Learning How to 3D Print

I’m a 3D printing newbie. But our next unit in Digital Media will couple 3D printing with design thinking, so I have an immediate need for learning how to use this technology. Plus, in learning how to utilize a 3D printer with my own students, I wonder how I might cascade this understanding to other teachers, so that they might use it with their students.

So, last week I met with a colleague, Jim Tiffin, who kindly spent time showing me how to use our Ultimaker 2 Go and brainstorming project ideas with me.Ultimaker-2-Go-heroIt’s amazing how much chemistry is involved with 3D printing. For instance, I had no idea there are different types of filaments (the plastic material the printer “prints” with). The Ultimaker 2 Go uses PLA, which is the same kind of recyclable plastic that strawberry and blueberry containers are made from. PLA is easy to print with, so for prototypes at the middle school level, it’s perfect. The other kind of filament, ABS, is more durable and it’s typically the kind of plastic associated with Legos. But ABS is a little more complicated to use, requiring more precise temperatures at each step in the printing process and giving off some funky fumes.

Another piece of 3D printing I hadn’t considered was exactly what happens when the first piece of filament drops onto the print bed. Sometimes filament doesn’t do what we want it to do because the temperature difference is too great between the “hot end” of the printer and the relative coolness of the print bed. PLA filament is less sensitive to temperature, so our 3D printer does not have a heated print bed. To help the first layer adhere to the glass print bed, we use painters’ tape (masking tape might work well too). In addition, most printers will use a raft or a skirt to help make sure the first layer of a print goes down smoothly and solidly.

Beyond knowing how to use the 3D printer Рwhich is actually super simple РI need to learn how to use two key pieces of software: Tinkercad and Cura.  Tinkercad is where we will design our objects to be printed. Cura is where we will fine-tune the designs in preparation for printing on the Ultimaker.

So, my homework today is to check out the following resources…

The Ultimaker app for my phone

Tinkercad’s YouTube channel

Ultimaker’s YouTube channel

What other resources should I be looking into to learn more about 3D printing with Tinkercad, Cura, and the Ultimaker 2 Go?




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