Jump to content
Ultimaker Community of 3D Printing Experts

Problems to use 3D printing in Schools

Recommended Posts

Hi. I am conducting a small research about 3D printing and the challenges of this technology in schools (primary and secondary). It would be great to have all your opinions and comments about some few questions:

1) If you are a teacher in a school working with 3D printing, what are the main difficulties for your students in using this tool?

2) if you are a teacher in a school working with 3D printing, what are the main difficulties for you to conduct your teaching program or classes?

2) If you are a director or administrative staff, what are the main difficulties for your institution in incorporating this technology for your teaching programs? Are they related with the high cost and number of machines necessary? Is it a matter about lack of skilled staff?

Just share what are your thoughts around these questions.

I am only interested in your opinion, I am not going to collect any of your personal information.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not a teacher, but did spend a year on the teachers education in denmark before opting out and choosing University instead. I have done teaching both as intern during that year and as a full time substitute. I will try to answer your questions, and also add a bit of extra comments.

1. The main problem for students will not be on the software side of making 3d printable files... There are so many tools available today from very simple "doodleing" to highly advanced CAD and anything in between...

Cura can even load simple .jpeg .bmp. .png drawings and extrude them to something printable (though the result may be questionable).

The problem will be on the hardware side, maintaining, adjusting etc. the printer... That part is probably best left to the teacher, or at least a smaller group of interested students under teacher supervision.

2. I never used 3d printing in teaching, but from my experience with anything teaching related I can easily see your biggest problem being time.

3d printing takes A LOT of time... And with kids typically designing fairly crude, non-optimized models, a single print will easily take an hour or more... Now imagine 20 students each wanting their object printed.

It simply cannot be done like that in a live teaching session.

So either the students will have to submit their print to have it printed in between sessions or maybe over night (that means unattended printer at the school which is probably not allowed), its also a shame because it takes away a big part of the fascinating aspects of 3d printing - seeing the object actually being made.

An approach could be study groups of 3-4 students pr. group and some restrictions on estimated print time/material use etc.

This lets the students experiment with various ways of reducing these aspects (simpler design, cruder details in slicing, less infill, etc.)

3. Again, I have never administered a school, but I think a lot of the same aspects as with other creative and "experiment" based school couses (woodshop, physics, chemestry etc.) apply, there is some (fairly expensive equipment to be bought, teachers need to know how it works, how to maintain it, how to order materials etc. for it.

And there is the safety of the children and staff...

Finding a teacher that either already has knowledge about the printer or a personal interest in the field is a huge plus... That teacher having the possibility of eg. bringing the printer home to mess around with in his or her spare time could also be a way of gaining some expertise outside of expensive courses and hours.

I think for it to work you HAVE to still keep the "maker approach" in mind, meaning a teacher has to be able to unclog a nozzle or replace a ptfe tube himself without relying on some expensive service agreement.

Just my 10 cents

Edited by Guest

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

My local middle school got about 4 Ultimakers. They are controlled by the IT department - I trained them and they are pretty good at making prints now. The history teacher's students for example printed a trebuchet from thingiverse.

I think this model worked well because the printers are quite difficult to use. Plus teachers and administrators are scared by things like "hot nozzle" and hand crushing movements.

I think learning to use CAD is more important than learning some printer technology that will change in 1 year anyway.

The biggest problem with 3d printers is they are so slow. So you if you have 25 students design something and you want to print 25 things overnight they can't be much bigger than an inch across each. Laser cutters on the other hand - you can print 25 different designs in one go and in about 2 minutes. You can do it in the last 10 minutes of class.

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Teacher at a high school here. I teach engineering courses, so my students have a fair bit of experience in the CAD world.

1. For students in my experience, there are few barriers in the use of the tools when they use Cura, the basic profiles get them moving, the largest problem would be with supports or when using unique filaments. Most of the prints my students make end up prototyped in PLA and then if tolerances and fit are appropriate then they move to something more appropriate for the need. Nylon, PETG, etc. I would say our largest challenge is getting them to dive into the material properties more, the technology is readily usable by the kids in my opinion.

2. For the teacher perspective, it depends on the angle, for me it is no major problem as I am in control of all of our printers so I can teach my students how to operate them and maintain them and they can take charge of that with supervision. The biggest challenge is managing time for printing if you only have one or two machines.

3. Admin, I am not admin, but have spoken to many about this, I hear the same things come up. One being how do we get our teachers on the same page of how to use this so its useful for more than just engineering and science teachers, and two the concern with long prints and over night printing.

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


probably tommyph1208 did answer well all your questions.

Here in Poland I've started 3D lessons after classes. Great problem is that students do not know 3D printing, 3D modeling and CAD software at all. We have to catch up with the basics first.

Students are excited and they want to learn - that is great.

Main problem is that printing is slow and noisy process. There is also no teacher that know how to use and maintain 3D printer.

3D printer need a room. Also some monitoring (ex. octoprint) is needed. In my school, we cannot leave printer working when leaving. I can take only max. 7h prints. We work on method to pause-resume print with printer off between.

In my school, director has no more difficulties than spare room for printer. Ultimaker is not that expensive. With my lessons we are going to have qualified teachers. Lessons are well prepared, so there is no need to buy many printes.

For me, problem is to make director convinced, that 3D printing is enough awesome, to start after-class courses.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well it's probably safer than leaving a clothes driver running unattended but most schools don't have those either.

Ultimaker tests every printer for fire. Their basic test is to override the software and put full power on the heater for many hours to see what happens. You do get a lot of smoke and metled plastic but no flames. But there are also several safety systems to keep even that from happening.

I don't work for Ultimaker and I've never seen these tests first hand but I've heard them described by UM employees.

They might set off smoke detectors if the circuit board fails and shorts out the heater but they won't start any fires.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

policies keep people from doing their jobs.  I don't like policies unless they are just guidelines and it's okay to ignore them if you have thought it through.


HAHA! Welcome to the wacky world of education. This is common place for us, as sad as it may be, we typically have to work in envelopes created by others who are not educators themselves. The state policy makers typically are not teachers and have not taught before. The only way though it is having an administration who trusts and supports their educators to do what is in the best interest of students, this is not always the case though.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just saw this and wanted to weigh in. I donate printers to schools and support them and assist classes with projects. I have printers in three schools and have seen three different ways that they have been implemented, and these are my observations.

1. You have to have one staff member or a small group of staff who "owns" it. These teachers typically take a day or series of evenings working with me on the printers and learn how to set up, maintain, and troubleshoot them.

2. After school programs are going to see the most beneficial use of the printers. Every kid there is interested in the technology and process. It is too easy for 3D printing to simply become a filler activity in the classroom.

3. The kids are going to learn the CAD faster than the teachers. They were raised in a strictly digital age whereas the teachers as a rule are not. My own kids taught themselves Tinkercad with the tutorials and YouTube videos which is what set me down the path of getting printers to schools. It was amazing to see what they came up with after a few hours of playing with the program.

4. Schools need help. As we've seen in other replies, 3D printing is slow and it takes a long time for a class to go through a cycle of printing an item for everybody. If one of the classes at one of the schools I have printers in is doing a project and reaches out to me, I offer to take a pile of files and throw all my printers at it over a weekend. I have two or three buddies who do the same. As long as the prints are not huge, we can do an entire grade's project at a middle school over a weekend. We do still encourage printing at the school, but without access to more printers, the kids would never have gotten to take home their own designs.


5. Teachers need help finding projects that add to their lesson plan. It is easy for them to see that the printer is engaging and interests kids, but converting that into a meaningful addition to a math course, or history course is much harder. High schools seem to have an easier time as they have more specialized courses, but elementary schools and middle schools have a tougher time of it.

I know this isn't all pertinent to your original questions and I am not the demographic you are looking for, but I've gotten to be part of bringing 3D printing to three schools I provided printers with as well as some other local schools that got printers independently and were referred to me for help with setting them up and integrating them. Overall, the results are scattered. Point one about one or a few staff members "owning" it and getting engaged with it seems to be the determining factor. Of the three printers I donated, the two where I talked to a specific staff member who was interested and thought it would be beneficial are busy all the time and the third collects dust then prints UM robots on back to school night.

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Our picks

    • Ultimaker Cura | a new interface
      We're not only trying to always make Ultimaker Cura better with the usual new features and improvements we build, but we're also trying to make it more pleasant to operate. The interface was the focus for the upcoming release, from which we would already like to present you the first glance. 
        • Like
      • 81 replies
    • "Back To The Future" using Generative Design & Investment Casting
      Designing for light-weight parts is becoming more important, and I’m a firm believer in the need to produce lighter weight, less over-engineered parts for the future. This is for sustainability reasons because we need to be using less raw materials and, in things like transportation, it impacts the energy usage of the product during it’s service life.
        • Like
      • 12 replies

Important Information

Welcome to the Ultimaker Community of 3D printing experts. Visit the following links to read more about our Terms of Use or our Privacy Policy. Thank you!