#3Dprinting has become a big part of our society. They are printing body parts and car parts, houses, food… I recently heard about farmers printing replacement parts for equipment, otherwise that machine would be down. Therefore, kids need to experience the whole process, from inception to design to printing. We need them to be “creators, not just consumers”. If they are part of the whole process, they can understand the implications and applications. You can design and print so many useful things.
The biggest flaw in #3Dprinting is time.
It just takes time to build something layer by layer
Oh yeah, AND failed prints (that happens – for several reasons)
Some Twitter friends have helped me create a list of suggested tools & materials that you should probably have on your journey. (list)
There are various materials to print with. All have different chemistry & properties and uses.
We tend to start with PLA (I have not printed anything beyond PLA yet)
Not all PLA is made the same. Quality matters, but i tend to look at 1kg for $20-30 (and listen to what people say about brand quality)
There are MANY MANY makes & models of printers.
There is always a new one coming out.
I want one of each one…
Which is the “best”
I tend to listen to my Twitter people and read reviews from several places
All3DP MakeMagazine Tom’s Hardware CNET
but be sure you are looking at recent reviews since it changes quickly.
You can get a printer for $100.
You can spend $10,000. (probably more)
I tend to suggest the $300-$1000 range for schools.
EVERY printer will need some fidgeting.
Can you do that? Will your teachers?
Higher priced ones TEND to have less fidgeting needed.
There are many options to do 3D design.
Tinkercad is the one that most people start with.
Free & browser based. You build objects by combining shapes.
There are many others : SketchUp, OpenSCAD ,OnShape , Figuro.io , selfcad, vectary, Solidworks , Solidworks APPS for kids (SWAPPS), Fusion 360 (someone has told me that F360 has an online version for Educators https://fusion.online.autodesk.com/ )
You design something, then export a file of type STL (.stl).
That file goes to another software…the “slicer”
Once you have a design, it needs to be sliced so the printer understands it. That needs a “slicer” software. Kinda like a CT scan, it takes the 3D object and creates it as paper thin layers, built upon each other (think x,y,x coordinates). Some printers have their own slicer. There are some out there that are good for multiple printers, Cura is one of the multitude. This software (some of them are browser based) needs to know details of your specific printer so it can create the correct file (aka .gcode called “g-code”). Once it knows your printer, it will generate some default settings for “general” printing. Usually these work well. As you learn more, you might want to change some (like temperature,layer height, # walls, infill, speed…)
NOW you have a g-code file and that needs to get to your printer. Some are by USB, some are by SD card, some are via the cloud.
There are 2 considerations BEFORE you hit “print”, and they have to do with the print bed.
Are the print head (hot end) and print bed the proper distance apart
Some printers do this automatically, some need it done manually every once in a while.
If they are too close together, the filament coming out gets squished and you dont get a good print
If they are too far apart, the filament stays too rounded and you dont get a good print
Goldilocks zone has filament coming out slightly rounded and slightly flat.
does that first layer stick to the plate
Some beds need to be perfectly clean, some want a bit of glue or hairspray or tape
You have to learn your print bed.
So, yes, there is A LOT that goes into #3Dprinting, but it is worth it because of the multitude of things that kids can design and create. Once you understand it, you will begin to see all the things around the house/school that you could fix with a 3D print. AND it is great for critical thinking and problem solving.