Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Any Room Can Be an Idea Room with a 3D Printer

The purpose of this blog is to communicate to teachers, parents and grandparents the power of 3D printing to literally transform the direction of young lives. In my work with at-risk young people for the YouthQuest Foundation, I have seen this transformation take place in class after class, year after year. But, it doesn't just benefit the young. Now in my 70's, I can testify to the fact that even those with a few years behind us can experience the satisfaction of new levels creative energy by having a 3D printer to be able to turn our ideas into reality..

I am passionate about spreading the news that 3D printing is not just about making cheap plastic parts. It's about waking sleeping brains and energizing them with new possibilities for creativity and ingenuity. As this blog begins, it is going to be primarily focused on two 3D printers that could not be more different. It's probably going to be very confusing as to why I would select two printers with such obviously different classroom experiences as the focus of the same blog. But, I can assure you, this decision was not made in a vacuum. It is based on years of actual 3D printing experience with a wide range of 3D printing equipment.

While this blog solely contains my personal opinions, those opinions have been formed by years of personal experience beginning with my first RepRap style RapMan 3.2 printer and my professional experience at The YouthQuest Foundation where I create 3D design and printing curriculum targeted toward serving at-risk youth. In addition to our work with educational facilities in four states, we have a central 3D ThinkLink Creativity Lab utilizing multiple 3D printers ranging from consumer FDM to professional micro-SLA and full-color powder printers. The stable of 3D printers includes:
  • 2nd Gen Cube Printers (30)
  • 3rd Gen Cube Printers (7)
  • JellyBox Reusable Kit Printer (4)
  • CubePro Printers (1 Duo & 2 Trio)
  • ProJet 1200 Professional Micro-SLA Printer (1)
  • ZCorp 450 Professional Full-color Powder Printer (1)
We have recently complemented this list with the Micro 3D Printer, from M3D, that is destined to fill a unique niche in our educational strategy for at-risk students which now includes those with autism-spectrum disorders.

Micro 3D Printer from M3D

The micro M3D is small enough and quiet enough to transform any classroom, living room, family room, bed room or any room into an Idea Room. True, it is slower than most 3D printers and it has a relatively small print area. But, the low noise, small footprint, light weight and low cost more than make up for any percieved shortcomings. As you can see from the image below the print quality is extremely fine and very impressive. 

First production part created on the Micro from M3D

Our job here will be to help you set up your printer and use it to the best possible outcomes with articles designed to get the most out of this wonderful little printer.

The best advice I can give you is to embrace the Micro as it was designed, for the purpose for which it was designed and to be used as it was designed.

To me it is a marvel of beautiful engineering that opens up many special educational opportunities... particularly in homes and apartments where space is limited and budgets are tight. As a grandfather, I think it is the perfect first 3D printer for our grandchildren. More on this later.

 JellyBox Reusable Kit Printer from iMade3D

On the completely opposite end of the spectrum is the Jellybox. It is a kit 3D printer. But, unlike most kit 3D printers it is designed to be built, used, dismantled and rebuilt multiple times. It can perform this marvelous feat due to the fact that it is held together with common zip ties!  Obviously, a printer with a clear acrylic frame is hard to photograph.  And, one could be excused for thinking that any printer held together with zip ties would have to produce very poor prints.  But, not only is the Jellybox the FASTEST extrusion printer in our lab, it also produces the FINEST prints.  That's quite a feat considering some of our FDM printers cost more than four times as much..

A year or so ago, I declared in one of my blogs that the 3D printing marketplace had matured to the point that it no longer made sense to go through the 'build experience' just to end up with an average or below average printer.  My own past build experiences were anything; but, fun.  But, I thoroughly enjoy building the Jellybox.  In fact, I've participated in 4 beta builds!

We plane to have the cadets in our week-long Immersion Class build Jellybox printers.  The goal is to complete the build and have a working 3D printer in less than one day!  But, what is really cool is that at the end of the week these same cadets will tear down the printers to their component parts to be ready for the next Immersion Class in the winter. 

Again, we'll have more on this fascinating printer in future articles.  But, like the Micro 3D Printer, the designers have done a marvelous job of designing the printer for it's specific educational tasks.  They have also done a superior job of demanding the highest quality components to withstand the rigors of multiple builds and still produce superior printing results.

Bottom Line

Together, one or both of these 3D printers have a special place in the education of our young people.  Not only can the Jellybox be used to learn about 3D printing; but, it also has industrial education applications allowing student to learn about optimizing assembly processes.  I'm excited to be covering both of these printers and I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.

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