is aimed at people who are building their own printer but would like to attend specific lessons for additional support.

Lesson 1 (Introduction), 5 (Tools of the trade), 10 (Rapid prototyping technologies) and 12 (Show and Tell) will be open to the public at no cost. You must however book your place in advance, first come first served, as space is limited.

For more information or to apply, please use the e-mail 3d@grincubator.co.za or any of the contact details on the website and talk to us!

Looking forward to seeing you there in 3D!

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One Response to Are you a Three Dimensional Thinker?

  1. balvindra walter says:

    I am a private individual working in George ,for Mascot-ears under Althea Olofse .We build mascots and 3d objects .I understand there are two subsidized places available.I have also worked with Roger Titley Creatures building 3d life size puppets .3d printing will be a vital part in designing parts and making model prototypes .This course will benefit this type of industry which includes the film industry,theater in making props etc.I have worked in the later industries and understand what is needed. Kind regards Balvindra Walter.