Managing 3D Print Queues

Post in News by BenCebulash on 16th July 2020

Considerations for your 3D printer

Adding a 3D printer to your classroom is both exciting and stressful. Now that it is set up, and you’re read to start printing, but how do you decide the process of who prints their design and when they get to print it? Before you get started, here are some things to consider:

  • How many printers do you have?
  • How many students are using the printer?
  • Can we have multiple models on the same print bed?
  • Where are the printers located?
  • Do you want to print while not in the same room as the printer?

Setups for 1-5 printers

1. Community account
You have several options in which to set up your printer(s). If you are managing a small number of printers, let’s say 1-5 machines, the community account may be right for you. This creates one account for the printer(s) that everyone has access to. However, with all of its practical features, there are some drawbacks to investigate.

PROS
Everyone manages
Less work for any one person
Easy access for all
Fewer accounts to create
Visibility to all prints
CONS
Everyone manages
Limited access for all
More print time/less grouping
No accountability
No designated person

 
2. Teacher control
Another option if you are managing a small number of printers is to operate through teacher-control. All printing will then have to be administered by the teacher. This also has its pros and cons.

PROS
Teacher has visibility to all prints
Fewer failed prints
Multiple models at once
A Teacher can monitor usage
Print removal
CONS
More work for a single instructor
Students need to wait
File sharing
Editing/slicing falls on the teacher

 
3. Student council
The third option for managing a small number of printers we call the student council. This choice relieves the teacher from managing the printer and assigns those duties to 3-5 students to share the responsibility of editing and slicing, etc. Here is the good and not so good:

PROS
Workload shared
Multiple models at once
Monitor material usage
Fewer failed prints
CONS
Management/training of council
Only available during school hours

 

Setups for 5+ printers

As for a larger amount of printers (5+) to manage, here are some suggestions you might size up as useful.

1. Community account
First, you can give students in the classroom with the printers free access to the devices. This can be useful in the following ways but bear in mind some of the impracticalities of this setup.

PROS
Access whenever needed
Many printers going at once
Individuals or small groups
CONS
Little to no management
Limited material monitoring
No accountability
Only students in the class have access

 
2. Common area collocation
This second option is similar to the first one for larger groups, but it incorporates the use of a common area location such as a media center or computer lab. It too has pros and cons.

PROS
More access when needed
Many printers going at once
Individuals or small groups
CONS
Little to no management
Limited material monitoring
No accountability
Access may not be available when needed

 
3. Student council
The third option is the student council approach. Again, this choice relieves the teacher from managing the printer and assigns those duties to students, but it can have some effect on those students being asked to oversee the process.

PROS
Workload shared
Multiple models at once
Monitor material usage
Fewer failed prints
CONS
Management/training of council
Only available during school hours
Managing printers along with school work

 

4. Teacher control
Your fourth option is to apply the teacher control model that can be used with small and large numbers of printers. The fifth option is where you are really employing a print-queue system or print management platform. Astroprint.com and 3dprinteros.com are two cloud-based platforms that can be used to manage all the printers and print files running at your school. They can:

  • Store your 3D designs
  • Slice straight from the browser
  • Remotely control
  • Monitor prints live
  • SSO compatibility

Of course, there are also things to take into consideration if choosing to go this route.

PROS
Simple management
Material monitor
Access anywhere
Student and staff focused
Easy growth
CONS
Price
Additional software

 
These are just two examples of cloud-based print-queue management systems that are available online. Most importantly, teachers can also use Google Drive, One Note, YouMagine, and DropBox storage in conjunction with these programs. If a folder is created for students to deposit their print files, teachers or administrators can store and upload content from those locations. If your printer lab continues to grow, or you just want to manage the prints sent to one printer, you can employ these strategies to simplify and organize your users so that you/they can govern your print protocols. You can also employ a combination of these strategies as they may apply to other settings in your school. Overall, you will need to oversee and supervise the use of machines and printing arrangements, so choose wisely.

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