3D printing is an exciting and practical learning tool that can unleash creativity in the classroom.
Students who are usually tough to engage with suddenly perk up and want to learn when they see a 3D printer in action, and the best part is, 3D printing appeals to all age groups and students from all backgrounds.
If you are looking to buy a 3D Printer for your school, we have provided five affordable options below for you to consider. These vary in price from around £800 to just over £2,000 but share some key characteristics: They are all easy to use, have an enclosed build chamber, and use Fused Filament Fabrication technology.
Key features: Under £800, produces accurate, true-to-design models, fast print speeds.
For under £800, nothing beats the Robo C2. This FFF 3D printer simplifies the printing process by slicing CAD drawings for you. Just send your STL file to print and away it goes. The partially enclosed build chamber provides a stable print environment and allows students to see into the chamber to monitor progress (which they will – it’s fascinating!).
You can send files to print using your phone over Wi-Fi or USB and print with PLA, PET-G, Nylon, Flexible TPE, Flexible TPU and more. The max build volume is 127 x 127 x 152.4 mm – a decent size that’s perfect for a classroom desk.
Despite its low price, the Robo C2 produces accurate, true-to-design models and doesn’t compromise when it comes to quality. There’s automatic filament runout detection and auto self-levelling so you can literally send a file to print and let it do its thing.
Key features: Big build volume, 5-inch touchscreen, on-board camera.
If you like the Robo C2 but want a larger build volume and more features, step up to the Robo R2. This 3D printer has a larger 203 x 203 x 254 mm build volume and a 5-inch touchscreen, an upgrade over the C2’s 3.5-inch one. The R2 also has an on-board camera for remote monitoring.
Another upgrade is the option to add a second extruder. This lets you print in more than one colour, print faster or even take advantage of dissolvable support structure such as PVA (which works great with PLA).
The materials list this printer supports is huge. You can print with PLA, ABS, Colorfabb filaments such as Woodfill, Polycarbonate, Flexible TPU, Carbon Fibre Nylon, HIPS and much more. The open filament system means you can try out any brand you like. We’re big fans of Colorfabb and we also have our own range of high quality, affordable GoPrint3D filaments for you to try.
Zortrax M200 PLUS
Key features: Industrial-grade performance, super-reliable, very easy to setup and use.
The Zortrax M200 PLUS is an outstanding 3D printer. You can equip it with a HEPA cover that catches over 99% of 3D printing emissions, making it a safe choice for smaller classrooms (although ventilation is still needed). The build volume is on the larger side at 200mm x 200mm x 180mm and you can print at 90-390 microns with consistent results.
Zortrax have made a name for themselves as a reliable brand, and the M200 PLUS is certainly one of the most reliable 3D printers we’ve ever used. It prints a wide range of materials too, although they’re proprietary. These include Z-ABS, Z-ULTRAT, Z-HIPS, Z-GLASS, Z-PETG and Z-SEMIFLEX. Check them out for yourself here.
Importantly, you can send files to print over Wi-Fi or USB and monitor progress remotely thanks to an in-built webcam. Filament runout is detected automatically and the bed levels itself, so you don’t have to.
Key features: Large build volume, excellent print quality, prints ABS, PLA and CPE.
If your budget can stretch to just over £2k, the Ultimaker 2+ is one of the best options on the market right now. This 3D printer can print PLA, ABS and CPE, so offers a wider range of build opportunities. We class this as an industrial-grade printer, since it is widely used by engineers and designers to print accurate, high-quality end-use parts.
Offering a build volume of 223 × 223 × 205 mm and a layer resolution of 600 to 20-micron, the Ultimaker 2+ is hugely capable. For schools and other educational environments, it’s also a great option because it has an enclosed build chamber.
The Ultimaker 2+ is also easy to setup, easy to use and boasts a variety of features that make printing easier. These include a swappable nozzle system, so you can switch out nozzles to prioritise print speed or print detail, and an in-built filament holder, which feeds the bowden tube directly. A new geared feeder also prevents skipping, to improve consistency and repeatability. Add all these elements together, and what you have is an outstanding 3D printer for schools and other educational environments.
Key features: It’s a vacuum former, not a 3D printer. But it’s still awesome for the classroom.
The Mayku Formbox isn’t a 3D printer, but it’s still worth your time if you’re looking to make a creative space in your classroom. With it, you vacuum form objects using any old vacuum cleaner for suction, and the small footprint of the machine means it fits on a classroom desk easily.
You use sheet plastic to form objects. PET-G, HIPS, ABS, polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene and acrylic PMMA are supported, so you can create everything from food-safe packaging prototypes to impact-resistant casings. Your design and technology curriculum will never be the same again.
Priced at just £598, every school can afford the Formbox. And best of all, it comes with everything you need to get started – including 20 cast sheets and 20 form sheets. Sweet.