4 Ways to Prepare Your School for 3D Printing
Post in News by Marketing Team on 2nd July 2018
Whether you’ve read our eBook “Why 3D Print in the Classroom?” or have done research yourself, you already know the benefits 3D printers provide for the classroom. You may even be contemplating purchasing one. However, have you given thought to how you will prepare your classroom space?
Preparing Your School for 3D Printing
3D printers require proper setup to be used effectively. If you haven’t thought about what to consider when implementing, fear not! We’re about to share four ways to prepare your school for 3D printing.
1. Placement of your 3D printers
It is important to make sure printers are located in an environment that allows for optimal use and performance. First, consider in which setting you will put your printers. There are multiple settings that you can place the printers in, and each setting offers a different advantage. If you plan on purchasing multiple printers, you can place the printers in a lab type of environment. This will provide wider access to 3D printing for students at a lower total cost of ownership. It can also help educators streamline entire lesson plans over multiple 3D printers. Lab-type environments specific to 3D printing and STEAM can also keep your students engaged by reducing wait time during a lesson. If you plan on purchasing only one or a couple of printers, a typical classroom setup could be more beneficial as it gives students instant access to work on 3D printing design and print projects. While it may lessen access to 3D printing for the rest of the school, you can provide students with hands-on learning opportunities without having to book time in a lab. 3D printing is also a great tool to use in makerspace environments as students can work collaboratively on projects using the printer.
2. Proper 3D Printer Ventilation
3D printers require a space with appropriate conditions to ensure printer performance is not affected. The printers should be located in a space with a relatively stable temperature, and should not be exposed to rain, wind, or gusts (i.e., not next to a window, fan, or AC unit). Proper ventilation is also important when you think about placement of your 3D printers. While some 3D printing materials (filament) are known to produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ultrafine particles (UFPs) when printing – on the same level as paint and nail polish fumes – Teq only sells and recommends filaments that are safe for classroom use (see section #3 for more details). Even with these safe and approved 3D printing materials, it is recommended that the printers be placed in a setting with proper ventilation to filter out particles emitted during printing and minimize exposure to fumes. If you’d like to think about commercially available air filtration units such as activated carbon and HEPA filtration, these can help direct these emissions out of the school and make it safer for the printers to be used in class. In addition, we mentioned lab-type environments in an earlier section, and one of the additional benefits of having a dedicated 3D printing space is that it can be designed with the proper ventilation in mind.
3. 3D Printer Material Selection and Storage
Along with proper ventilation, the type of 3D printing materials you choose will have an impact on student safety. While all types of 3D printing materials produce VOCs or UFPs, there are some materials that are considered more harmful. While a material such as ABS produces potentially harmful levels of a VOC called styrene, a material such as PLA produces lactide, which is safer for students to be around and produces lower amounts of UFPs then the ABS material. This is why we recommend the use of PLA or PVA materials in a classroom environment. PLA, which is usually made from corn starch, is also biodegradable, odorless, and does not require a heated build plate on the printer. In addition, a material to consider when printing with a dual extrusion printer (a printer that utilizes 2 print heads at the same time) is PVA. Like PLA, PVA is safe to use in the classroom. It provides water soluble support for printing complex models that require supports for large overhangs, deep internal cavities, and intricate geometries. In addition, to keep your filament from being exposed to moisture, which could cause your print to warp or possibly fail during construction, try to store it in a cool, dry location (ideally in its original packaging).
4. Proper Training (AKA professional development) for your Educators
One of the most common criticisms from administrators who have 3D printers is that the printers are just “sitting in a closet” or “collecting dust.” This is because teachers are not comfortable using the printers or struggle to find ways to integrate them into their lessons. Providing training and PD gives educators the skills to integrate the printers into their current curriculum. Schools should look to pair with a vendor who can provide both online and in-person PD. This will allow educators to learn how to use and integrate the printers into instruction. In-person PD provides a great opportunity for educators to get hands-on training from 3D printing experts and to become familiar with the printers. Online PD provides opportunities for ongoing support for educators to learn how to integrate the printers into instruction and advance their usage. Look to pair with a vendor that can provide PD for computer-aided design (CAD) software as well – design is an important part of the 3D printing and engineering process.
3D Printing Tools & Supplies
Below are some suggestions for tools and supplies that will make maintaining and using your 3D printers a little easier:
- USB Stick – This is a great tool for schools who have limited internet connectivity. School can store, organize, and print designs without the need for an internet connection.
- Flush Cutters and Needle Nose Pliers – Anytime you are printing a model that has an overhang, you will need to print the object with support material. These tools are designed to help you safely remove support material from the model after printing.
- Craft Spatula – Helps safely and easily remove prints from build plates using glue or tape.
To learn more about how 3D printing can benefit your school, check out our eBook “Why 3D Print in the Classroom?” In addition, if you would like to learn more about 3D design, check out our online professional development courses on teaching with Tinkercad and 3D Slash.
Teaching with Tinkercad is a 45-minute session where you will learn how to get students up and running with this 3D design application and get familiar with the tools available to check on progress and help students along. Our curriculum specialists also explore the built-in lessons available for educators on the platform.
CAD Software: 3D Slash is a 30-minute session that provides an overview of what CAD software is and how it works. You’ll also learn what 3D Slash is, and how to get students up and running with this 3D design application.
3D Printers We Love
Ultimaker’s most advanced 3D printer yet, the Ultimaker S5* builds on the capabilities of the Ultimaker 3, then adds enhanced performance with a larger build volume, effortless operation, and unparalleled reliability. Find out more about Ultimaker!
Engineered for Reliable, Faster 3D Printing. The MakerBot Replicator+ combines unparalleled performance with superior results and lasting reliability. Find out more about Makerbot!