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3D printer for school

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I am putting together a grant for our elementary school to purchase a 3D printer. I am not trying to start a 'which is best' thread but I will offer my current thoughts and ask for constructive comments from those in the know.

Criteria: Fairly reliable with minimal tinkering (as mentioned, this will be set up as part of a 4th & 5th grade STEM program).

Design: SketchUp Pro, since there is a NYS free license available to all public schools

System: I am heavily leaning toward the Ultimaker 2


1. Could someone provide me with a list of spare parts that are needed for this system? Nozzles, heaters... anything that a typical user finds is a much needed spare

2. Which material is easier/ more forgiving to build with, PLA or ABS?

3. Are there any must do upgrades that should be done prior to setting this up in the school.

I understand material wise the answer is 'it depends' but on average if we wanted to print each kid a small robot, how much material would be needed for 30 kids? This goes to my question of how much material should I keep on hand.

Thanks and I am sure I will have a ton more questions as I go.

As background, I have been using powder metal laser systems for the past 10 years but new to plastic extruded.


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Not to burst your bubble but these hobbyist type printers are always going to require tinkering. However, that said, the UM2 is probably one of the printers that require the least amount. But these simply aren't devices that you plug in and go.

In general, I think the only consumable is really the plastic. Nothing else really wears but others might be more helpful as I have a UM1 and the UM2 might be more likely to need spares such as nozzles. With months of heavy use, you might need to replace the belts. Nozzles get clogged so having extras would save you class time should the nozzle clog. Actually, I'm not sure how easy the nozzle on a UM2 can be swapped... On a UM1 it's easy.

I think PLA is better for your needs. ABS requires special considerations like higher temperatures and it is more difficult to get it to stick to the build plate. Also, larger models in ABS require a chamber to keep the print warm to prevent it from cracking and delaminating.

For upgrades, again I defer to UM2 owners, However, I'm willing to bet they say you should print a better material feeder.

For the last question, actually it doesn't depend on too many things. What you can to is download Cura for free from the UM site and configure it for the UM2 and PLA. Then load a model and Cura will give you an estimate on the weight of plastic needed. Most filament comes in 750 gram spools. So take the estimate from Cura and add 50% for waste and failed prints and then figure out how many prints 750 grams will provide. I don't know how accurate it is but just to get a rough idea, scan the manual for screens of the little UM robot and there will be estimates at the top.


It looks like the little robot takes about 4 grams so with waste lets say 6 grams so you would probably get something like 100+ little UM robots out of one spool of PLA,

Sites like youmagine.com also provide weight of material required:


Take my opinions with a grain of salt. I'm sure others can provide you with more definitive guidance.


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+1 for PLA as the easiest print material... I also have a UM1, but If you go with the UM2, from reading the forums, I will say that you would probably want to print a new feeder (check the "Modifications and Hacks" section) and maybe a low-friction spool holder...

If any of the very young children of the school should ever get the chance to play with it as well, you should consider the Doodle3d that Ultimaker also sells here on the site:


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"1. Could someone provide me with a list of spare parts that are needed for this system? Nozzles, heaters... anything that a typical user finds is a much needed spare"

-> 2x PTFE Coupler (or get 1x Hot end pack and 1xPTFE coupler) after around 1100 hours of printing with the UM2 and knowing what I know now only the PTFE coupler fails

"2. Which material is easier/ more forgiving to build with, PLA or ABS? "


-> PLA


"3. Are there any must do upgrades that should be done prior to setting this up in the school. "


-> #1 if there is temperature variation and/or underextrusion, have a look on this link: http://umforum.ultimaker.com/index.php?/topic/6517-um2-temperature-vary/

If this works well, I can imagine there is no need to change to iRoberts extruder

-> #2 it could be resoldering is necessary but I am sure you are capable to fix it.


Re software, have a look at openscad, too.


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My apologies for the short reply, but I'd stay away from ABS, especially since the fumes are not the healthiest. I also work with kids and print PLA exclusively(or Colorfab XT which is also save).

As for the robot question. I printed 25 of these with 3 kilo of PLA. Note that I had some failed overnight prints that cost quite some material, and there was plenty left for kids to design some stuff too.



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Klausz has it right, the main thing to have if you would chose one would be extra ptfe coupler.

You can get an extra nozzle which is nice to have if you get a clog but isn't as near as a problem if any as the ptfe part :)

Note:I have printed over 1000hrs on um2 and I have yet to have any major issues other than the ptfe spacer (the printer still ran with the ptfe issue, I just had to print slower until I made a new custom one)

Also for material go PLA, lower temperatures less deformation, better for the environment. But, it is nice to have varieties of materials. I stock extra materials that have better strength characteristics. I make the tests out of pla then move onto abs or nylon depending how it goes.

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If you want minimal fumes and smell, use HIPS. It prints easily and does not stink when printing.

If you plan to put in in a classroom, save yourself endless screwing around and do not buy an Ultimaker.

A Printrbot Simple Metal or an Afinia would be much less prone to student goofs, and half the cost. Check the Make Magazine annual 3D printer issue for recommendations.

You probably want the Just Hit Print category. Note that the Ultimaker 2 is in Not in that Category.

For software, use tinkercad.com - it's free, and much less complex than Sketchup, which is really not a good tool for 3D printing, as it does a miserable job of producing .stl files, the lingua franca of 3D printers.


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Excellent information. I appreciate all the replies. I will certainly look into the Printbot as well. I am trying to make this as easy and fun for the students (and myself). This will be linited to 4th and 5th grade at this point but who knows. I have a fair bit of reading to do now.

Thanks again and I am sure I will have other questions to follow.


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Hello brownIO2

I know that this is an old thread, but if you have not already got your printer, I would suggest that you have a look at the new UM2 GO. It is simply a more compact version of UM2. There is no heated plate so not good for ABS (which you probably will not use anyway) but it may be better in the class room.

Regardless of the printer that you use, there are a group of Ultimaker people in England specialising in taking 3D printing to schools. Have a look at their web site at http://www.createeducation.co.uk . I don't know if they have an American division.

Hope this helps.



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i'll add a second note the the "jonny come lately" posts.

For almost 2 years now I've been using 3 different brands of printers with a K-6 building and the Ultimaker original is by far the best (vs. type A machines and MakerGear M2), we restricted our search to only open source printers so Afina would not have made the cut.

PLA is what you want to use where there are kids around and you do not have a fume hood.

I use openSCAD with the kids it's great.

more about "why Ultimaker" can be found here:


To sum up, the Ultimaker printers strike a perfect balance between reliability, durability and cost. They meet the most important selection criteria (for schools) IMHO:

1. Low downtime and everything end user serviceable. (When the printer is down no one is happy.)

2. Precision and accuracy (To insure that all kids get a good print of their model, the 1st model should be just as nice as the 500th model)

3. Speed and Build Volume (When printing for a class of over 25 kids, you need to print several objects at a time. The 8x8x8inch build volume allows for that.)

4. PLA printing (non-toxic fumes and bio-degradable)

5. Open Source (No limits to student’s involvement and depth or tinkering.)


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I think most stuff is already said. I just like to add that I'd not use Sketchup for Design, and give Tinkercad a try. I initiated and supported many school projects over here in Switzerland, and the kids just love Tinkercad. It's playful and just easy to use, and it produces good 3d printable models. Sketchup is known not to produce clean 3d printable models because it was not initially designed with 3d printing in mind. See more information about the projects here: https://en.3drucken.ch/school-projects

We use Ultimaker Original printers in the school projects, because they are pure workhorses compared to Ultimaker 2. They are stable and very reliable. We run 5 Ultimaker Original for 2-3 years now and we didn't have to replace much. In one year with 2 Ultimaker 2 printers, we had to replace many nozzles and ptfe couplers.

1) Spare parts if you go with UM2: Heater block, Nozzles, PTFE Coupler, Heater and Temperature Sensor Cartridges, Print head fans.

2) I'd also stay with PLA, it's easy to print and also save.

3) I'd upgrade the nozzle to a 3dSolex custom heater block, so you can easily exchange nozzles without having to dismount the whole printhead as it is the case when using Ultimaker 2 original heater block/nozzle.

As also already said, I think it's important to say, that there's a need and also a benefit of knowing how to fix a broken 3d printer. If you build it by yourself with some collegue the school will already have 2 people really carring about the printer(s).

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