Teaching institutions such as schools are increasingly toying with the idea of purchasing their own 3D printers for classroom use. In most cases, this is a really good idea. The students can be actively involved in the lessons and can be supported both theoretically and practically. At the same time, not every device on the market is eligible. We've picked out the best 3D printers for schools & STEM subjects below, while also providing a few important tips along the way.
The most important in a nutshell
- 3D printers are ideal for use in schools and STEM subjects
- Students can gain their own practical experience and use it to deepen their theoretical knowledge
- When learning with 3D printing, students have much more fun than during sober theory lessons
- Not all 3D printers are suitable for schools, which is why individual models should be compared before purchase
- We've picked out the best 3D printers for schools right now to help with the decision-making process.
The best 3D printers for schools 2023
We have taken a close look at the market and filtered out the best 3D printers for schools. It is important to mention here that we proceeded on the basis of the assumption that the printers are not permanently in a monitored state. A housing should therefore be included to prevent younger students from reaching into the construction space, for example.
In addition, we have focused exclusively on FDM printers here, as these can be used to keep the cleaning effort in the school relatively low. In addition to this, we have focused primarily on the European or German dealers.
|Place||Name||Manufacturer||Installation space||Resolution (micrometer)||Special features||Approx. price||to the shop*|
|1||X-Plus||Qidi Tech||270 x 200 x 200 mm||10 – 50 microns||Closed installation space, double filament holder, automatic shutdown after printing||750 €||Click|
|2||i3 MK3S+ printer + original case||Prusa Research||250 x 210 x 210||5 – 35 microns||Enclosure optionally available, extension for printing with up to 5 filaments simultaneously available, resumption in case of power failure, filament sensor||Printer: 1.159€|
|3||i-Mate S||Qidi Tech||270 x 200 x 200||5 – 20 microns||No assembly necessary, light weight, easy cleaning thanks to removable building plate||470 €||Click|
|5||Mini+||Prusa Research||180 x 180 x 180||5 – 25 microns||Color LCD screen, flexible printing plates, network connection, various security functions||489 €||Click|
|6||Ender 2 Pro||Creality||165 x 165 x 180||n.a||Light weight, easy to carry, user-friendly design, low price.||150 €||Click|
|7||X-Max||Qidi Tech||300 x 250 x 300||n.a||Dual filament holder, large and enclosed build envelope, color touch screen, air filtration, quiet printing, auto bed leveling||979 €||Click|
|8||J1||Snapmaker||320 x 210 x 200||n.a||High printing speed, closed installation space, parallel printing of two objects possible, simultaneous use of different materials||1.400 €||Click|
|9||i-Fast||Qidi Tech||330 x 250 x 320||n.a.||2-dual extruder with up to 300°C, large installation space, color touch screen, installation space heatable up to 60°C||2.200 €||Click|
The Best 3D Printer for Schools & STEM: Qidi Tech X-Plus
The best 3D printer for schools and STEM subjects is the Qidi Tech X-Plus. The price-performance system is right here, only the weight could be a bit of a hindrance. Problems with this can be avoided by fixing it firmly, for example on roller tables. With an installation space of 270 x 200 x 200 mm, the printer has enough space for various structures and projects. The air filtration is also particularly pleasant. Likewise, students can rely on a fast-leveling system that makes calibration simple and fast. Another plus are the two extruder sets for different application areas and the closed installation space.
- Name: X-Plus
- Manufacturer: Qidi Tech
- Installation space (L x W x H in mm): 270 x 200 x 200
- Maximum print resolution (microns): 50
- Special features: Air filtration, Fast leveling system, Two extruder sets for different applications.
- Advantages: Automatic shutdown after printing, continuation of printing after power failure, large and closed installation space.
- Disadvantages: no filament sensor available, quite heavy with over 20 kg weight
The best cheapest 3D printer for schools (without housing): Creality Ender 2 Pro
If the budget is very limited, the Creality Ender 2 Pro is an affordable solution for schools. Besides the price, other aspects are convincing here. Thus, the printer is already 90% assembled upon delivery and consequently almost immediately ready for use. In addition, the weight of less than five kilograms is very low, so that students can easily transport the device. A case is not included, but the printer automatically resumes the printing process after a power failure, for example.
- Name: Ender 2 Pro
- Manufacturer: Creality 3D
- Installation space (L x W x H in mm): 165 x 165 x 180
- Maximum print resolution (microns): n/a
- Special features: light weight (under 5kg), user-friendly software, low price
- Advantages: Automatic resumption after power failure, 90% pre-assembled upon delivery.
- Disadvantages: without housing
The best cheapest 3D printer for schools (with case): Qidi Tech i-Mate S
An inexpensive solution with a housing can be found in the form of the Qidi Tech i-Mate S. This printer convinces, for example, with an additional hotend extruder, with which particularly precise prints can be implemented. In addition, the printer has a comparatively low weight, offers a closed installation space and comes already assembled. However, there is no filament sensor to indicate outgoing material. Likewise, students must forgo auto-bed leveling with this printer.
- Name: i-Mate S
- Manufacturer: Qidi Tech
- Installation space (L x W x H in mm): 270 x 200 x 200
- Maximum print resolution (microns): 20
- Special features: additional hotend extruder for precise prints, build plate removable for easy cleaning
- Advantages: Low weight, no months needed, stable structure, closed installation space, low price.
- Disadvantages: no filament sensor, no auto-bed leveling
The best 3D printer for school 3D printer farms: Original Prusa Mini+
If a whole printer farm is to be operated in the school, the Original Prusa Mini+ is particularly suitable for this. This has a network connection especially for the administration of printer farms and can also convince with intensive security functions. Other advantages include the high print speed of up to 200 mm/s, the wide range of supported materials and the color LCD screen for easy operation. The installation space is open in this device, so special care should be taken. The printer is particularly suitable for smaller construction projects that can be implemented in an installation space of 180 x 180 x 180 mm.
- Name: Mini+
- Manufacturer: Prusa Research
- Installation space (L x W x H in mm): 180 x 180 x 180
- Maximum print resolution (microns): 25
- Special features: Network connectivity for printer farm management, intensive security features, USB stick printing
- Advantages: wide range of supported materials, high printing speed (up to 200 mm/s), color LCD screen.
- Disadvantages: open installation space
Criteria for choosing a 3D printer for schools & STEM subjects
As mentioned at the beginning, not every 3D printer is really suitable for schools. We advise checking various criteria before buying a device. What these are and what you should pay attention to, we show in the following.
Unsurprisingly, the price-performance ratio plays an overriding role in the purchase. Schools usually have a limited budget that can be used for purchases such as 3D printers. Thus, the best possible performance should be purchased for the respective budget. For schools and educational institutions, spending a fortune on high-quality printers is not necessarily practical. After all, the requirements are a little different than in industry, for example. Nevertheless, even with a limited budget, care should be taken that the performance does not completely fall by the wayside.
Especially when used in schools, the safety functions play an overriding role. The printers are not permanently monitored, so, for example, there should be a housing. It is even better if this can be conveniently locked. In addition, care should be taken to ensure that the electronics are not easily accessible so that students cannot intentionally or accidentally get their hands on them.
Schools should definitely concern themselves with the quality of the prints. Ideally, this should always be consistently high. Here, too, of course, there are somewhat less stringent requirements than in industry. Nevertheless, the quality should meet your own expectations and be sufficiently high for teaching.
Depending on the subjects and projects, different materials may be used for each print. It is therefore important that the printer is compatible with as many materials as possible. Attention should also be paid to the properties of each material. Cleaning is by no means always equally easy. In addition, the individual materials have different working temperatures.
Quick and easy calibration
Calibration is one of the most important factors in 3D printing. Professional print enthusiasts often do this manually. However, a printer with auto-bed leveling is recommended for use in a school. Thanks to the automatic print bed calibration, students save themselves the trouble of calibrating manually, making it much easier to turn their prints around. In addition to this, auto-bed leveling also significantly minimizes the risk for errors, ultimately keeping things fun. Otherwise, it can be frustrating for students when calibration errors regularly deface prints.
Simplicity of use
Ideal for schools and STEM subjects, 3D printers are easy to operate and use. This refers, for example, to the calibration mentioned above, which should ideally be performed automatically. In addition, however, care should be taken to ensure that the respective printing material can be inserted easily and that the structures can be removed without leaving any residue. We also advise you to pay attention to intuitive menu navigation in the respective printer software.
Schools and educational institutions usually have very limited facilities available for intensive maintenance and care of the printers. For this reason, it is important to look for a reliable printer with as little maintenance as possible. This should be able to withstand a long period without significant wear. This is also important for students when, for example, they have to finish projects within a certain time.
Heating bed available (for FDM)
No matter what price is paid for a printer. One thing you can not do without in any case: The heating bed. Even if the 3D printer is still so inexpensive, the heating bed should be present in any case. In addition, we advise to pay attention to the possible temperature of the heating bed. This should be able to reach at least 100°C effortlessly. As a rule, the higher, the more materials can be used.
Spare parts available
Of course, a technically sophisticated device like a 3D printer is bound to need a spare part. For this case, access to spare parts should be taken care of in advance of the purchase. This sounds like a banality, but it is certainly not. Especially printers from Asian manufacturers are often not available in Germany or Europe with a sufficient number of spare parts. In the worst case, the entire printer would have to be replaced if a part is defective. This can be avoided if procurement options for spare parts are examined in advance.
In the best case: support from dealers
In private use, many 3D fans rely on the respective community of their printer. In these often very tight-knit communities, print enthusiasts can exchange ideas, help with problems or ask their questions to the general public. Schools and educational institutions, on the other hand, should be able to turn to support on the dealer's side. The more versatile this is achievable, the better this is to be rated, of course.
Here, too, the advantages of a German dealer can be seen, which of course also enables German-speaking contact. This is usually not the case with dealers from abroad.
For which schools is a 3D printer worthwhile?
3D printers come in handy for a wide variety of schools and teaching institutions. Of course, we can exclude elementary schools at this point. For secondary schools, however, all achievement levels are eligible for 3D printer use. For example, these are suitable in craft lessons, but can also be dealt with in mathematics or other natural sciences. In addition, the 3D printers are of course also suitable for in-service schools attended by students, for example, as part of their training.
Advantages of 3D printers in the classroom
There are several advantages to using 3D printers in the classroom. We have listed the most important ones below and would like to explain them in more detail.
- Understanding of technical interrelationships is promoted/awakened
- Practical work with visible results
- Increasing enthusiasm of the students
Promoting an understanding of technical interrelationships
3D printers definitely promote an understanding of technical interrelationships. A printer can be used to explain various functions and processes, giving students a good overview of what happens in the background of printing. Since these processes can be followed “live” right away, the theory is made clear in a lively way.
Practical work with visible results
Another advantage is the fact that students can participate practically and intensively in the lessons. It's not just information flowing from teacher to student. Instead, the end result is also tangible and visible. Students see directly the impact of their performance in practice and are able to retain potential new knowledge much more effectively.
Increasing student enthusiasm through successes
At the latest after the first two or three successful prints, the students' self-confidence should increase significantly. And with it, the enthusiasm for working with 3D printers. Pupils who may not have been so interested in technology before often discover a hidden interest here. Students who are already tech-savvy can expand their interest and knowledge.
Conclusion: Promote practical work
A 3D printer for schools and STEM subjects is an optimal addition to the practical learning area. These devices can be wonderfully used to deepen theoretical knowledge and usually provide enthusiasm for a large part of the students. From smaller projects to comparatively large structures can be created with the equipment. The range of applications in the classroom is correspondingly versatile.