7 innovative 3D printers for the classroom

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

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