Are you thinking of getting a 3D printer for your school? Are you seriously ready to have your students create prototypes? You’ll find out that it isn’t as easy as printing out a pdf file. Yes, you can print out a very cool bottle opener and have it actually work (trust me, it does!).
So, what does having a 3D printer in school really entail? There are a few things you should know before you get one and be all frustrated and irritated and have an epic fail. Here is what i’ve learned the past six months in actually using a 3D printer in a school setting.
Here is a little background in where I work. I work at an amazing Catholic independent school that actually is “4 halls of learning.” We have a girls elementary school, boys elementary school, a girls high school and a boys high school. We like to say that we have a “Single-sex classroom in a co-ed environment.” I myself officially work for the elementary schools but have connected with our high school faculties and students as well
Okay, on to the tips:
Acetone acetone acetone! Actually, its a slurry made of acetone and bits and pieces of ABS plastic itself. This helps warping of the model when printing. It aids in the the sticking of the model to the build plate.
Here is how to make this slurry.
- Design. When designing the model make sure the dimensions will fit the 3D printer’s parameters
- Size of the mode
- Delete any “floating” artifacts in your design as they can skew your 3D print dimensions and slow things waaaay down.
In-Fill %. The higher percentage, the more solid the model will be. Its the honey-bee like hexagon pattern happening inside your model. It adds strength to yout model
Supports help with any precarious overhangs on your model.
Pads these are the little round points that are attached to the corners of your model to help prevent warping. This can be added easily as your 3D printer will have some sort of option to add them automatically.
Glue. I’ve used a hot glue gun, krazy glue and tacky glue. Also, a thicker slurry of acetone and ABS.
Thingiverse Community. Take a look around this online 3D printing community for inspiration. You can download already files and even share your own creations for anyone to use.
Layer Resolution. If you want a smoother surface to your model, increase the resolution. But it will take longer to print.
Scheduling student workHave students stay within parameters to
Kapton Tape or Blue Painter’s Tape to help keep the build plate surface clean and even
Stability make sure you have a solid table to set the 3D printer on. Test out the bumping factor as students will want to get close to the printer and will eventually bump the 3D printer and knock the extruder off its axis/path
Slicing. Basically, this is the path where the extruder (place where the plastic is melted and comes out) will go. The 3D printer calculates this path.
Your mileage may vary.
So! Are you discouraged yet? Don’t be. Really. Today’s 3D printers are amazing. Yes, they require extra care, but your students’ amazement will be worth it. Even after 6 solid months of having our printer, our students are excited on the possibilities! With all the practical tips above, plan out some learning time, create a printing schedule, be prepared for tweaking of the design, warpage and reprinting of your models. Start with small models and expand when ready. I suggest having a core group of students play with it, learn how to troubleshoot the 3D printer and let them become the managers of the 3D printer. This will allow to share their findings, collaborate with others and learn tech skills.