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.
Up until recently, editing RAW camera images on a Chromebook has not been possible. However, two RAW editors are now available – Raw Therapee and Darktable. Both are very powerful and can now be installed on a Chromebook. Of the two, both can do everything I could ever want to do, but I prefer Raw Therapee simply because it is easier to use, at least for me.
Here is how to add RawTherapee to your Chromebook.
At first, it may look intimidating to use, which is understandable as it can do so much, but the basics are easy to access. These two YouTube guides will convince you in less than 15 minutes that if your students are using Chromebooks, RawTherapee is something you will want to include in your lessons.
Loom is an online screen recording program from Google. While the online version does a nice job, if you have a Mac or PC, you can install an application that will give you more features.
Loom does a nice job recording your screen and narration and then stores your screencasts in the cloud for easy sharing. It comes with a basic editor, but if you want to spruce up your project, you can download the file as a .mp4 and edit it in your favorite free editor like HitFilm Express.