Recommending a 3D printer for the classroom is like trying to hit a moving target as companies come and go, support can be erratic and prices don’t really determine quality. My classroom has been equipped with 3D printers costing from $300 to $2,500 and each was purchased by someone else from above. Honestly, the $300 Monoprice model was just too basic, but if you were printing something small, it held its own compared to the $2,500 Taz 6, which is way overpriced.
When it came time for me to spend my own money on a printer for home, I chose one from Prusa Research in Prague. I can’t tell you if it has one or two zillion hours on it, but I finally had to replace the nozzle ($6) as I had worn the original one out, and I never print with an abrasive filament. The rest of the printer is still going strong.
There are many reviews on YouTube, so I’ll let you find those yourself, but here are some of the features I love and why I think they are perfect for the classroom.
Best bang for the buck, period.
All of the parts are open-sourced, so you have many options if you need parts.
Decent build volume, even on the Mini.
The build plate is made from coated spring steel and held in place with strong magnets. When you print is done, remove the plate and flex it to pop off the piece.
It’s pretty quiet.
Their free, open-source slicing software is the best out there. Even if you are not using a Prusa printer, you should take a look at PrusaSlicer.
3-day FedEx air freight at very reasonable prices.
Many profiles for printing filament from popular brands other than Prusa.
You can save money by assembling it yourself. My MK3 took me about 6 hours the first time, while I was watching TV. It comes with the best assembly manual you will ever find, plus there are how-to tutorials on YouTube.
Possible downsides include,
Your district may hesitate to purchase from a non-US company. That shouldn’t be a problem as if they use a credit card, they could always file a dispute.
There is no enclosure, which helps when printing materials like ABS where you want to minimize shrinkage/warping. However, you can build an inexpensive enclosure from IKEA tables and print all the parts yourself. I did this and it works great!
So, those are my thoughts (I have no connection or financial interest with anything mentioned in this post). For the cost of one Dremel, you can buy one MK3 and two Minis.
I teach a CE online class for teachers on 3D printing and can recommend one more essential, regardless of what printer you use. BUY THIS BOOK. It’s $20 and when you run into trouble, and you will, this will be your go-to source for solutions.
This is a follow-up for students that completed modeling a basic chair with SketchUp. It uses the web-based version of SketchUp, like SketchUp For Schools. No prior experience with SketchUp is really necessary, making this an ideal project for any student. While students could build the table with most of the same skills as building the chair, this lesson goes one step further and introduces different methods that will expand the student’s toolbox and save time. Having said that, you might want to make the chair first 🙂
Being able to monitor your 3D printing job remotely is important, and fun. Some 3D printers come with a camera built-in, but mine didn’t, so to add one, I started with a webcam like you would use with Skype. The picture was OK, but if I wanted video in 1080p, a new webcam with that resolution was going to be at least $50.
I had a Wyze Cam v2 laying around and wondered if I could use that for monitoring in 1080p HD? I had previously set it up for my printer, but the only way you could view it was via the Wyze app, and that only works on a smartphone and I wanted more detail. For $19.99 and a little work, this is a great setup. Here’s what I did:
The v2 lens is adjustable if you do a little disassembling. It can also be replaced for less than $20 if you want a different focal length. I didn’t feel I needed to do that, but if you want to hunt around, search for “M12*0.5 Mount”
Now that your Wyze Cam is a USB webcam, you can monitor the video feed with a variety of free applications. Your OS likely already has one built-in like Windows Camera or Mac Photobooth.
I went one step further and installed Octoprint on a Raspberry Pi. This allows me to view the video feed on my computer, records a timelapse video, and with the Octopod plugin, I can monitor and control my print job remotely. More on that later.
Here’s a fun STEM activity using Tinkercad, Autodesk’s free web-based 3D modeling program. Tinkercad is an amazingly easy-to-use, powerful program for creating 3D digital designs that are ready to be 3D printed, incorporated into projects, or solve design challenges. This FREE collection of online software tools help people all over the world think, create, make, and Tinker! For teachers, it integrates easily with Google/Tinkercad Classroom and is 100% cloud-based, meaning it will operate on any device that can run a web browser, including Chromebooks and iPads.
For teachers interested in a Tinkercad class for continuing education credits, take a look at STEM-910, Teaching With Tinkercad. https://ce.fresno.edu/educator-courses/stem-910
Actual software applications usually cannot be installed on a Chromebook, which usually means that editing video has to be done in the cloud, like at wevideo.com, which was neither free nor convenient for schools and students.
With the advent of being able to install some Linux apps on Chromebooks, developers have bundled together some Linux open-source applications that can easily be installed (You don’t need to know Linux) via Flatpak.
There are several choices, but my favorite is OpenShot. It is a typical non-linear video editor that students can learn easily. It even comes with a nice library of transitions and effects.
You are not going to be able to edit the next Star Wars movie with it on a Chromebook, but for presentations, science experiments, debates, book reports – you name it – it provides the best option for editing video on a Chromebook.
This is the video that I mentioned earlier on improving your videos by stepping-up your audio. It is impossible for me to provide a one-step-fits-all solution, so consider this a start and if you have questions or want a recommendation, please let me know.
BTW, here are some links to some of the gear I mentioned. I don’t make any money off them, it’s just what I use myself. With tariffs, COVID and so many people looking to improve their audio for online meetings, prices have been higher this last year, but they are getting better slowly. Some products are also back-ordered.
Sony Lavalier Mic. Some mics require power, others don’t. To avoid getting the wrong mic, choose one with free returns. If your computer supports a mic 3.5mm input, this may be all that you need.
Blue Yeti USB Mic. I used one of these for 2-3 years and loved it until it stopped working. Maybe I just got a bad one, but I replaced it with an AT2020 condenser mic and use a USB interface to connect it to my computer.
iMovie is Apple’s free video editing program for Macs, iPads and iPhones. It is very easy to learn and integrates very well with all Apple devices, yet also has many advanced features for easily creating captivating video content for educational and personal use.
No previous experience is required for this course. Students will intuitively proceed through each lesson, creating appealing and engaging video content that can be used in their instruction the same day. Methods for sharing videos in almost any forum/format will also be discussed.
Students will need a Macintosh computer for the course so we can explore iMovie’s features, but we will also cover how you can use iMovie on iOS devices such as iPads.
Sample Lesson From The Course
Discover how you can use the Apple hardware you already use daily to create, educate, communicate and inform, all while having fun and maximizing your creativity.
Three graduate-level semester credits from Fresno Pacific University.
Neither previous academic coursework nor work experience is required.
The textbook is inexpensive, especially used copies.