Guide to Using 3D Printing for Kids in Schools

3D printing for kids in schools is a wonderful STEM-based activity that can teach children to identify real-world problems, find their solutions creatively, and be efficient.

Many schools are setting up Makerspaces in classrooms, libraries, and community spaces, so that students can have common spaces to create, collaborate and share knowledge. 3D printing in schools is often a component of such makerspaces.

guide to 3D printing for kids
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If you plan to undertake 3D printing education and workshops in your school, class, library, home learning centre or makerspace, then you will find this guide to 3D printing for kids in schools useful. It covers the following nine points:

  1. What does 3D printing mean
  2. Why is 3D printing for kids a good educational tool
  3. Websites for free ready-made 3D models for printing
  4. Creating and repairing fresh 3D models for printing
  5. Scaling and slicing a model before printing
  6. How to prepare a 3D printer for printing
  7. How to print 3D objects
  8. Where to find 3D printing ideas and inspiration
  9. Best 3D printers for schools and education

 

What does 3D printing mean?

3D printing for schools

As per Wikipedia, “3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to processes used to create a three-dimensional object in which layers of material are formed under computer control to create an object”

It’s a process of creating products using digital model data, by successively adding material layer by layer.

 

Why is 3D printing for kids a good educational tool

3D printing for education

There are many advantages of 3d printing for students. 3D printing for kids give the opportunity to learn to find solutions, and to create, collaborate and share knowledge.  

3D printing in education can be inculcated in two waysby giving specific, curriculum-based 3d printing school projects, or by allowing students to identifying real-life requirements that can be fulfilled with 3D printing.

3D printing for kids is a great activity for them to be creative and constructive. Such advantages of technology in education is what we need to harvest to make learning more effective than it has ever been before.

In the following few headings you’ll find 3D printing explained in a step-by-step manner. To explain 3D printing to your students, you can use these steps to demonstrate printing of an object to them, and then let them take charge.

 

Websites for free, ready-made 3D models for printing

3D models for printing

Following websites have a plethora of ready-made free 3D models that you can use to teach and explore 3D printing, and to make 3D printing projects for schools:

  1. My Mini Factory: This wonderful website has above 30 thousand 3D printable models from 5000+ designers. It has models in categories like Accessibility, Fan Art, Education, Gadgets & electronics, Jewellery, Home & Art, and Toys & Games.
  2. Thingiverse: On this website, you’ll find various ready-to-print and customisable models. You can even upload a model on the website and customise it using their online customiser after signing up for a MakerBot account.
  3. Free3D: You can find various downloadable 3D models on this website. If you have created a new 3D model that you want to share with the world, you can upload it on this website, building your 3D model portfolio.

 

Creating and repairing fresh 3D models for printing

Creating 3D models

In order to produce a 3D object you first have to have its virtual design. If you do not want to use a ready-made 3D model, you can create a virtual design by using a Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.

Creating 3D CAD models on Tinkercad

Following are a few free tools you can use to create CAD models:

  1. Tinkercad: Tinkercad is a perfect free tool for creating models for 3D printing for kids. It has basic building blocks that can be put together to create simple or complex 3D models. You can even upload your own model on Tinkercad, and tweak it to print.
  2. Onshape: This free tools lets you build your 3D CAD model on a cloud-based platform, which can be accessed anywhere, anytime, on various devices. It allows 3D modeling with top-down designing, multi-part creating, robust curves, organic shapes, and custom features.
  3. Autodesk: Autodesk’s Fusion 360 tool is free for students and educators. This is also a cloud-based 3D CAD tool that can be used to create simple and sophisticated models for printing. This is ideal to be used for secondary school kids. Their website also has step-by-step lessons to learn Fusion 360. 3D printing with Fusion 360 can be a very valuable skill for students to learn.

 

Converting and repairing 3D models for printing

When you have developed a 3D model, you need to convert it into a format that is suitable for your 3D printer.

For instance, CAD, OBJ, and FBX files will have to be converted into STL (standard tessellation language) or G-CODE, depending upon the technology of your 3D printer.

If you are using .OBJ or .FBX format, you will also have to repair your model. Use the following link to do so. This tool will let you repair your model and give you a .STL File for printing:

Microsoft 3D Tools: This tools helps you fix your 3D files automatically. Just sign in and upload your model to make them print-ready.

 

Scaling and slicing a model before printing

Scaling 3D Models

3D printers come in different sizes. A 3D printer for education is generally small in size, so it is required to scale your model, so that it can be printed in one go on your printer. Set the height width and depth of your 3D model according to your printer.

Make sure that the model’s scale is not larger than your printer’s canvas. After scaling, your .STL format file is ready for printing.

 

Slicing 3D Models

If your 3D printer needs a G-Code file, you will need to slice your model. For this you can use the following software:

Repetier: This slicing software is available for Mac, Windows, Linux and Linus Applmage. You can directly submit your print job to your 3D printer, using this software.

You can also download the Repetier-Informer App, which gives you real-time status of your 3D printing process—Print Started, Print Paused, Print Stopped, Print Finished, Fatal Errors and Slicing Finished–via push messages to your smartphone or tablet.


 

How to prepare a 3D printer for printing

Now that everything about your 3D model is ready, you need to follow the following points to set up your 3D printer for printing:

  1. Cover the heatbed of the printer with masking tape (if required for your 3D printer)
  2. Set the heatbed’s temperature according to the printing material used
  3. Fix extruder’s temperature according to the material you are using
  4. Set the default distance between the extruder nozzle and the heatbed
  5. Reset all the axii of your printer
  6. Properly install the material wire to your extrude
  7. Spray some glue on the heatbed, so that the first layer can stick properly on the heatbed

Once all such steps are taken, you are almost ready to print. Do not touch the heatbed and extruder after setup, as they are very hot.

Once all this is done, give the print command.

 

How to print 3D objects

Have patience and wait for the build

Once you have given the print command, let the machine do its thing; the build process is mostly automatic.

You might have to wait for the printer to heat and start printing, so just submit the print and wait for it to do its job.

 

Remove the printed object from the printer

While removing the printed object (or multiple objects in some cases) from the machine, be sure to take any safety precautions to avoid injury such as wearing gloves to protect yourself from hot surfaces.

After removal of the object from the printer, your object is ready for showcasing!

Note: You can put general guidelines for using 3D printers in your classroom, on a board or poster, so that all the students can read it and be aware of the best ways to safely operate one.

 

Tips and hacks for 3D printing

When the print has started, after 15 minutes, we can reduce the temperature of the heat pad to zero. This will save electricity and will cool down the printed object faster after the print is finish.

 

Here is a video that gives you an overview of the process of 3D printing in schools:

 

Where to find 3D printing ideas and inspiration

3D printing projects for kids can vary from utility-based to artistic projects.

To find inspiration for 3D printing ideas, look aroundyou’ll find a lot of inspiration in your environment. In fact, encourage students to search for real-world problems and requirements that can be solved using a 3D printer.

I recently came across a very good article about using real-world problems to teach design thinking, 3D printing and collaboration. In this article, the author has written about Infymarker 2017 award winner, Rich Lehrer’s 3D Printing Problem Bank initiative in Brookwood School in Massachusetts. The Problem Bank (http://designproblembank.weebly.com/) is a repository of requirements posted by the school’s community. Students can connect with the people who posted in the repository, and help them by creating 3D models as per their requirements. This teaches students to solve real-world problems by using 3D printing.

Similarly, you can also create a problem bank, where students and teachers can enter their requirements, and students are encouraged to identify the issues they can creatively solve through 3D printing.

Another way is to let students be creative. Encourage them to themselves think of an object, utility-based or artistic, to print.

3D printing for kids can be very rewarding for teachers and students, both learning and creativity-building wise.

You can read the Rich Lehrer’s article here.

 

Best 3D printers for school kids and education

When choosing 3D printers for schools, you must choose one as per the kind of use you want to put it to.

If your printer will be used for only teaching the functioning of a printer, then a small-sized 3D printer for kids is also sufficient, but if you plan to give projects and assignment that require the students to create complex or big designs, then it’s best to use a 3D printer that can print big models and does not require the students to print their models in parts.

The best 3D printer for schools will be the one which is affordable, and easy to operate and maintain.

There are many 3D printers for kids available that are fun and easy to use. Following are a few 3D printers for schools and education that are widely used:

 

1. FlashForge 3D Printer

FlashForge 3D Printer

This kids’ 3D printer has a 3.5-Inch color touchscreen that makes it easy to use. It has a safe, non-heated build plate, which is ideal for kids. It has Wi-fi, USB, and flash drive connectivity.

 

2. Micro 3D

Micro 3D printer

This is a cute little 3D printer for kids. It has auto-calibration, and it’s sleek and compact, which makes it easy to move around to different classrooms. It has a 3D printing app that works on most iOS and Android devices, making printing easy for kids.

 

3. Da Vinci MiniMaker 3D Printer

Da Vinci MiniMaker 3D Printer

This is a printer kids can work easily with. It prints only with XYZprinting’s bio-compostable, non-toxic PLA filament. This filament is non-heated, which makes it ideal for use by kids. The printer has good auto-calibration. It comes with various 3D resources, 3D Design Software, 3D Gallery, STEAM 3D Printing Education Curriculum, and 3D Printing Software, making it perfect for education.

 

4. MakerBot Replicator Mini

MakerBot Replicator Mini

You can use this 3D printer to create simple to complex models. The MakerBot software lets students create 3D models and wirelessly print them through this printer.

 

5. Da Vinci Jr. 1.0 3-in-1

Da Vinci Jr. 1.0 3-in-1 3D printer

This is a wonderful tool for 3D printing, scanning and engraving. It lets students explore and create models and projects that require multiple tasks. It uses PLA filament, and comes with XYZPrinting’s 3D design and printing software, and STEAM 3D printing curriculum.

 

6. Dremel DigiLab 3D20 3D Printer

Dremel DigiLab 3D20 3D Printer

Deremel is a high-quality 3D printer. You can use it to make sophisticated projects and get great results. These are widely used in schools and makerspaces, and professionally.

 

You can also check out Amazon’s list of Best 3D printers for kids.

(These printers have our Affiliate partner’s links. You can make a purchase using these links to help us earn comission to keep bringing you high-quality content.)

 

To find the best 3D printers for schools and education, it’ll be good to make a list of the kind of models you expect to build on it. Then, choose the best 3D printer for your school as per its capacity, features and affordability.

3D printer projects for kids are becoming very popular, and rightly so, as they give a lot of opportunities for hands-on learning and problem solving to students.

We hope you find this guide to 3D printing for kids’ education in schools useful. Leave your comments below if you have any questions, or if you would like us to include more information about any point.

We will keep bringing you more such Edtech guides and resources. Till, then have fun 3D printing!

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