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Education 3D Printers, purchasing & software advice

Discussion in 'General' started by Gunsmith, 16 Mar 2020.

  1. Gunsmith

    Gunsmith Maximum Win

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    Ok so I was approached by the IT teacher of the primary school of whom I work with asking me if I had much knowledge on 3D printers as I work quite a bit in 3DS as he was thinking of getting one for the school and teaching the kids about 3D printing.

    Only problem is I know sweet FA about 3D printers both hardware and software. I know there's a few printers among us here on BT so im looking for advice/knowedge on the subject from more experienced peeps.

    or at least someone who can point me in the right direction, I dont want to see the school buying something that they either cant use or becomes a money sink with software licencing/hardware reliability.
     
  2. Xlog

    Xlog Active Member

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    For school I'd say cel robox (it can be modified to use third party filaments, though you are stuck with proprietary slicer) or similar (haven't looked into that segment in a while) - something with lockable chamber while printing (so students don't put fingers on hot or in movable parts) and otherwise idiot proof. Maybe Prusa i3 if he doesn't mind building it a chamber. I would stay away from cheap chinese stuff & clones - good for toying around or if you are familiar with 3d printing in general and don't mind tinkering/modifying, not so much if its a work tool.
     
  3. Weekly_Estimate

    Weekly_Estimate Gives credit where its due

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    had an Ender 3D which made me want to shoot myself, bought two Prusas i3's instead which required little to no maintenance and just kept printing and printing, heck I had 40-90 hour prints successfully. Definitely go with the Prusas and if needed build an enclosure, I can't recommend them enough!
     
  4. Maki role

    Maki role Dale you're on a roll... Staff

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    I'll add that the circumstances make a big difference. For instance, what's the budget, how much space is there, how old are the kids, will it be used in class or afterwards, will they be used constantly or in spurts etc.

    I love my Prusa i3s, but then compared with an Ender Pro they're very expensive. You could get 3 Ender Pros for the cost of a Prusa i3 for instance, which arguably might be a better move for a school as it would mean more print volume (thinking of more models being done at once). That said, it also means a higher chance of failure and more maintenance. There's also the argument that perhaps those things are part of learning how to 3D print too. If you only ever have the best, most rock solid equipment, one doesn't really need to learn how to optimise their process as much. I see this all the time with machinists on discord. They're used to processing parts on expensive 5-axis machines, so they design things that are simply abominable, all because their machines can do it. Then they throw a fit when they're presented with all the difficulties that a cheap 3-axis router offers.
     
    Byron C and Arboreal like this.
  5. edzieba

    edzieba Virtual Realist

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    If they've got smart kids who can tend to fickle printers, then it's hard to beat an Ender 3 or other Creality machine for price/perf. If they just want a machine they can plonk on a desk and expect to work with minimal fettling (as you would a '2D' laser with occasional toner changes and jam clearance) then a Prusa = you get what you pay for.
     
  6. [ZiiP] NaloaC

    [ZiiP] NaloaC Well-Known Member

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    I'll throw an Anycubic i3 Mega-S or the newer Mega-X into the mix as well.

    Dirt cheap and I've had great success with mine for the last 4 months of non-stop printing.

    I use Cura as my slicing tool, it's piss-easy to use and you just save the file, drop the SD card into the printer and away you go.

    I think I did about 3-5 minutes calibration on the printbed, but that's it.

    Also, if you order direct from Anycubic, it's cheaper than Amazon.
     
  7. onemaddude

    onemaddude Member

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    Had the same sort of thing at the school I work at, but nobody bothered to ask me about them (I'm the only person here who has a few) and we now have a Da Vinci Nano - which is useless and hasn't really been used since it arrived. Just make sure you can use generic filament
     
  8. Gunsmith

    Gunsmith Maximum Win

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    thankfully I managed to be in the right place at the right time so im now spear heading this (plus im probably the most techy guy there) im looking at the Prusa's at the moment and just getting familiar with the technology and terminology involved.

    can i export from something like 3DS to PrusaSlicer?
     
  9. edzieba

    edzieba Virtual Realist

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    Kind of, but you'd be making extra work for yourself. For 3D printing, you really need a 3D modelling program that works with Computational Solid geometry (CSG). 3DS Max/Blender/etc work with raw polygons, and have no care about whether or not they enclose a complete volume, are 'watertight' (i.e. no not have any holes), have a conssitant 'inside' and 'outside' face to each polygon, etc. While there are ways to take a polygonal model and tweak it to allow it to be converted to CSG for slicing, it's a whole lot of manual fiddling even if you were designing with 3D printing the model in mind from the start. Taking an existing model and trying to make a printable version is usually just a big ball of headache.
    It's a faff to learn a new program, but less hassle overall to use an actual CAD program from the start. Autodesk Fusion 360 is free and popular, OnShape has some nice features and a free version, but online only. On the FOSS side there's FreeCAD, OpenSCAD, and QCAD that I know of.
     
  10. Maki role

    Maki role Dale you're on a roll... Staff

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    I'll add that with modern printing software it's very easy to use models from Blender and so on. I use PrusaSlicer and it can check for voids etc and fill in broken faces easily. Using a solid model doesn't matter very much since it exports into a mesh format anyway, if anything, when you convert a model from Blender or 3DS Max you basically get exactly what you want since it's already in a mesh format to begin with.
     
  11. Byron C

    Byron C Probably isn't Hitler, but definitely a muppet

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    Another vote for the Prusa machines from me. They are more expensive, but you really do get what you pay for with these things. I made the mistake of buying a fairly cheap printer and instead I ended up with a project to work on instead of a 3D printer that makes stuff. I was forever tweaking, re-calibrating, upgrading/replacing parts, etc, instead of actually making things.

    That said, @Maki role raises some good points. You will get more print throughput with cheaper machines, and the tweaking or maintenance that's needed now and is an excellent way to learn about 3D printing from the ground up. I did learn a hell of a lot about 3D printing and the processes involved and I'm pretty confident I'd be able to use - and probably repair - just about any FFF/FDM 3D printer. They all work on the same basic principles, so once you understand that you can apply that knowledge to pretty much any machine. But if you just want something you can throw gcode files at and get a solid thing at the end then you're looking at machines like the Prusa i3 at minimum IMO.

    Quick note: FFF/FDM = fused filament fabrication/fused deposition modelling. Two terms often used interchangeably to describe the same thing: melt the plastic through a heated nozzle and deposit it in the shape required.

    I can't really comment on resin printers since I've never used one. Some look like they can produce incredible quality results for not very much money at all. But the process is very messy - you're curing liquid resin with UV light - and the build area is absolutely minuscule compared to FFF/FDM machines.

    If you end up shopping around, then a couple of things to look out for:
    • Heated print bed
    • Self-/auto-levelling bed* - trust me, manual bed levelling is not fun
    • Avoid proprietary software lock-in
    • Avoid proprietary filament lock-in - you'll use a lot of this stuff and being locked into a single supplier is a **** situation
    Your profile doesn't say where you are, but if there's a fablab or a hackspace near you then they're usually an excellent resource to learn about 3D printing and try it out.

    *Before I get "Well actually"-ed.... I know how the process works: I know the bed doesn't actually level itself and that the software simply compensates for an un-level bed by adjusting the nozzle's Z-height as it moves over the bed. But it gets called self-levelling or auto-levelling, so let's just go with that ok? :grin:

    EDIT: I still really want to build the Tantillus-R, it's so cute!
     
  12. edzieba

    edzieba Virtual Realist

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    For a primary school, SLA (resin) printers can probably be ruled out just because having bottles and an open vat of liquids that you cannot touch or eat lying around is a no-go.
     

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