A snapshot of classroom-ready 3D printers available for educators

3d-educationThese days, 3D printing is becoming a staple of the modern classroom, from K-12 to college and university campuses as well.

Even as prices dip for some models, educational institutions and districts are also gaining financial support from outside sources for ventures into 3D printing. In fact, government business intelligence company Onvia reports that from 2011 to 2015, more than $1.8 million in 3D printer and supply contracts was awarded to 44 primary, secondary and higher education institutions and school districts across the United States.

David D. Thornburg, co-author of “The Invent to Learn Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom,” said he would not recommend one specific 3D printer for classroom use because the constant advancement in the 3D printing industry can make choosing the best models a “moving target.”

Thornburg said 3D printing is headed in the direction of being “another piece of technology that’s just going to be there,” both in the classroom and even in mediums such as students’ smartphones (where they might access modelling software, for instance, or queue up printing projects from mobile browsers).

Thornburg said playing a game like Tic-Tac-Toe, which can become mundane after a few minutes, is transformed to a problem-solving tool in 3D form.

“Suddenly, the strategy for winning changes,” Thornburg said, as students can play with stackable pieces instead of a simple flat surface with pencil and paper.

Matt Widaman, a career and technology education instructor for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in Kenai, Alaska, uses a Dimension Stratasys 1200 ES to help create C02 cars in his drafting courses. Widaman said 3D printing the cars, which run 60-65 miles per hour, has been a “great addition” for the students in teaching them STEM lessons.

We recently rounded up seven 3D printers on the market, including Widaman’s Stratasys, targeted toward educators and students, from big to small, pricey to affordable.

Next page: Our 7 education-focused printers

1. Dimension 1200es (Retail: $34,900)
Footprint: 326 pounds, 33 x 29 x 45 inches

This Stratasys printer’s durability and quick removal make it well suited for a classroom environment. The product’s large size allows it to print larger models.

2. NVPro (Education: $4,999 annually; Retail: $9,999 annually)
Footprint: 70 pounds, 20.8 x 22 x 31 inches

The NVPro is a pioneer of the completely-automated printer. This cloud-based printer from company NVBots can connect to devices via browsers—such as tablets and smartphones. In lieu of the software that typically comes with 3D printers, users can long into a website and print from there. A curriculum library is also available.

3. MarkerBot Replicator Z18 (Retail: $6,499)
Footprint: 90 pounds, 19.4 x 22.2 x 33.9 inches

The company’s fifth generation printer, the Replicator Z18, is cloud-enabled and can connect to devices via Wi-Fi, USB, and Ethernet. This product is designed for creating prototypes for class demonstrations.

4. Leapfrog Creatr (Education: €1,899.00, approximately $2,053.55; Retail starter: €1,999, approximately $2,161.69)
Footprint: 70.55 pounds, 23.6 x 19.7 x 23.6 inches

The company claims quick set-up and printing speeds. The desktop printer features laser-cut, all aluminum parts built to withstand temperature changes.

5. Afinia H480 (Retail: $1,299)
Footprint: About 11 pounds, 9.64 x 10.23 x 13.78 inches

Known for its simple, “just hit print” capabilities, the Afinia H480 is a lightweight desktop printer that supports classroom visualizations and prototypes. Complimentary lifetime tech support is available.

6. AirWolf A3D HDL (Retail: $2,295)
Footprint: 40 pounds, 24 x 18 x 18 inches

As a user’s needs and budget grow, this printer’s modular design allows for upgraded capabilities, such as filaments.

7. Project 260C (Retail: $39,520)
Footprint: 437 pounds, 29 x 31 x 55 inches

This full-color printer from Aniwaa creates high temperature resistance models suited for a constantly changing classroom environment. Users can print multiple models at the same time in just hours.

Rebecca Lundberg is an editorial intern for eSchool Media.