alisonA lot of people are intrigued by 3D printing, but that interest doesn’t get any farther than reading the occasional article. For one thing, 3D printers are expensive; for another, many people just aren’t aware of the resources available to learn about the technology. Even where classes are available, interested individuals can be deterred by the cost. Believe me, I sympathize – there are so many classes, in a variety of topics, that I would love to take, but I just don’t have the money to spare for even the less expensive ones. So I’m thrilled by the increasing availability of free online courses that allow you to learn about everything from machining to neuroscience. (Sure, you’re not going to be able to be a brain surgeon by taking an online course, but it’s a great way to learn about the fundamentals of the field.)

Alison_CoursewareIntro_884There are several websites that offer online classes, and almost all of them include courses on 3D printing. One of those organizations is ALISON, a global leader in free online education. ALISON offers certified online training in subjects ranging from law to Photoshop, and is geared towards giving people a boost into the workplace at no cost. They have now introduced a “How to Use a 3D Printer” class that will teach participants the basics of 3D printing.

“This course will be of great interest to professionals working in the areas of engineering, design and manufacturing, who would like to learn more about 3D printing and its applications, or learners who would like to learn more about 3D printers and the future applications of this exciting technology,” the company states.

The class will take students through the 3D printing process from beginning to end, starting with an overview of the parts of the printer and the different types of plastic filament used. The course will use a Printrbot Simple Printer as the basis for learning how to set up, calibrate and operate a 3D printer, and students will learn how to design 3D models with 3D Builder software.

Simple-1403-w-Alu-Handle-and-Rack-1505111The course is being provided by Channel 9, an online community dedicated to software discussion and education. It’s recommended for anyone aged 16 or older, and there are assessments that require a score of 80% to pass. The nice thing about the class is that it allows you to learn at your own pace through a series of ten “topics” that are completed individually before the final assessments. The full course is only expected to take about two or three hours. If you pass all of the assessments, you can order an official diploma, for a cost.

What’s great about courses like this is that there is no risk. Should you sign up and decide, after starting, that it’s not for you, you can drop out without concern for wasted money. If you don’t pass – again, no money has been lost, and you’ll have learned some valuable skills that will likely benefit you in the workplace, diploma or no diploma. And if you do enjoy the course and do well at it, it may just lead you into a whole new career. Are you thinking about enrolling? Discuss in the ALISON 3D Printing Course forum over at 3DPB.com.

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