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Saturday, November 8, 2014

The First Steps of 3D Printing

When I ran into Loretta Shake, the LMS of North Oldham Middle School, at EdcampKY a few weeks ago, I was happy to catch up with a former colleague.  But when she revealed that her library recently acquired a 3D printer, I was all ears.

Loretta is an educator with 27 years of experience.   She has been at NOMS for the last 16 years, 15 of those as their library media specialist.  Ms. Shake was kind enough to take a picture for this entry, shoot a video of the 3D printer in action, and last but not least participate in the interview below.  If you are considering getting one of these in the near future, her information and advice will be extremely helpful!

Hello!  Let's start with telling us the process of getting the 3D printer in the first place.

I had knowledge of the MakerBot 3D printer; however, while attending ISTE this summer I found out about Afinia. In talking with their reps I learned they sell refurbished models for $500 which I felt was a great price since I wasn’t sure how I was going to integrate it into instruction. I think most of the small models like I have generally start at $1,299.  I used technology funds that we had from fundraisers. I had to get approval from our DTC [District Technology Coordinator] prior to purchasing.

Once you get past the initial price, what is the maintenance of the printer like?  How much does the filament cost?

So far maintenance has been easy. The filament does come on a spool. Each spool averages about $40. I have been allowing students to sign up to have things printed. Afinia suggests the cost be figured by the weight of the object times .06 per gram.   However, I upped the price to .15 per gram. I have received great support from Afinia when I couldn’t figure out something.

How long does it take to print an object?  Is it loud while it prints?

Several factors determine the amount of time it takes to print. The size of the object and how you “fill” it. You can fill it solid, hollow, or loose. [A large solid object could take a few hours or longer.] It is not loud while printing until the end when it beeps to let you know the print job is complete.

Here is a video, taken by Loretta, of her printer in action:

How have students and teachers reacted to it? 

Most have been amazed. It has become a focal point for the library. Students will stand and watch it print, others ask how they can print something. Most think it’s cool our school has a 3D printer.  

 I imagine you are getting a lot of "whoa!"

It has been a “whoa” factor for the most part. I have had students print things for a project. I have asked 7th grade and art teachers to collaborate with me when they do their geometry unit. There is a free program called TurtleArt that allows students to create geometric shapes. We would then print them 3D so they can take them to art class to press in clay and paint.

What websites or online resources for the 3D printer would you recommend?

We use to search for most of our models. MakerBot offers some great tutorial type videos. has a free online program to create your own 3D objects.

Any advice for other LMS's wanting to get a 3D printer for their own library?

I would suggest you spring for a refurbished model like I did to gain support and once you can find ways to integrate into instruction then you can invest in a larger model. I plan on creating a MakerSpace in my library and teaching students how to print all on their own.

The finished product.

Ms. Shake, I can't thank you enough for your time!

Questions about 3D printers?  Do you have expertise or experiences with 3D printing you want to share?  Comment below!

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