Headteacher Magazine, guide to services and products for UK Schools
With 3D printing making a splash in industry, schools are beginning to invest in the technology to help prepare students for future careers. But with the cost relatively high and the technology still emerging, is it worth handing over much-needed funding? Here, we review the Dremel DigiLab 3D45 model to explore whether 3D printing is a realistic avenue for schools to explore.
Armed with a scraper and two sticks of purple glue, our tech-minded colleague Frank McLaughlin set up the DigiLab, which was generously loaned to us by Dremel (part of the Bosch group). Dremel launched their DigiLab 3D45 at the BETT show recently because it has been designed specifically for schools.
Frank had a good knowledge of how 3D printing works – although he had never used a 3D printer before – and informed me that a spool of plastic thread (or filament) was responsible for printing the 3D objects. So we loaded the spool into the side of the machine and threaded the filament into the correct parts. Dremel informed us that an environmentally friendly, plant-based plastic, PLA, can be used with the DigiLab.
On reading the easy-to-follow, relatively short set of instructions, we set about choosing a design to build. The touch-screen menu allowed us to easily navigate to a frog model, which the printer informed us would take 1hr 30mins. We took the purple glue stick and lubricated the glass platform to avoid the object from being welded onto the plate. Over the next couple of hours, with the lights dimmed and the printer illuminated like some kind of plastic-melting UFO, staff from around the office bobbed in to express their awe and wonder. Thanks to its fully enclosed see-through chamber, we could see every stage of creation as the hair-thin strands of melted plastic build up the shapes, layer by layer. With cries of “It’s like magic!” and “What else can we make?” it’s clear to see the excitement levels in schools will be piqued with a 3D printer. The possibilities are endless and the only limits are the students’ imagination.
The end completion time was extended throughout printing, so the first job ran over our working day. Frog ended up remaining headless, however we were able to see the honeycomb effect within the body of the objects printed – which saves on filament and is fantastically strong. There’s also an integrated camera so students and teachers can monitor and control multiple printers remotely.
Frank monitored the printing of the first object – while printing the machine should not be left unattended, something to consider when longer jobs are being built in school hours – and then began creating his own designs including a QA Education logo and a Euromedia heart keyring. As well as a few designs included with the printer to get you started, nets are available on the web if students want a quick start. Designing your own net can be done in a variety of software packages such as Autodesk’s Print Studio.
After using the printer and discussing the possibility of creating various objects, we realised that a 3D printer can be fully cross-curricular as well as improving DT and computing skills. Studying business? Make an object to sell at enterprise. Art student? Design your own decorative object. Future engineer? Solve a problem by building a solution.
Dremel are keen to impress how important it is that pupils have a good knowledge of 3D design and build. John Kavanagh, Dremel’s global president, said, “3D printers have become an essential teaching tool as the world’s economies gear to the needs of the next industrial revolution. The Dremel DigiLab suite provides the tools and range to inspire children and give them the skills they’ll need for the workplace of the future. The DigiLab 3D45 is the first 3D printer designed to perfectly suit the school environment. It combines simplicity of use and reliability with the capacity to produce advanced designs at a price that schools can afford.”
Michael Miller, technology and computer science teacher at Otsego Public Schools in the USA and a Dremel 3D Ambassador, said, “The integration of 3D printing into the classroom, from design and technology to history, inspires students. The Dremel Digilab 3D printing product suite is perfect for introducing children to the basics of 3D design and printing, and enabling them to develop their skills from starting school to heading to university. 3D printing is a great way to close the disconnect between the skills we teach in the classroom and the world of work.”
See dremel3d.co.uk for more information and full specifications.
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