One thing’s for sure, you’re guaranteed to see more (and more!) 3D printers across your university campus this semester.
Why? The additive manufacturing market is expected to reach $51 billion in 2030, compared to $12 billion in 2020 - growing at a 15% compound annual growth rate. As 3D printing continues to revolutionise the capability of manufacturing processes across multiple industries – from automotive and aerospace to medical and consumer goods – higher education facilities across the world will be required to lean into this type of technology.
Indeed, they are tasked with equipping the next generation of STEM professionals with the 3D printing skills necessary to keep up with future demands with their sectors.
There can be no doubt that having 3D printers on site is an invaluable tool for university-level learning and development. Students are able to create models more seamlessly (and in shorter time frames) and learn about emerging technology, whilst teachers are able to demonstrate theory and create models that they wouldn't otherwise be able to do using 2D materials.
“3D printing technology gives students the possibility to test, create, and dream. Students are turned from passive consumers into active and creative users grappling with the possibilities and limits of the 3D printing process,” says Source Graphics.
There are of course unique requirements for a college 3D printer vs say a home or office 3D printer. These include budget restrictions, the amount of printers required, suitable education materials, emissions concerns and software options. With that in mind, here are three printers making waves right now in the education sector.
Ultimaker 2+ Connect
223 x 220 x 205 print area (mm)
Optional HEPA air manager to reduce emissions
Ultimaker has evolved drastically over the years and now produces some of the top 3D printers for both businesses and higher education environments. Their printers are known for top quality hardware, informative educational content, extra features and ease of use.
Boasting industrial level quality and reliability, the 2+ Connect is one of the best FDM 3D printers for higher education specifically. Its network connectivity enables it to function with the Ultimaker cloud platform ecosystem.
These multi connection opportunities alongside the after-sales support, downloadable white papers and e-learning modules are ideal for workflow integration with students and teachers alike. In addition, all of these features help to streamline the rollout and implementation of these machines across educational institutions.
Formlabs Form 3+
145 × 145 × 185 print area (mm)
No emission filter but enclosed
The Formlabs Form 3+ is tailored towards university-level education due to it’s breadth of educational resources, expert precision and the simple fact that it’s far less messy than some other
resin printers. It also offers a huge range of engineering, arts, dental, medical and standard grade resins, making it ideal for a variety of students who need to learn about 3D printing in relation to their specific field.
There are slick software packages available which take charge of print support generation too, something which can prove challenging when printing with desktop SLA technology.
Formlabs provide various webinars, lesson plans and educational resources to aid academic institutions on how to best utilise the printers in their areas of expertise. Research grants are also available to assist medical students with equipment fees – bonus!
The MakerBot Replicator + Educator’s Edition
295 x 195 x 165 print area (mm)
No emission filter
The latest edition of the MakerBot has positioned itself as the 3D printer within the educational lab setting.
The Replicator+ arrives fully assembled, has a removable, flexible print bed offering safe print removal and the chance to experiment with metal and wood filled filament. It has a simple set up and works remotely off Wi-Fi. Then there’s the print app and browser based integration to simplify the student work process and class management.
There’s a wealth of educational resources for young learners and educators and safety is a top priority thanks to the onboard camera. The company offers the MakerBot Educators Guidebook with 600+ lessons for educational professionals wanting to lean into 3D printing and it invites educators themselves to collaborate with them via the MakerBot Educators Program.
As additive manufacturing continues to be taken up within even more industries, it’s imperative that higher education bodies provide future STEM leaders with the hands-on 3D printing experience they need to succeed.
This means providing them with the printers, tools, software, learning materials and technology required to eventually take on real-world scenarios.
By providing 3D printers in higher educational settings, institutions provide students with the opportunity to improve their technical skills, design capabilities, visual learning capabilities and problem solving aptitude. From a cost perspective, allowing students to practice with 3D printing can reduce educational material costs and enhance class project efficiency.
STEM students and their teachers now have access to a wider range of resources, tools and learning resources than ever before, enabling them to achieve more, solve bigger problems and enhance knowledge without the waste, lead times and time lags of conventional manufacturing education.