Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

10 Things Teachers Should Know About 3D Printing

10 Things Teachers Should Know About 3D Printing

By Jonathan Gross

Technology is intimidating and 3D printers are high on the list of tools that seem daunting to learn and use in the classroom. We get it—but we also know this new technology could be a valuable tool for learning.

We’re sharing the following in hopes that of dissolving some of your apprehension. There are a lot of misconceptions, so consider what using a 3D printer in your classroom really looks like.

More: The Characteristics of Every Future Ready Teacher

3D Printers Are Smaller Than Your Average Desktop Printer

Many imagine 3D printers to be something not dissimilar to a 1950s computer—humungous and cumbersome. However, most 3D printers are smaller than a desktop printer. They are incredibly space efficient and will not take up much room in your classroom or school’s computer lab.

Designing and Printing Takes Time

Of course, it will take time for students to craft their creations in the 3D design and modelling software. It’s also important to remember that the printing process itself takes time too. Depending on the 3D printer model and the speed setting you select, a printing can take anywhere from 2 hours to 6 hours or more. This is an important detail to consider when planning lessons around the 3D printer.

More: 7 Online Tools to Create Custom Learning Games (No Coding Required!)

3D Printers and Design Software are Easy to Master

Many teachers worry about how much time they’ll need to invest in teaching and guiding students through the entire process. However, there are several software packages that are designed for students and beginners. They’ll be able to pick it up and start driving their own learning fairly quickly, especially if you get them into it at a young age. (Read: 3D Printing Is Easy if You Let Kids Try)

3D Printing Machines Require Maintenance

This can include anything from loading the needed materials to cleaning and servicing. While most 3D manufacturers provide written guidance for maintaining your printer, the process itself will take time.

3D Printing is Safe for Kids

There are several ways to ensure your 3D printing is safe. For example, thought needs to be given to the materials used in the printing process and the reality that some smaller parts could be swallowed by children. A good first step to ensuring safety would be to buy a 3D printer that’s designed for kids.

More: 10 Classroom Rules for Using Technology

Most3D Printers Don’t Print in Color

Before students get struck with ideas of 3D printing with intricate designs in color, set expectations: most printers only print in a single color. To get color into your prints, some post-processing coloring technique is required, such as those listed here.

Don’t Forget About Copyright and Intellectual Property

Know where your students are getting their designs (if they haven’t designed the item themselves). “Just as digital content creates broad opportunities for copyright violations, 3D printing could open the door to patent infringement,” suggests Educase.

Look for a platform like SelfCAD, which has already teamed up with MyMiniFactory to provide a database of already-completed 3D printable designs. This makes thousands of 3D objects available for immediate printing. No need to worry about copyright infringements.

It Will Require Planning

Become familiar with how the 3D printer works and have all resources on hand to support the design process, such as pencils, sketchbooks, modelling clay and other craft supplies. A specific lesson plan may also help.

Check out 7 Fun and Easy Lesson Plans to Jump Start 3D Printing in Your Classroom.

There are Ongoing Costs 

Running costs depend on usage patterns, the type of printer and materials used, and many other factors. offers a fairly comprehensive 3D printing cost calculator, if that helps. My one piece of advice would be: make sure a student’s 3D design is up to scratch before sending it to the printer. There’s no point in printing blobs that serve no purpose, and wasting the materials when they could be used for truly innovative and well-designed projects.

More: 8 Awesome Ways to Save in the Classroom

3D Printing Can Be Cross Curricular

There are copious opportunities for cross-curricular learning with 3D printing. Take a look at some suggestions here, here and here.

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