Answering Common 3D Printing Questions

MakerGear M2
The MakerGear M2 3D Printer

Here’s a recent exchange between me and a 7th grade science teacher regarding 3D Printing in the classroom. I figured my reply could be helpful for others as well:

I am a 7th grade science teacher interested in buying a 3D printer for my students to use.  Based on your winter issue, we have narrowed our search down to 4 3D printers to choose from.  They are Afina H Series, the Cube by 3D Systems, MakerGear M2, and Type A Series 1.  If you have any general advice on any of those, please let me know.  If not, no worries.  I have 2 other more specific questions for you…

Based on my experience with these four machines, I’d recommend the Afinia right from the start. It’s definitely the most reliable, easiest to use, and outputs fantastic quality prints. That being said, there are some downsides — the bed size isn’t very large and it is quite slow (although not as slow as the Cube). Both the MakerGear and Type A probably aren’t ideal for a classroom setting (unless your students don’t mind troubleshooting!); they require more tinkering and tweaking than the other two.

The Afinia

#1. The Cube seems great for beginners, but does not get great marks for speed, at 15 mm cubed per second.  I am trying visualize that speed.  So for an average sized object, are we taking like 5 minutes to print? An hour?  Do you have a rough idea?

Printing a chess piece, for example, takes between 1.5 and 2.5 hours on the Cube. On the Afinia, probably a little less — between 1 and 2 hours. You’re not restricted to those times, however…you can control the speed and quality of the print in the software, thereby effecting the final quality and time.

#2. Media/print ongoing costs…Let’s say I have 135 students, and each prints 2 average sized projects over the course of the year, would the media cost a hundred dollars, hundreds, thousands?  I have no idea:)

MakerBot did a great study about a year ago to find out how many parts you can print with one 1kg spool (the standard size). So roughly 400 chess pieces from one $50 spool yields about $0.13 per print. If each student printed 2 chess pieces over the course of a year, it’d cost you around $35 in filament. Of course, that’s a rough estimate — the size of the print and the settings used to “slice” it will change that.

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Eric is a Mechanical Engineer with interests in machining, mass manufacturing, product design and kinetic art. While not building things, he enjoys skiing, cycling, and juggling.

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