Classroom management

Adding a new piece of technology to your classroom can be stressful. Not only do you need to learn how to use it and teach it, but you need to consider how to integrate it in a way that won’t disrupt or interfere with the flow of your teaching. Over the last few years we’ve talked to teachers using 3D printers in their classrooms, and we’ve taken their experiences and ideas to create a list of what we believe are best practices. This way, you can easily get up and running with 3D printing in your own classroom. There’s no need to keep reinventing the wheel! If you have a suggestion you’d like to add to the list please click on the tip contribution form.

Organize your space and your printing workflow:

  1. If you are using SD cards in your class, then store them in a fixed labeled location.
  2. Are you using SD card readers? Calipers? Painter’s tape? Files? Need ideas about what tools are helpful? Check out our list of useful tools. For all your tools, establish a home for them. If locations are labeled, and everyone knows where to put things back, you’ll avoid wasting class time trying locate these items.
  3. Establish naming conventions for your students’ files. Cura will automatically prefix your file name with the printer type, but having codes for students and filament color in addition to a model name, can help keep things straight in the classroom.
  4. Follow the Everyday 3D printing checklist and walk your students through the printing process a few times so that they can print independently.
  5. Establish conventions for where to save working files and make sure you have access to those files. A student might accidentally print their model in an unsuitable orientation and then leave your class. Rather than canceling the print and waiting for the student’s next return to your class, you might want to access the original file, correct the mistake and provide your student with notes about what was wrong and how you fixed the problem. Consider the practice of maintaining student printing logs, so that over time, your students will become better 3D printers and have data to back up their decisions.
  6. Depending on the number of students and printers you have access to, you may want to impose size constraints on model size. Smaller prints and thinner walls will save both time and plastic.
  7. Print smarter, not harder. Print only what needs to be printed. If you can use wooden dowels or other hardware in place of 3D models do it.
  8. Don’t print at the highest resolution. Even Cura’s fast print setting might be a higher resolution than you need. If you are prototyping, consider a layer height of 0.2mm when using a 0.4mm nozzle, or switch out the 0.4mm nozzle for a 0.8mm and print with a layer height of 0.3mm. See Print Faster.
  9. Everyone likes to touch things, to see how things are made, to gain understanding by turning things around in their hands. Rather than fight a losing battle, keep a box of “handable” prints around. Shareable models should satisfy students’ natural curiosity and help prevent them from touching other students’ projects.
  10. Use boxes to keep printed work organized. If projects are made up of a series of smaller parts, keep ziplock bags on hand. You can write student names on the bags with a sharpie.
  11. When you’re not getting what you want in terms of print quality, check these guides to determine if you are experiencing one of these issues and how to resolve them.

  12. Store filament properly. PLA will absorb water over time, which can result in bubbly, poor quality printing. To prevent the absorption, store your filament in a sealed plastic bag with a pack of silica gel. You can buy desiccant online, or better yet, keep the packets that ship with your filament.
  13. You get what you pay for. Not all filament is alike. See Make’s video How It Is Made: 3D Printing Filament.
  14. Because variety is the spice of life, order filament in a variety of colors. If you’re fortunate enough to have several printers, assign each printer a color or material. Having a set of dedicated printers will save time by eliminating the need to change colors or materials during class. If you only have one printer, then you might want to print in white and let students paint their models later.
  15. Printing a lot and then all of a sudden you’re under extruding? You need to know how to do the atomic method:

  16. Like a car, your printer is not going to run forever without a little maintenance. Periodically check your machine. Does it need to be lubricated or cleaned? Check out what can happen Down the Road to ensure that your printer stays finely tuned.
  17. Be prepared. Have some spare parts around so you don’t get caught in a printing crunch without a printer. An extra glass plate, a spare Bowden tube, some additional nozzles might save your day or weekend!
  18. Managing several printers the old fashioned way? Maybe you’re ready for the next step of employing 3D printer management software. A 3DPrinterOS educational license will allow you to:

    • Track, monitor and audit every part of the 3D printing process with reporting tools. You can use the reports to see who is printing, how much are they printing, and how are your resources being consumed. This could help you better predict your needs when it comes time to ordering materials and ultimately could save you time and your school money.
    • Manage and view your printers remotely from a web dashboard. Access and control your 3D printers and job queues anytime, anywhere and from any device.