Prairie Hills Library is excited to have a Lulzbot Mini 3D Printer. We obtained our 3D printer in May of 2016 after being awarded funds through the Innovative Learning Grant for our proposal titled "Creative Engineering through Tinkercad and 3D Printing". Schools who were looking at ways to offer Gifted and Talented students innovative learning opportunities were eligible to apply for this grant.
In the 2016-17 school year, Gifted and Talented students in the grade levels targeted in the grant proposal were invited to attend an after-school Makers and Builders Club where they explored different engineering and technology skills, including 3D print modeling. Numerous students learned how to create their own digital 3D printing files using a free online program called Tinkercad.
What is a 3D Printer?
A 3D printer is a machine that can read the code of a digital 3D print file, which gives the machine the instructions to "print" or build up a thin stream of melted filament (often plastic) layer by layer to create a given object. The filament we use at Prairie Hills are various forms and colors of spooled plastic that are fed into the machine. The machine then melts the plastic to a liquid state so it can be extruded (pushed out) in the pattern necessary to create the object. While this is happening, both the extruder and the "bed" (flat surface underneath the object) move along an X and Y axis so that the melted filament is in precisely the right spot to create the object. The melted filament rapidly cools as soon as it is extruded so that it creates a solid plastic object. 3D printing is not instant or fast. A very small object the size of a marshmallow might take about an hour to print, and medium to large objects will take anywhere from two to eighteen hours depending on their size.
Who Can Use the 3D Printer?
Learning to create 3D print files is a time consuming process that takes many hours to learn. The free program that is most appropriate for elementary students is called Tinkercad. Prairie Hills students who are wishing to learn how to create 3D print files as a personal, independent study on their own time are encourage to create an account with Tinkercad under their parents' guidance at home. (Advice from Mrs. Cervera: Ask your parents if they can help you set up Tinkercad account with them that is for a user over the age of 13. There seem to be some barriers placed on the "under 13" accounts that make it difficult or impossible to use those accounts for more than a week or so.) Students can then work through a few hours of tutorial lessons on the site. After completing the tutorials, students should have an understanding of how to create a viable 3D print file and then are eligible to work on a 3D file to show to Mrs. Cervera.
How Do I Get Mrs. Cervera to Print My File?
Students who have gone through the process of completing the tutorials and making a 3D print file may request to make an appointment with Mrs. Cervera to show her their 3D print file. If it determined that the object is appropriate and can be printed on our 3D printer, Mrs. Cervera will attempt to print the student's file.
Can Anything Go Wrong When Trying to Print a File?
It is important to note that there are numerous glitches that can occur when using the 3D printer. Some 3D print files cannot be successfully printed due to their size, angles, overhang, lack of support structure, or other issues. Oftentimes there is a "trial and error" process involved in successfully printing a file. Other factors related to the equipment itself can also affect the print's outcome, such as temperature, humidity, adhesion, leveling and a variety of mechanical issues.
We are excited to be on the cutting-edge of 3D printer technology at Prairie Hills.
This student created a model of his house: