Investing in a 3D printer is a big deal! It’s probably a sizable chunk of your departmental budget so you want to know that you have made the right choice. CREATE Education, have been advising teachers and educators from schools, colleges, and universities for over 8 years about the best printer and technology to […]
Investing in a 3D printer is a big deal! It’s probably a sizable chunk of your departmental budget so you want to know that you have made the right choice.
CREATE Education, have been advising teachers and educators from schools, colleges, and universities for over 8 years about the best printer and technology to invest in.
Here are our top 5 things to consider when choosing a 3D printer for your classroom:
Size of the 3D Printer
3D printers are not intrusive. Smaller 3D printers will only take up as much desk space as a normal printer, so you can safely store and use them on a desk at the side of your classroom or workshop. But, depending on what you intend to use your printer for, you may want to look at a slightly bigger one.
The bigger the printer, the bigger the build plate size and therefore the larger the volume of printing you can do. The build plate is where the 3D printed object is created, so if you want to produce a batch of larger items for a whole class in a relatively short time, you would benefit from a bigger build plate.
However, you may need to consider the weight of the printer too. The bigger the printer, the heavier it is. Whilst the smaller printers only weigh around 10Kg, meaning that they could be pretty portable around your classroom, some of the bigger printers are certainly not portable.
It’s all about balance – why not check out their education buyers guides for more information.
Single or Dual Extrusion 3D Printer
If you are buying your first printer and want to do basic prints then a single extruder might be the ticket, but just be aware, when printing more complex shapes, or shapes with overhangs, having a dual extrusion printer is key.
But what is extrusion? Most 3D printers, that schools will use, work on heating plastic filament which is then fed through a nozzle or extruder. The hot plastic filament builds up in layers to create your 3D model or product.
A single extrusion machine only has one nozzle which means that only one filament can be used at a time to print the shapes. A dual extrusion machine has two nozzles, allowing two filaments to be printed simultaneously. This is important when looking to print shapes that will need support. With a dual extrusion machine, PVA support material can be printed alongside your filament, and then when the product is finished the PVA supports can be dissolved.
Find out more in CREATE Education’s buyers guide.
Open filament system
The great thing about 3D printing is that it’s based on open-source thinking – that means that lots of the software for designing and slicing your models and even whole files for designs to download and print are free on the web for anyone to access. Check out Thingiverse – CREATE Education especially like the FlexiRexes.
Some 3D printers have cartridges that are programmed to only accept the manufacturers’ filament, tying you to costly long-term commitments from your departmental budget. So, it’s worth looking for an open filament system when shopping for your first 3D printer.
Buying an open filament 3D printer will not only bring down costs on materials in the future, but it will also give you more choices. There are trends for glow-in-the-dark filament and even glitter filament that your students may see on TikTok. By buying an open-filament printer, you can experiment with different filaments to really take your student’s creativity to the next level.
The Connectivity of your 3D Printer
The great thing about 3D printers is that you can connect them in a variety of ways – LAN or WiFi for most. Connecting your 3D printer via WiFi to your system allows for a seamless workflow – design, slice, and send your print to the printer without even moving from your desk!
Additional features – do you need them?
There are a whole host of additional features that can make your 3D printing more stable, more reliable, or can decrease the amount of user input needed, but the more features you have, the more expensive your printer – so consider – what are you going to use your printer for and what features are worth the extra?
For example, you can have:
- Inbuilt cameras to monitor the printing in real-time;
- Air managers which optimise the temperature and airflow of the build chamber;
- Automatic calibration and inbuilt filament monitoring systems which alert you when the filament is about to run out.
Get in touch with CREATE Education
If you want some more advice about how to choose the best 3D printer for your classroom, get in touch. They will walk you through all of their options and we will only recommend machines that we know are right for your needs.
Get in touch – [email protected]