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How education-specific 3D printers can enhance student safety, reduce costs, improve learning

Adam O’Neill, MD – Australia and New Zealand, Y Soft 

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Many schools have tried 3D printing in the form of do-it-yourself (DIY) 3D printer kits. However, when looking to expand use to a larger group of students, these types of printers can’t satisfy the need for safety, ease of use and accessibility, and security. 

There are various aspects schools need to consider when adopting 3D printing in the classroom. 

Safety is an obvious and very important consideration. The printing area of DIY kits and most off-the-shelf 3D printers are exposed. Because 3D printing involves heating elements that can reach 220 degrees Celsius or higher, and moving parts, the risk of injury is high. Choosing a 3D printer with an enclosed print chamber protects students from both heat and moving parts. Further, choosing a 3D printer with an automatic, lockable door means the printer cannot be opened while it is in operation.

To derive the benefits of 3D printing, 3D printers need to be easy to use and accessible, which means they’re part of the daily learning experience. Locking them away and surrounding them in processes to manage and police use hinders their value in the classroom. At the same time, teachers can’t constantly oversee students use or be present during the entire printing process. 

With the right 3D printing solution, students can transfer their computer skills to 3D printers to download an existing 3D model file, open the file, log into the printer and start printing. Once the printing starts, the student can go on to do other things. The student can receive periodic emails showing a snapshot of the printing’s progress and a final email to notify them that the printing is done.

To log into the printer, a student swipes their school ID badge or, alternatively, enters a PIN. In this way, the school can control who has login rights and can monitor what is being printed. This means that the 3D printers can be out in the open in the classroom or in a 3D printing lab so that students can easily access it outside of scheduled class time. Many schools encourage students to use 3D printing on personal projects as part of learning technical skills that will be valuable in their future careers. 

Making 3D printers easily accessible to students through a secure login also handles a school’s security concerns. No one is using the 3D printer who shouldn’t be and those who need it can freely access it. The 3D model itself is secure because the door unlocks only for the print job owner.

Encouraging successful adoption 
Simplicity and support are key when introducing 3D printing. A simple solution for teachers, students, and IT staff is critical to success. An intuitive interface can easily guide users through the process of creating and printing their project. Done correctly, a student or teacher should be able to follow a 3D printer’s quick guide without ever cracking open the operating manual.

There will be staff and students who are interested in new technology such as 3D printing, and they should be used as champions to drive interest and engagement by actively and enthusiastically talking about the technology with fellow students and colleagues, including supporting them when they have questions.

It’s important to make sure that the school is fully supported from the moment 3D printing is launched. 3D printing resources are vital, especially for beginners because they will rely on 3D design templates before they learn to design their own models. So, before launching, schools should make sure there is a library of resources prepared to support users. 

To help ensure successful adoption, monitoring and managing use of the 3D printers is important. Using a print management solution helps schools monitor and identify peak and quiet times, showing where printers need to be located and how many are needed to reduce waiting time. By effectively managing and planning for the future, schools can ensure that students and teachers can always access a 3D printer, and have a positive and safe experience.

3D printing encourages the active engagement of students, which helps them to retain information and quickly grasp relatively complex topics. Teachers are able to think of new creative ways to deliver their lessons and help their students excel. 

3D printing’s impact on student development 

  • Improving student performance
  • Inspiring future careers
  • Preparing students for the future
  • Encouraging altruism and business

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