3D printing is a lot like skydiving; everyone wants to do it, but it’s a little nerve-wracking and there are a lot of unknowns. As a STEM teacher, I was given several 3D printers without training. Here’s what I learned through my experience.
Types of filament
This is the number one question I was asked as a STEM teacher. People always wanted to know the different types of filament that they could purchase. A better question might be, “What is the best type of filament for your classroom?” There are more filament types than you probably need to know, with the most popular being PLA (poly lactic acid), PLA+, PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified), and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene).
There are a few key features that you should consider when purchasing a 3D printer. First, consider the bed size and flexibility. You’ll want to consider the types of prints your students will be creating. My favorite 3D printer, the Sindoh 3DWOX 1, for example, has a bed size of 16.6” x 17” x 17.3” If you choose a printer with a small print bed, you will be limited in the size and shape of your prints.
Second, consider the features of the print bed. A heated bed makes for much easier print removal. This is especially important if students will be responsible for handling their own prints.
Lastly, when I was in the classroom, I needed to ensure the printers were safe for my students. The aforementioned 3DWOX 1 has added safety features such as a HEPA filter and enclosed bed, so I am able to have more peace of mind when the 3D printers are running.
There are some additional features to look for that I would consider more like “bonus” features rather than essential, but here are my recommendations:
3D printing may seem intimidating, but with a little research and preparation, you can easily integrate it into your instruction, making it a staple in our educational community for years to come!
— Spencer Sharp