What can a 3d printer do in a classroom?

The benefits of bringing a 3D printer into your classroom can be real and immediate.  And I will get to them.  But first a word: patience.  You have to give yourself and your students the freedom to be patient with the process and the machine.

created in tinkercad1. Common core and 3d printing – in the California Common Core Standards for Geometry item #4 is “Model with mathematics”.  So much of my conversation around 3d modeling using everyday geometric terminology.  On the first day of our work with Tinkercad (cloud based 3d modeling)  I show students how to free rotate an object or to rotate it in increments of 45 degrees. 

There is also a significant need for  Continue reading


Warped and slipped 3d prints

Sooner or later you will run an all night 3d print.  You and your students will watch the raft build and then head for home, wondering what the design will look like in the morning.  How will that 8 hour print look the next day?

And then you find this.  One end of your build has lifted off of the platform.  Warped.  Or the whole design has skittered loose resulting in a plastic hairball.  What happened?  What to do?

Here are the most common reasons/solutions that I have encountered over the last two years of classroom printing:

1. was it on the platform? check the design and make sure that it was level on the build plate.  This is not uncommon with Tinkercad designs where it is easy to create a design that is a mere tenths of mm of the build platform.

2. level it up – it’s amazing how fast some platforms, especially HEATED platforms, can come off level.  Run the levelling script and make sure that your filament is extruding nice and flat on the first layer.


3. block the draft – thanks to therapy I’ve gotten over the annoyance that the Makerbot Rep Dual didn’t come with a plexiglass shroud (we call it the sneeze guard) to block drafts.  It’s all over the user groups that even the breeze generated by a passerby can cause a layer too prematurely cool and unstick.  If the vent kicks on in the middle of a build the effect is magnified.  Block off ALL openings on your 3d printer with plexi, binder page protectors or even p

aper.  Be sure that these shrouds won’t come into contact with anything heat producing or won’t bind any moving parts.

4. clean your plate – heated build plates can require a fair amount of TLC when used under classroom conditions.  Replace any protective tape (like Kapton on the Makerbot) often and before

any tears or bubbles develop.  Seal any tears as they appear.  Keep sticky prints off build plate and clean with recommended solutions – Makerbot tech support suggests either acetone or rubbing alcohol.  Watch out for the flammable ones and move the plate or printer to good ventilation to be safe.

5. blue tape – we learned this one early on with the Golden Gate Bridge print.  We waited until the raft was fully laid down and then carefully applied a layer of blue painters tape to secure it to the heated build plate.  Many Makerbot users had followed this technique without issue.  The tape holds down the raft and resists the torque that can develop from taller objects.  Beware that the build plate may be hot and your machine may not allow for the extruder to be paused.  Dodging the print head while not getting burned by the hot plate is best left to the teacher.  We developed confidence in leaving the tape unattended ONLY after running a closely monitored, multi-hour print in the classroom.

What have you learned to keep that build successfully stuck to the plate?  Share your experience in the comments and thanks for reading.


Attention teachers – the Make Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing

Attention teachers: thinking about 3D printing in your classroom?  Then this is for YOU.

The folks at Make Magazine will be releasing their 2012 Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing.  Given the close association between Make and 3D printing I think that this will be a valuable resource to anyone looking to bring 3D printing into their classroom.

The folks at Make brought 16 printers into their labs and ran them through a series of torture and beauty tests.  Read on or just skip to the bottom and watch a great video preview of the special edition. Continue reading

Try try again

Even though there is a vibrant online community of makerbot-ers there is still a trial and error factor. See below:

20120517-180021.jpgI set this simple zipper-pull up with no raft (the blue one) and it slid all over the hbp about halfway through the print. Cancelled and saved some plastic. Add the raft and print again.  The second print (white) came out better but the T is still funky with excess threads.