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The Educator's guide to all things 3D Printing

Posted by Shafiq Bashir on

We've been dealing with 3D printing and educational institutions (mostly in Singapore) since 2013 and we've learnt a few things along the way. Most concerns from educators are similar and all are very valid. 

Feel free to reach out to us at meka3dp@gmail.com if you think we missed out something or if you have a question. We're always happy to help. 

5 major benefits of 3D printing in education

There are a few considerations before you start:

  1. What are the objectives of "getting" a 3D printer? 
  2. Who will be the main users of the 3D printer? - Students, Teachers or technical staff? 
  3. Budget
  4. Location and position of the 3D Printer

A few considerations when choosing a 3D printer/vendor:

  1. Ease of use of 3D printer and associated slicing software (more information on this below) - Check on levelling procedures and material loading/unloading procedures
  2. Quality of prints - Are you able to get good prints with very little intervention or is the printer more technical and you need to be available to mess with settings? 
  3. Warranty and after-sales service - This is incredibly important, things will go wrong and you don't want to be left in a bad situation. Most warranties will not cover nozzle clogs, find out how much these will cost to remedy
  4. Is the 3D printer able to use third-party materials? What are the materials used and tested on the 3D printer being considered?

What is 3D Printing?

An in-depth but not so technical explanation of 3D printing and the different technologies

3D Printing photo from Unsplash.com

The 3D Printing Process

The 3D Printing Process consists of 4 main steps. 

Design -> Slicing -> 3D Printing -> Finishing

1. Design

You can either choose to design the products on your own or you could download models from the internet. Sites such as Thingiverse and Myminifactory provide users access to many files from various different interests, there is something for everyone. A good introduction would be to get students to explore and download models of interest to them from these sites. 

2. Slicing

You would have to convert these 3D Designs (or CAD files, which should be in either STL or OBJ formats) into codes that your 3D printer will be able to understand. Slicing Softwares are particular to each 3D printer. Flashforge models available on our store use Flashprint. At this point, you would have to decide on the orientation of the print to minimise print time and supports (supports are like scaffolding, because 3D Printing is a layer on layer additive technology, you can't build layer 2 with layer 1 for support. Supports act as a bottom layer for top layers to be built on).

3. 3D Printing

Level your build plate -> Load Filaments -> Send the sliced files (from step 2 above). Make sure to watch the first (or first few layers of print) to ensure that the layers are sticking to the build plate and that they are sticking to each other. This is important. After which, you can leave the 3D printer to churn on it's own. Make sure to check back once in a while, you never know what problems can arise. 

4. Finishing

Most of the time you would be doing basic clean-up like breaking off supports and cutting off any stray bits of filaments. You could also sand, spray paint or manually paint your 3D prints. Depending on materials you are working with, you would have to use different paints. But typically, acrylic spray paints work well. 

Design Software for schools

There are a few design softwares that have been made specially for educational institutions. 

1. Autodesk Fusion 360 - Free for educators and educational institutions. Plenty of free tutorials linked directly from the software and also on Youtube and a great community of creators online who are always happy to help. Most commonly used nowadays by design and engineering firms. 

2. Makers Empire - Claimed to be one of the world's easiest-to-use 3D Design Software, it's specifically designed and suited for schools and educational institutions. They even have a monthly design competition that users can take part in to test their skills. One of the best choice for 3D Printing in Schools. 

3. TinkerCAD - One of the early pioneers of 3D Design Software for Kids, it is also an offering from Autodesk. Simple easy-to-use interface and functions make this software great. It's also powerful- there have been many stories of designers using TinkerCAD to create professional/consumer products for sale. 

Activities with students

As mentioned before, you can get students to explore and download their own models from sites such as Thingiverse and Myminifactory, or you can get them to design their own objects. An alternative is to get them to use generative design systems such as the Cell Cycle App from Nervous System. This helps students understand certain basic concepts with design and manipulation of models. It might even give them ideas about creating their own custom designs. 

Explore more generative design apps.

There are plenty of other actives and subjects that can be covered with 3D printing, we'll add more as we go along. 

Troubleshooting

3DVerkstan have most comprehensive and well-written guide on the internet to printing problems with an Ultimaker printer, but many of the troubleshooting tips apply to many other 3D printers http://support.3dverkstan.se/article/23-a-visual-ultimaker-troubleshooting-guide

There is also an associated “Getting Better Prints” guide on the same site http://support.3dverkstan.se/article/30-getting-better-prints

Simplify3D also has a great resource on troubleshooting print quality - https://www.simplify3d.com/support/print-quality-troubleshooting/

Thank you for reading thus far, we'll continually improve this as we move along. 

Feel free to reach out to us at meka3dp@gmail.com if you think we missed out something or if you have a question. We're always happy to help. 

Thank you to Unsplash.com for the photos.

 

References:

https://all3dp.com/2/3d-printing-education-integrate-3d-printing-at-school/

https://www.makerbot.com/stories/education/5-benefits-of-3d-printing/

https://www.flashforge.com/news/detail/The%20significance%20of%203D%20printing%20in%20education:%20The%20revolution%20of%20education?id=32

https://www.dobot.cc/resource/3d-printer-for-schools.html

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