Generation Genius - November 2021


Forums / STEM / 3D Printers


3D Printers

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Kathryn Bennett Kathryn Bennett 1150 Points

Hello, all! My principal has set me the unenviable task of researching 3D printers to choose the best one for our school.  I would really like an open-source printer, so we can use whatever design programs turn out to work the best for us and so that we can upgrade as needed, but I would really love to hear from some teachers that have used 3D printers in the Elementary classroom in any way.  What printer did you use?  How did it go?  What did you love, what did you hate?  Any other advice? Thanks for your help!

Pamela Dupre Pamela Dupre 92364 Points

Our STEM Educational Development Leader purchased Dremel 3D printers for elementary, middle, and high school. I will be picking some up for my schools next week and see how things go from there.

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43125 Points

The first thing is what are you going to use the printer for? If you have large projects that require a larger build space, then you want to be looking at Makerbot or Flashforge, or other similar types of computers. I have the Makerbot Z18 and Replicator and hate them both. There are constant firmware and software updates that drive me absolutely batty. There is always something wrong with the print. I have more half printed minions than I care to admit. If you are just wanting to teach your kids the principles of 3D printing, then I would highly recommend M3D. I have gone on eBay and sniped 15 them for my classroom anywhere from $250 to $300. The final bid price seems to depend on the amount of filament that comes with it. Brand new, the first generation of these runs between $450 to $500. Why I like the first generation of M3D is the software is downloadable from the website. The Support has been outstanding when I send a question through email. They often attach a .pdf that outlines step by step how to fix the problem. There are both internal and external feed capabilities, I only use the external because in the long run, there are less things that can go wrong. I have found I can run up to 13 printers from one computer with the use of hubs. The trick is, the program reads the printer and lists it by serial number. To use with my middle school students, I have printed labels with the serial number and then named it, taping the serial number and name to the machine itself. It is easier for the students to say, "I am printing on Sophie," but the screen will show the serial number. The quality of the prints are pretty close to equal to those produced by my Makerbots. The print time is comparable. I have yet to find a filament that does not work. PLA is used because there is no heated bed in the first model, though ABS can be used, you just have to raise the temperature of the extruder. I cover the print bed with blue painters tape as the filament sticks best when I do. There is a new version coming out that is slightly larger and is not computer dependent. I have not used the new version. You can print from a card and theoretically can be restarted in the event of a power shut off. The moving parts are more durable as there are more metal parts, though I have not had any issues with most parts breaking. I have had one with a USB getting pushed too far in that broke off the motherboard, and the gantries. The new version also is faster. All things being equal, it should be recognized learning how to use a 3D printer of any kind has a huge learning curve. You will not be successful with it right out of the box more than one time for the sample print, if you are lucky. Once you get it, the learning transfers to all other types of 3D printers.

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