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I've been asked to come up with a grant proposal for a new 3D printer. My question is:

What supporting components and training would be most beneficial to support educational use in a K-8 school? In other words what things am I missing in my list below?

Specific suggestions for things on my list that I may not have thought of are welcome too. A specific tool, etc.

The suggestion was to include a base proposal with stretch goals that include everything needed.

My current ideas are:

  • 3D Printer - option of a Prusa Mk3 or a Railcore 300ZLT. Possibly add another Prusa Mk3 kit as a stretch goal for students to assemble.
  • Replacement and optional parts such as a hardened nozzle.
  • Training and professional development
  • Filament - a variety of kinds such as PLA, ABS, flexible, conductive, etc.
  • Dry box or supplies to make one.
  • HEPA filter.
  • Enclosure - heated and/or soundproofed.
  • Maintenance tools or supplies. Lubricant, etc.
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  • $\begingroup$ What are the students expected to do with the printer? An Ender 3 / TronXY XY-2 with PLA should be sufficient for generic middle school projects. $\endgroup$ – towe Mar 29 '19 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ @TobiasWeiß Some of the advanced students are pretty impressive and could learn to do pretty much any of the steps in the 3d printing process from modeling to managing the printer including building and maintenance. We have a pla printer, and there are some projects the students would like to do to take advantage of the properties of other filaments such as strength flexibility etc. $\endgroup$ – T. M. Mar 29 '19 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ Also I wonder why the downvote. A comment may have been better. I’ve done substantial research and I’ve read the help center posts about what to ask and what not to ask. The question is answerable with specific answers. Oh well, you can’t please everyone. $\endgroup$ – T. M. Mar 29 '19 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds reasonable. Is the printers "certification" important in that regard? It might be more interesting to have them build and improve a CoreXY style printer mostly on their own, using something like an X5S as a starting point. $\endgroup$ – towe Mar 29 '19 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ @T.M, The exchange is about finite answers, not product reviews or opinions. It's also way to broad, because you didn't specify a price range. Just by something from Stratasys. $\endgroup$ – user77232 Mar 29 '19 at 14:38
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Your question doesn't have a lot of detail on how you use your existing printer (and I had to dig into the comments even to find out that you already have one: the question sounds like the grant would be for your first printer), so this is necessarily going to be generic suggestions, not all of which will apply to you.

CAD software and training

Getting the kids to download something from Thingiverse and print it out is great for the younger ones, but to really enable them to think as engineers, they need the tools to design their own things. Giving them access to real CAD tools, and the teaching support to use them, is hugely preferable. Fusion 360 is common in education (and with hobbyists) as the bargain option, but if they really want to see what's used in industry, Solidworks, Creo, or NX could be a worthwhile investment. You need to account not just for the software licence itself, but for training up your existing staff and/or hiring in some new skills. Even if you have volunteers from a local engineering company, there'll be the cost of background checks (DBS in the UK) or whatever process you need for volunteers.

Exotic filaments

I'd say it's better to establish a budget for filaments and then spend it over the course of the year, instead of buying some interesting filaments up-front. Odds are, one of your students will come up with a project that wants a particular type of filament, but you won't know which until they do. Having a budget keeps your options open, while buying exotic filaments up-front creates a big risk you'll just never find a use for the particular ones you chose.

Self-assembly printers

Unless you're planning to buy a new printer every year, assembling the printer is only going to be an activity for one cohort of students. Having your printer club put together the new printer can be a great add-on (and look good on your proposal), but only go for it if you need the printer anyway.

That said, since you already have a printer, you might consider one of the RepRap-based plans where you can print most of the parts. You might find that the bag of bits needed to make a RepRap is cheap enough that you actually can have the kids build one from scratch every year.

Noise and smell abatement

3D printers can be quite noisy and contribute to indoor air pollution. If you don't have a dedicated space for them, this may lead to having to agree to restrictions later on: e.g. no printing during class time, no printing while room is occupied, print room has to have the window open (so can't be used on rainy days). Depending on how budgets are in your school, maybe you can spend all your money now, and later on get an extra allocation from an H&S budget to fix any problems (e.g. by adding ventilation). But it might be easier to be honest up-front and include anything you'll need to make your printers good neighbours now.

Hardware for printed parts

Some kinds of projects benefit from hardware that you can't print. For example, my old school ran a project where each student designed and built a clock, using an off-the-shelf clock mechanism and whatever material was lying around in the lab: sheet acrylic in various colours, plyboard, and softwoods. If you have any similar projects in mind - RC cars, kitchen timers - it might be worth thinking about specialised components now. Pin badge backers are always popular. Even if you aren't, a handful of threaded inserts, bolts and screws, hinges, rods, sandpaper, and primer will hugely increase the range of functional parts you can create.

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The question changed after I answered, so I'll answer the new question.

My answers are based on seeing the results of 3D printing deployed in a nearby school system, and my own experience as a FIRST Robotics mentor in my son's school system.

Current question's answer


K-8

You are ambitious. At the K level, I can see a group project to change a design (such as bracelets), and print the result. This would be done by an adult operating the design software and managing the printer.

At some point, maybe G4-G5, the students would be in more control, with assistance at hand to help jump past barriers that appear (software bugs, clogged nozzles, ...). By G8 the students should be able to handle the whole workflow if they have come up through the program.

It would be great if there were a version of Logo for 3D printing. Maybe there is.

CAD

You will need some form of CAD software to make 3D printing useful. Depending on the students, and assuming a small budget, you could look at OpenSCAD (or SolidPython) and OnShape.

OpenSCAD uses a simple language to specify and transform geometric shapes and to perform union, intersection, and subtraction functions. SolidPython is built atop OpenSCAD works with Python IDEs. With the Python language, loops and conditionals are more natural. OpenSCAD is pretty simple, but some people prefer Python. Designs are not "drawn", but are programmed.

OnShape is a cloud-based, traditional 3D design and modeling tool. Free user licenses are available with the caveat that all designs are publicly accessible and copiable, but others may not change your copy. It will be familiar to users of AutoDesk and SolidWorks systems, although the dialect will be strange.

Both produce STL files for 3D printing the designs.

What is the purpose of 3D printing at the school?

Other training really depends on how 3D printing is integrated into the core curriculum. If 3D printing is part of a class in the static analysis of structures, then the class would be providing the training about strength.

IMO, the best training is accomplished by giving students access to the equipment with a mentor available to answer questions. Each student comes to 3D modeling and printing with their own curiosity and motivation, and those are best served by smoothing their chosen path with information and advise.

What can go wrong?

The worst outcome is where money is raised, equipment is purchased, and no one is available to make it work. Or, it works great until the inevitable problem arises, and no one can resolve it. I've seen this happen in a large, well-funded school system. The students get frustrated, and the program loses credibility. The well-off students buy their own equipment and carry on, while those who can't dismiss 3D printing. 3D printing becomes another failed adventure.

Typical Problems

Working in any school system is complicated. CORI checks are required. Special certifications and permissions are needed to work on school property. Insurance and liability are raised as problems which block progress. Often nothing is possible without a teacher-on-staff taking personal responsibility and directly supervising activities.

Scheduling prints which take over a few hours may be impossible.

Most problems can be overcome with strong support from teachers and administration.

Training Required

The most important persons to be trained are the teachers and/or mentors. They will train the students, and the students will train themselves and each other.

The teachers/mentors should be familiar with the general operation of the CAD software, know how to operate the 3D printing devices, and be able to resolve all common problems. Keeping the equipment available is important. Going down for a month is a long time in a school semester.

If 3D printing is integrated into a specific part of the curriculum, the teacher of that curriculum will provide the subject matter training that is being demonstrated through printing. The physics teacher, the math teacher, or the art teacher will use the 3D printing to teach their domain.

Supporting Components

Look to the chemistry department for a fume hood to use for ventilation and a fire-proof enclosure.

Consult with the responsible authorities in the school to determine if special ventilation is required for occasional classroom use. Whatever they say, it may not be enough because of parents' fear of plastics.

Have spare parts on hand to quickly bring a printer back online. The ideal spare part is an extra printer -- plus other parts to restore the broken one when it fails. Consider the latency in the supply chain for replacement parts.

Have a purchasing flow authorized that allows spare parts and operating supplies to be purchased quickly. In some school systems, it can take months to purchase materials because such purchases are handled on a semester-by-semester basis. That won't work when you really need a spool of a special color by yesterday. If necessary, look to PTA-like organizations because they may be able to operate more quickly.

Consider using PLA in the classrooms. There is friendly web content about PLA being sustainable, "natural", and biodegradable, rather than the ABS stigma of being petrochemical.

If the upper grades have a community service requirement, allow the 3D savvy students to volunteer as 3D printing mentors to the younger grades.


Previous answer

If your question is about what equipment to buy, it would be off topic as being a question of opinion and recommending specific vendor's equipment. I am answering the question about determining what should be in a proposal.

Like any consideration of acquiring a 3d printing capability, there is some data that must be known before you can determine such a list of equipment.

First, what will the capability be used for? In a school context, it could be used as part of a curriculum, probably not on the topic of 3d printing, but perhaps something else. Or, it could be part of a school machine shop or hobby shop. It could be used by a robotics club, a rocket club, or a theater club. Based on how it will be used at the school, you can determine the next data.

Second, what will be capability be used to print? Based on that, you can judge which devices meet the need.

Third, based on the "what", and a sense of "how much", you can judge the type and quantity of supplies you will need. Supplies for the first two or three years should be included in the proposal.

Fourth, estimate the amount of special staff time that should be needed, find a sponsor within the school who will commit to that time, and estimate the funds required to compensate them.

Finally, roll up a sales document, ideally based on a rubric from the granting agency, which included the benefits, allignment with the grant guidelines, and the costs. Validate the proposal, especially the cost and the staff requirements, with whoever invited you to submit a proposal.

... and remember to actually submit the proposal by the deadline.

Bringing 3d printing into school is a great addition to other educational and engineering tools. With the right support from the existing school staff and a clear vision of how it will fit into the school activities and existing culture, 3d printing succeed in a school setting.

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