An Educator’s Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom

3 Min Read  •  Technology

3D printing is becoming more accessible to the masses. Educators, both in art, design, and STEAM-based curriculums, are scrambling to include 3D printing into their classes to keep up with the new media. This article is a prelude to The Arts Integration and STEAM Online Conference where I will be presenting “3D Printing in the Secondary Design Classroom” and showing visuals of some of the awesome projects my students are creating.  I will also be sharing some 3D printing materials for both the beginner and advanced 3D Printing teacher.
Just a side note that the items (like BuildTak) I mention in this article are not intended as endorsements; they are merely what I have used in the past. This is Part 1, during which I will focus on the 3D printer themselves. 
Like anything else, the price of printers can range from inexpensive to thousands of dollars. What you decide to use will depend on your budget and what you are looking for as far as your printing needs go.

What 3D Printers Should I Get?

1. Printrbot
Let’s talk about Printrbot first. My first printer was their Makers Kit, which was laser cut wood. I had acquired two secondhand Makers Kit by the the end of my first year of teaching 3D printing . After that year I then sold both, and bought two Simple Metal printers which I used up until 2016. Their printers are accessible and student-friendly, as well as appropriate for the more advanced users. These printers are workhorses and if there is an issue, it is easily remedied by the user. I can’t say that about other printers on the market. Additionally, and very importantly, they make wonderful prints.
Their newest printer kit, the Smalls, is a fun little printer that prints as well as the larger printers. I had three senior students put it together in several class periods (approximately 4-6 hours). Brooke Drumm, the owner, who is a big supporter of education, was extremely nice and gave us one to make. I highly recommend you check these printers out for yourself!
2. Monoprice
The second company Monoprice makes a little printer that many educators now own. This printer is inexpensive and easy for a beginner to manipulate. I own this printer and have had successes with it, having only made a few modifications (see photo).
3. Ultimaker
Ultimaker is one of my favorite printers. A good deal of my personal 3D printing art and design has been done on their machines, as well as my students work this year. Ultimaker is a wonderful company that greatly supports education and I am proud to be one of their Pioneer Program teachers. If you are looking to go more professional, I would not hesitate and get one of their new printers.
This past school year with my students, I had the pleasure of using their Ultimaker 2 Extended+. I created everything from prosthetics to architectural models. Just about anything you can imagine can be made using the filaments and materials necessary for the design projects. This summer, I plan on using the Ultimaker 3 with younger students during local summer camps, as well as with adults at the University of the Arts here in Philadelphia.
As you can imagine, the printers I touched on in this article are just a fraction of what is actually available. There are many different things to consider when choosing the 3D printer that is right for you and my goal is to make that decision a little easier. Make sure you check out Part 2, coming up in the August issue of EducationCloset’s ArtsEdLab, in which I discuss filament.