A quick introduction to 3D printing
The most fun I ever had at a job was work I did at the Pueblo City-County Library District as their technology trainer. We had all of this cool creative equipment, including 3D printers, scanners, video editing and 3d modeling equipment, and space for everyone!
I did a whole series of videos for the library's makerspace, the Idea Factory. One set I did was a short introduction series to all things 3D printing. It's designed for the absolute beginner, presents the general ideas, then launches directly into the nuts and bolts of making something using the library's systems. If you don't live in Pueblo, then you can't use the printers, but all the rest still applies.
3D Modeling is where it's at
Honestly, once you've marveled at a 3D printer - watched it laying out plastic layers with unapologetic robotic precision - you've seen it. To really understand it, you need to make something for yourself. The act of actually making your own stuff involves creating 3D models directly in a computer environment. You essentially create a blueprint and share that information with the printer, which build it layer by layer.
If you're a student or an educator looking for a way to introduce and engage students in modeling, I recommend starting with Tinkercad. It is a cloud hosted program at www.Tinkercad.com, and really is an amazing platform! I have personally created the models for my own working rep-rap 3d printer entirely in Tinkercad - it may look like a toy, but it is a rock solid procedural modeling tool.
To view the entire introduction page I wrote, visit PCCLD's web site here: PCCLD Idea FactoryFor your convenience, I have also embedded the first two web videos below. It's such an exciting way to think about making things, and a wonderful tool or creative and inventive people. The process of designing and printing something is truly rewarding on several levels. I would encourage and invite you to look into it for your classroom, your library, or your home.