3D Design


Aaron Debbink

Unit Title:

3D Design





Estimated Duration:

20 Days

Unit Activities:

Background Knowledge: 

This unit will be taught as the 2nd unit in a high school foundations of engineering course. No specific background skills or information is required for this unit, but basic mathematical awareness and skills are helpful for two and three-dimensional design including basic geometry and 2D and 3D coordinate systems. 


November 2013

The Big Idea (including global relevance)
  • Leading Edge Product Design and Manufacturing

The Essential Question
  • How can objects be modeled in three dimensions for printing?  

Justification for Selection of Content

In our competitive global economy, the time required from the initial conception of a design to the the final product plays a crucial role in it’s success. With the advent of 3D printing, engineers are able to create prototype designs quicker and are even able to make final end-use products with this technology. 3D printing is also coming down in price which gives many more people the ability to bring an idea to completion in the marketplace and their own homes. The use of this 3D printing technology depends on the ability to use software to create a solid 3D model of the object which will be printed. This unit focuses on giving students the ability to create simple solid 3D models using Google Sketchup. Google Sketchup was chosen because it is free, intuitive for students to use, and able to make and export files for use with a 3D printer.  It is also a tool that will be used for future design projects throughout an engineering course.  

The Challenge

Design and manufacture a three dimensional logo for a new or existing product or company.  The students will create a 3D logo from a given 2D image of a new or existing product or company.  These 2D designs or images can be preselected by the teacher, selected by the engineering students, or can be generated by a collaborating class of digital design students or traditional art class students. The collaborating students act as our “customers” who are “hiring” us to model and print a 3D logo for their company.   This unit is written assuming that another class (digital design / art / etc...) will be providing the initial 2D design, initial design feedback, and final summative feedback and evaluation.  

The Hook

A day will be spent watching videos introducing 3D printing and the ensuing 3D design project.  There will be one video which introduces 3D printers and other videos which demonstrate specific 3D printing technologies and products printed by 3D printers ranging from metal printing to 3D lungs printed with cells.  These videos will give students a glimpse into the future of design and manufacturing. The goal is to get the students to realize that whatever they can think of and model with three-dimensional software, can be printed, literally in front of their eyes. The biggest constraint to design with 3D printing is your imagination! 

Teacher's Guiding Questions

Activity #1 SketchUp Basics

  • What software can be used to create solid 3D models for 3D printing?
  • How can we use Google Sketchup to create simple two-dimensional drawings?
  • How can we make curves, lines, rectangles, and circles in Google Sketchup?
  • How can we use Google Sketchup efficiently, so we spend less time making drawings?

Activity #2 Quantitative Sketchup

  • How can we use Google Sketchup to create quantitative two-dimensional drawings?
  • How can we make curves, lines, rectangles, and circles in Google Sketchup?
  • How can we use Google Sketchup efficiently, so we spend less time making drawings?

Activity #3 3D Logo Design

  • How do you create a solid 3D model from a two-dimensional design using Google Sketchup? 
  • What are the things we need to consider when three-dimensionally modeling an object which will be produced on our 3D printer?
  • How can you scale a model to be printed in 3D?
  • How will do we communicate our 3D design to the customer? 

Activity #4 3D Logo Redesign

  • How do you modify a 3D model once it is created as a solid group of objects in Google Sketchup?
  • How do we communicate our final 3D design to be evaluated by the “customer”? 

ACS (Real world applications; career connections; societal impact)

A - With the advent of 3D printing, engineers, artists, and hobbyists are able to create prototype designs quicker and are even able to make final end-use products with this technology for use in the marketplace and for personal use.

C - Manufacturing Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Product Designer, Electrical Engineering, Software Engineers, Artists, Jewelry Designer, etc...  

S - 3D printing technology allows engineers to produce new products faster and allows for personalization of designs like prosthetics.  It also allows for product designs not previously possible with current manufacturing techniques and methods. This allows for greater flexibility with product design, giving engineers and designers one more tool to solve and engineer solutions to various societal problems.   

Engineering Design Process (EDP)

The students go through the engineering design process in activities #3 and #4 after learning how to use the basic techniques in Google Sketchup to create simple 3D objects.  These skills were learned and practiced in the first two activities.  Here are the individual pieces of the EDP in the following activities:

Activity #3 3D Logo Design

● (Identify and Define) - Through a discussion,  the constraints and design criteria for 3D printers are identified.

● (Gather Information) - The 2D logo designs are given to the students by the collaborating design class, selected by the students themselves, or preselected by the teacher.  Also, the student work through written and video tutorials giving them the skills they need in Google SketchUp to create a solid 3D logo.

● (Identify Alternatives and Select Best Solution to Try) - the students brainstorm different ideas to create a 3D logo from the received 2D image and select the best solution based on aesthetics, ease of 3D modeling, and cost by minimizing design volume.

● (Implement Solution) - Students create a solid 3D model using Google Sketchup.

● (Communicate) - Once completed, the students  will send their initial design idea / ideas and construction notes back to the “customer” (design class students or teacher) for review and feedback.  There are some minimum requirements for communication which are explained in the 3D Logo Grading Rubric.

Activity #4 3D Logo Redesign

● (Evaluate or Test) - The collaborating design students (our “customers”) are the ones who evaluate or “test” the initial 3D design and provide specific feedback for some redesign. 

● (Refine / Do Again) - Based on the provided “customer” feedback the students redesign the 3D logo.

● (Communicate)  -  Once completed, the students  will send the final 3D model back to the “customer” for final review and evaluative feedback.  There are some minimum requirements for the final communication which are explained in the 3D Logo Grading Rubric

Unit Academic Standard

Next Generation Science Standards: (bold text shows what part of each standard is addressed in this design unit).

● Both physical models and computer models can be used in various ways to aid in the engineering design process.  Physical models, or prototypes, are helpful in testing product ideas or the properties of different materials.

● Computer models are useful for a variety of purposes, such as in representing a design in 3-D through CAD software; in troubleshooting to identify and describe a design problem; in running simulations to test different ways of solving a problem or to see which one is most efficient or economical; and in making a persuasive presentation to a client about how a given design will meet his or her needs.

● To design something complicated one may need to break the problem into parts and attend to each part separately but must then bring the parts together to test the overall plan.

● Design criteria and constraints, which typically reflect the needs of the end-user of a technology or process, address such things as the product’s or system’s function (what job it will perform and how), its durability, and limits on its size and cost.

● When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

● Design, evaluate, and refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

Unit Activities

Introduction to 3D printing videos and the 3D Design Project Overview Presentation

Activity #1 SketchUp Basics

○ SketchUp intro with basic shapes and commands (line, circle, rectangle, curve, eraser, copying, moving, rotating, etc...)

○ Assignment #1 (Qualitative 2D Pictures: Google and Dell Logos) 1 person does each with the help of the other partner.

Activity #2 Quantitative Sketchup

○ How to make lines of specific length, circles with a specific radius, extrusions to a specific height, constraining your workspace, changing units, etc...

○ Assignment #2 (Quantitative 2D Picture: Android Logo)

Activity #3 3D Logo Design

○ 3D Solid Modeling in SketchUp (making and combining components)

○ Receiving the design or creating the 2D design and making of a solid 3D SketchUp file to be printed.

○ Send dimensioned initial design and construction notes back to the design class students.

Activity #4 3D Logo Redesign

○ Receive feedback and make modifications to 3D logo design.  Final images are posted online and both classes vote for their favorite logos which will be printed.

Where the CBL and EDP appear in the Unit

Activity #3 3D Logo Design & Activity #4 3D Logo Redesign


Misconception #1: Access to 3D printer is/should be limited to a select few.

Misconception #2: 3D printing is expensive.

Comment: 3D-printers are now being extensively used by small business owners too. Home 3Dprinters are now available starting from $199 (http://makibox.com/) but with the improvement of this technology, it shouldn’t be long enough when people will be able to print a 3D model in their home with the press of a button.

Misconception #3: 3D printing requires lots of training.

Comment: Everything requires a little bit of training and it’s the same for this technology too.

Misconception #4: The quality of the output is poor. 

Comment: Talk about the fact that 3D printers not only prints simple models, but sometimes the output of the 3D printer ends up being the final product. Most people think that these systems are just for prototypes, but depending on the application, that may end up being your final part, especially if your production run is very small.

Pre-Unit Assessment Instrument
Post-Unit Assessment Instrument


What worked well when implementing this unit? Please give specific examples to justify your response.

1. The challenge of creating a 3D logo design which could be printed on a 3D printer served to be a strong motivator for students to learn the necessary skills using the computer software Google SketchUp. It gave some context to students, showing them how learning these skills (creating quantitative 2D models and making solid 3D models) can be applied to solve an authentic challenge.

2. The video tutorials were easy for students to follow and a good medium for conveying specific skills to use the software (Google SketchUp) for creating “solid” 3D models.  It also allowed me to do less direct instruction, freeing me up to work with students one-on-one and in small groups throughout each period, personalizing instruction along the way.

Thinking about how you normally teach, what was the most difficult aspect of the challenge-based learning and engineering design process for you?

The most difficult part was getting students to feel like they were an integral part of developing the CBL unit experience, developing the big idea, essential question, challenge and guiding questions.

In the space below, please provide a summary reflection on the unit and/or specific activities that will be added to your unit template.

1. Add details in the introductory tutorials about making copies to create different versions of a model which can be used if mistakes are made instead of starting over from scratch.

2. Discuss how to change the units of a model mid design.

3. Remove the 3D adidas logo tutorial. The error fixing for the bevels was too difficult for most students to make it a “solid” component. 

4. Add another tutorial showing how to create 3D objects in Sketchup which shows a easier method for creating a “solid” object which does not introduce as many errors which need to be fixed.

5. (Added to the unit) Use a directions sheet to explain each step of the initial and final submission process to the design class student.

6. Make a “SketchUp Skills Cheat Sheet” which describes, in detail, how to do some of the basic commands in Google SketchUp including rotating, moving a copy, scaling, etc….  These were taught and explained in individual tutorials throughout the unit, but students forgot as the unit progressed. It would be nice for students to have a printed resource for referencing as they work on their 3D logo design.