Jun 6, 2018

3D Printers For Schools – What to Consider and Which to Choose

With so many options to choose from, choosing the best 3D printers for schools can be tricky. With 3D printing growing rapidly in schools, here's a guide to buying the right 3D printer for the classroom.

Criteria for 3D Printers in Schools

There are three things that schools should look for when deciding which 3D printers to purchase (and what we’ll be looking for in the following list of machines):

  • Price – As this can vary depending on school budget, we’ll present a range of prices.
  • Ease of use – The more “plug and play” a 3D printer, the easier it can be used by anyone, and the less a safety hazard. 
  • Quality of prints – Schools need printers that can print well and reliably, and can be easily fixed if broken.

Some other factors to consider when purchasing 3D printers for schools:

  • Shipping – Your location may limit options as 3D printer manufacturers don’t always ship everywhere.
  • Import tax – Your country may impose an import tax on 3D printers bought from outside the country. If this is the case, make sure to check the rules and plan accordingly.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of different machines suitable for a classroom adventure in 3D printing! 

3D Printers for Schools #1: Lulzbot Mini

A small machine that packs a punch.

Price: $1,250

  • Tethered desktop-size printer 
  • Multiple material possibilities
  • Open build area

Lulzbot machines earn a regular spot in our list of best 3D printers, so it’s not surprising that it makes it into this one, either. If you’re looking for a small, high-quality 3D printer, the Lulzbot Mini should be on your list. With a respectable print volume of 152 x 152 x 158 mm³, the printer is small enough to fit on your desk but also big enough to accomodate a student’s needs. 

This machine is already affordable, and if you opt for their education bundles, you’ll get even more value. the Lulzbot Mini offers flexibility you don’t always see with smaller printer sizes, supporting almost all 3D printing materials. There’s even a variety of compatible toolheads, which you can swap to use different types of material. If you want to know more about how it stacks up against the competition, read our review

And all that power is easy to wield: the Lulzbot Mini also comes with a heated bed, which improves reliability and consistency. In terms of quality, you won’t worry about much, as Lulzbot is renowned for their print quality. In fact, some parts of the machine are printed by other machines just like it. 

Fortunately, Lulzbot has established a large network of distributors, so getting a machine almost anywhere in North America and Europe is simple.

Lulzbot Mini

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3D Printers for Schools #2: Zortrax M200

The black box that just works.

Price: $2100

  • LCD screen for convenience
  • One-of-a-kind build plate with great results
  • Widely-recognized workhorse

Polish 3D printer manufacturer Zortrax aims to create an all-inclusive option within their ecosystem, providing thier proprietary software and filaments for use with a high-performance, reliable 3D printer. And that’s the signature of the M200: consistency. The auto-levelling, perforated build platform is optimized for printing with ABS, a strong and common material. 

Don’t be fooled by its composed looks, this machine is a high-flyer. You can see for yourself in our review

In short, what you’re paying for here is ease of use. This is the one of the closest experiences to “plug-and-play” you can get in this price tier. Zortrax has clearly put effort into making the experience hassle-free, with excellent printing results, no less. It’s a good thing great customer support is included in the package as well. You’ll appreciate this safety net as soon as you click the order button on Amazon.

Zortrax M200

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3D Printers for Schools #3: Snapmaker

The future-proof solution for maximum creative exploration.

Price: $829

  • Bonus CNC carving and laser engraving
  • Modular toolhead system
  • All-metal construction

If you’re looking for the most capable machine in terms of the breadth of projects it can help with, look no further. The Snapmaker is a 3-in-1 3D printer, CNC mill, and laser engraver. And while that’s nothing new, this thing is also cheap and small. It’s aimed at workshops with limited precious space, accomplishing multiple functions in one machine with modular, changeable toolheads. We further discuss the concept and printing experience here

What does this mean for educational purposes? Good things. This package does three things instead of just one, and it does them all quite well. For instance, it even has a touchscreen for easy control, something that even some dedicated 3D printers on this list lack. It would be wise to have at least one of these in any school, simply because of the opportunities it creates with such a modest investment. In addition, this innovation is not locked behind the doors of some lab. You can get tinkering with it right away through Amazon.

Snapmaker

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3D Printers for Schools #4: Cubicon Single

The surprisingly smart, health-conscious piece of hardware. 

Price: $2999 from iMakr

  • Mechanical auto-levelling bed
  • Enclosed, heated build chamber
  • Replaceable HEPA and carbon filter

This machine isn’t commonly mentioned, but we see great potential in it. From an educational perspective, all you need to know is that you can choose a file, start the print, and walk away. Inside this sealed, fresh-air exhaling box, an automatically levelling mechanical plate in a heated chamber ensures your models come out exactly as designed. Few sources testify to its printing prowess, but the ones that do have much praise. 

The ease of use and quality here can’t be disputed, but the price has room to improve. Compared to machines with a similar build volume, this option is expensive. It’s also worth nothing that contact with the manufacturer is spotty, so purchasing a machine or contacting customer support will be a bit less smooth. 

3D Printers for Schools #5: Ultimaker 3

A luxurious, high-end option.

Price: €2995 (about $3490)

  • Lifetime support and warranty
  • Dual extrusion with swappable cores
  • All-inclusive ecosystem with big community

Weighing in as the most expensive printer on this list, the Ultimaker 3 is built on the philosophy of quality over all. Known for its amazing customer service and community, Ultimaker does its best to make sure that you get what you pay for. If you ever encounter problems, professional help is only a phone call away, not to mention Ultimaker’s extensive documentation and online forums, which are always available. For schools who are willing to invest the money for a quality experience, Ultimaker will not disappoint.

The Ultimaker 3 has dual extruders, meaning you can print with two materials at the same time. This opens up a whole new door for both dual-color printing as well as printing with soluble support materials, such as PVA. The printer even comes with swappable print cores so you can easily switch between different materials and get the best results. For even more specific details, check out our review here.

The best part about the Ultimaker 3 for schools, though, is the ecosystem it provides. From slicers to filaments to the final product, everything feels engineered to make it easy for anyone to drop something into some software and come out a few hours later with their own 3D printed model. This can be crucial for schools where there aren’t dedicated technicians to maintain these machines.

For an pricey but easy and enjoyable 3D printing experience, consider giving the Ultimaker a go.

Ultimaker 3

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3D Printers for Schools #6: Printrbot Play

The old timer that still packs a punch.

Price: $330

  • Extremely reasonable price
  • Simple, straightforward, and solid
  • Flexible, open ecosystem and design

At this price point, the Play is a no-brainer. It’s a regular FDM machine that prints with above-average quality, albeit on a smaller-then-average build plate. But its biggest attraction is its very sturdy construction. Even looking at this thing, you wouldn’t be surprised if it survived a pack of preschoolers printing every day. Learn more about its other features in our review

Even at such a modest price, you’ll be able to use some top-notch software with this machine. All major slicers are supported, so you can use the best in the industry, like Ultimaker’s Cura (which is free) or Simplify3D. Combined with its simplicity and surprisingly satisfying printing performance, these factors make it an almost perfect beginner’s machine. You won’t have to worry about any hassle purchasing one, either. Amazon has you covered, and the price is so low that any import taxes will be insignificant.

Printrbot Play 3D Printer

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License: The text of "3D Printers For Schools – What to Consider and Which to Choose" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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