How to Find the Right Printer
Before departments introduce 3D printing into learning programs, it’s important to make sure the printer introduced is the right fit. Here are three questions to keep in mind when evaluating 3D printers for your department:
1.Is the machine safe for students and environmentally friendly? Ensure student safety by finding a printer that doesn’t emit harmful particles, fumes, noise, or generate exposed heat. 3D printers, such as those using plastic, powders or other harmful materials to produce objects, require educators to put more safety protocols into place before using them in the classroom or risk the safety of their students and themselves. Safer, more environmentally friendly options, such as paper-based 3D printers, eliminate the chance of exposing students to hazardous materials and provide fully Green processes.
2.What is the total investment? It’s very important to understand the costs of the printer. Although many desktop plastic-based 3D printers are inexpensive to purchase, the ongoing cost of the materials needed to print is often prohibitive for institutions and students, and the printers themselves are frequently unreliable when needed. In comparison, the ongoing cost of paper-based 3D printers is 10-20 percent the cost of any other 3D printing technology and the printers are highly reliable. Doing diligent research on this front prevents educators and students from footing the bill for expensive materials and 3D printer downtime.
3.Do the features match the needs of the students? Understanding the features and functionality the printer can provide is important to meeting the educational needs of students. One of the biggest features missing from 3D printers in use today: full color. Many educators are falsely “sold” on using 3D printers that operate single-color plastic spools. However, using a one-color 3D printer is akin to using a 2D inkjet printer that only prints one color at a time. Educators should realize that there is tremendous educational demand and need for 3D printing across academic disciplines, but only if the machine’s features can provide photorealistic-color 3D printed objects.
Dr. Conor MacCormack is co-founder and CEO of Mcor.