Headteacher Magazine, guide to services and products for UK Schools
The positive impact of 3D printing on school curriculum has already been well-documented. But as any school IT administrator will attest, implementing such a resource can pose significant challenges behind the scenes. Given that IT staff are already hard-pressed in terms of budgets and time, it can be easy to see 3D printing as something of an expensive luxury.
However, as 3D printing evolves in sophistication, ways of bringing it to fruition in schools without it costing the earth are becoming more commonplace. However, even though 3D printers are becoming less expensive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that schools can easily and efficiently adopt them. As a recent independent study has shown, 87% of educators are restricting students’ access to 3D printers. The reason is that educators lack an integrated solution that allows them to manage access and control costs or recover costs. The benefits of 3D printing to enhance students’ education is lost when they cannot access 3D printing directly.
Leaving the past behind
When 3D printing started to gain broad public attention a few years ago, it was rightly considered something of an extravagant commodity that was inaccessible to many. The demand for different technology skills including construction and 3D modelling was extremely high, printers were tough to service and maintain and, crucially, it was difficult to find value for the money spent for most users and organisations. For schools in particular, these factors made its implementation prohibitive.
Saving time and money
A vital area that should not be neglected in researching 3D printer options is evaluating solutions for managing student’s access, cost of materials and the ongoing operation of a new 3D printing device or even a fleet of 3D printers as they have a direct impact on accessibility of the technology and also ROI. For 2D printers, this vital component is called print management.
Despite the fact that it is common practice for IT administrators to be responsible for managing traditional 2D printers, this is not yet the case for 3D printers. With a print management solution integrated with the 3D printer, 3D printing can be securely integrated into a school’s network, which guarantees accessibility for students and teachers without compromising on security and cost control. This can save IT administrators a huge amount of time, as they can manage 3D printing in a very similar way to how they do for 2D printers, with little need to radically change existing processes.
For 3D print management to be effective, it is crucial that an authentication system is a part of the solution. This enables IT to provide access rights to the students and faculty who need 3D printing without worrying about costs due to unauthorized student access. Authentication also reduces the risk of theft or disruption of the print job by unauthorized students. Along similar lines, schools would benefit greatly from a 3D print management solution that makes it possible for students to make use of any available 3D printer on the school’s campus especially since 3D models can take hours to print and the nearest printer may be busy.
A comprehensive 3D print management solution should also include an accounting system and a set of customisable reports. Reports allow a school to track, allocate costs and monitor 3D printer usage, while an accounting system gives schools the option to use a pay-for-print system to recover costs associated with 3D printer use and materials. For a cash-strapped school, this can be help justify a 3D printing program.
Lastly, schools should consider a 3D print management solution that also allows them to use print management for their existing 2D printers. The same features for controlling access and costs along with reporting and an optional pay-for-print service can be used on 2D printers. When using print management on 2D printers, schools get the cost saving advantages as well as additional benefits specific to 2D printers.
YSoft be3D eDee is the only 3D print solution that integrates print management and an accounting system with a 3D printer offering central control for a fleet of 3D printers. The 3D print management solution is based on Y Soft’s own YSoft SafeQ, a globally recognised workflow solutions platform used for over 15 years on 2D printers in schools around the world.
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