3D printers have become highly desirable Fab Lab and Makerspace tools for schools across the country. They are a great way to cover STEM and CTE topics across several curriculum areas. Projects start with an idea in a student’s head, sometimes in response to a prompt, other times as a completely new and fun concept. Next, the students sketch their ideas, possibly on paper, but they may also go straight to a computer program to create a virtual design. Once the digital version of the design is finished, it can be transferred to the 3D printer for creation!
In order to bring any 3D printing project to life, you need filament. These long strands of plastic get heated up inside the printer until they are pliable, but not melted. It comes in many different colors to suit any project and can be made from ABS or PLA. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is an easily recycled type of filament that’s very versatile. Polylactic acid (PLA) is made from renewable, organic materials and is completely biodegradable.
3D printers heat up plastic filament to temperatures ranging from 122°F to 212°F. Because of the material and high heat, it can often create an unpleasant smell when printing. These fumes can also become harmful to you and your students if too much is inhaled. That’s why having a fume extractor is one of the most important Makerspace items you need. These devices start working at the source to extract dangerous gasses while the printer is running, thus preventing the fumes from entering the breathable air in your classroom.
3D Printing Technology Supplies & Accessories
When bringing a 3D printer into your Fab Lab or Makerspace, you’ll find that having a variety of tech supplies makes your classes much easier and more efficient.
When print quality isn’t up to its usual standard, and maintenance doesn’t improve things, replacement nozzles may be the solution you need. Similarly, extruders can become damaged or excessively clogged, especially in busy classrooms, so having back-ups on hand is a must.
An upgraded printer bed or surface can maximize uniform heat distribution or offer an alternative surface when the original is broken or needing maintenance. Additional kits can help you make the most of your 3D printing technology products. Some kits include extra accessories and curriculum, while others provide a range of tools that are necessary for high-quality projects and keeping your machine running smoothly.
3D printing carts are a great way to keep all your accessories with the printer. They also make your printer more mobile, so you can move it around the classroom or between classrooms for added versatility.
One of the most useful aspects of a 3D printer is being able to create replacement parts for various tools. However, you first need a digital design file to plug into the printer. How do you get one from an existing physical object? Simply place the item on the scanner’s turntable and it will automatically rotate to scan the item and create a digital 3D model. This digital file can then be used with the 3D printer to recreate the item.