Best 3D Printers for Schools (Under $500)

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 05/14/23 •  Teaching Tools

One new technology you can leverage in the classroom that is a surefire way to get kids interested is to use any technology in your lesson to keep your young learners engaged. As a teacher, our schools are increasingly incorporating technology into our daily operations; one such is a 3d printer.

A 3D printer is a piece of technology that constructions a three-dimensional object from either a CAD or digital model. In this post, I’ll go through our top three 3D printer brands, some of which you can get for under $500!

We will cover what to look for in a 3d printer to help you make a purchase decision, as well as go over other methods for using your new 3D printer and how it may powerfully assist your students in growing, prospering, and learning.

We will also break down the specifications you’ll need to understand and the pros and cons of each in-class model. If the characteristics become daunting, I’ve included descriptions of each model’s uses to see which is most appropriate for your teaching style.

What can 3d printing offer students?

3D printing offers schools and students a broad range of possibilities. The capacity to go from an idea to a real-life product via a computer and a 3D printer has not been easily accessible to schools as cost-effective as it is today.

Schools must take advantage of this new method. Extra-curricular activities, allowing students to exhibit their knowledge and understanding by building a tangible model to assist in teaching others or simply experimenting with the concept, are all examples of how it might be utilized. Let’s look at the top three 3D printers for school usage.

Creality Ender – Best overall choice for under $500

I was expecting a lot from this 3D printer, which ultimately met my expectations. The Mendelmax 2 was our first foray into the world of 3D printing. We found that it needed to be easier and simpler to set up and begin producing correctly. The Creality Ender, by contrast, was simple and easy to use for a beginner.

First, most of the structure is pre-assembled, except for the vertical components. It’s well planned out in every detail. This will be a snap if you’ve ever used a 3D printer. If you’re with a 3d printer for the first time, It will take longer, particularly if you’re not mechanically or electronically inclined.

We got the pro version with the extra power supply and a more robust build plate/surface. Bed leveling and print adhesion were my #1 issue with the Mendelmax 2 we used. However, printing PLA on this c-magnet surface was a dream come true. Prints adhere to it tenaciously, and when they cool, there is no issue with adhesion.

Some others have mentioned that performing level adjustments on the Ceality Ender can be time-consuming, and some have claimed that a plate that isn’t perfectly flat causes a production problem. Still, I believe this has something to do with the y-carriage’s connection below, resulting in a slight bow in the bed plate. Overall, for an under $500 printer, this device was excellent for the money.

Pros

Cons

Dremel from Digilab – The university level printer

This is a top-of-the-line “higher education/university quality” printer. The build volume on this printer is (10 x 6 x 6.7 inches) more significant than usual, and the removable glass build plate makes it simpler to remove the component (which is helpful for cleaning).

It features a heated bed, allowing you to print Nylon and Eco-ABS. ABS shrinks by 4.8 percent and peels away from the build plate in long parts or high elements if it is not published using a heated bed AND an actively cooled extruder. The enclosure is entirely closed, which generates much less noise. It makes it suitable for use in a teaching lab where the noise produced may be heard but not intrusive.

Dremel’s filament comes with an RFID tag that allows the machine to automatically identify the material type and change bed temperature and extruder temperatures. Overwriting this is an option technically, but it’s a good start for most printing jobs.

Print times are comparable to any other 3D printer with the same level of accuracy. The complexity of the model, the amount of material used, and the necessity for support all impact print time. For individuals unfamiliar with 3D printing, several excellent YouTubers and websites provide a wealth of information on how to design and support an item properly for it to print.

Keep in mind that you’re building an object one layer at a time using some sort of extrudable substance. The Dremel also has a self-leveling wheel. It has two screws that you may adjust to level it. The machine will inform you if the device is out of class and whether or not there are any more adjustments to make. The amount of manipulation required to level most machinesis significant and cumbersome.

An LED-backlit touch screen controls The innovative CPAP machine, making setup and usage a breeze. It has a 1080P camera inside and can be used to view your home online once it’s set up. This isn’t a live video, but there appears to be a still image of your construction process every ten seconds.

Pros

Cons

Anycube Mega S – Good option for elementary schools

The quality of the output from this printer is incredible. The prints are clean and smooth (as long as you’ve got your slicer settings correct). The hot end has never clogged or flowed well. Even though the fans are a bit noisier than others, they have yet to burn out. Ultrabase is an excellent product, as well. No tape, glue, or hairspray is required, and it rarely needs to be leveled. You can just wait for it to cool before you remove the design.

We strongly recommend this equipment if you’re a beginner, an expert, or simply searching for the best machine to start a farm at a low cost. If you’re shopping for your first 3D printer, this is the one to get. If you already have a 3D printer and are considering adding to it, this is also a good choice.

Last, it comes built-in with helpful features like being able to continue printing after a power outage, and the sensors pause printing when you run out of filament, continuing from where they left off so you don’t waste time and money on 3D printing.

Pros

Cons

Voxelab Aquila 3D Printer – The best alternative to the Ender

We were pretty surprised when we discovered a printer that matched and outperformed the Ender 3 in terms of usefulness in a few specific ways. The screen is not a touch display, but there is little room for improvement between the UI and settings.

The design of this 3D printer is fantastic, and the print quality is superb. The E3+ comes with baby stepping (Z height adjustment while printing) already included through its well-designed user interface. Print quality was comparable to other Ender 3s.

The printer is preinstalled with the silent driver and has several community modifications, such as belt tensioners and a relocated power supply. The cable management on the Ender 3 was excellent, and like the Anycube has logical, well-designed power management in terms of continuing printing after a power outage.

Pros

Cons

Flash Forge Adventure 3D Printer – Glass build machine

The Flash Forge Adventure has 100% genuine borosilicate glass to help avoid edge curling and provide flatness. In addition, their website has software called “Flash Print” that can be downloaded and used with the printer, which is both easy to use and intuitive. The overall build quality of the printer is outstanding as it is well-sealed, includes a heated bed, and is relatively quiet when in operation.

However, there are a few things to consider. One of our teachers who instruct their students with 3D printers found this brand fantastic for beginners and high school students because it’s low-cost and features a small build area. However, The printer is a bit large, but only as big as an old box TV or microwave.

This printer performs well and has adequately functioned as you would expect. Occasionally, large prints like this have minor flaws, but through trial and error, you can quickly understand what is required to achieve your desired printing outcome by adjusting the settings. If you’re starting with any 3d printer for the first time, remember that patience is a virtue, so start with something simple to create.

The biggest problem we experienced was with the filament; it doesn’t support a 1kg spool. However, you can buy an expander to enable support for this spool size. Overall, this machine’s filament loading and unloading are also excellent, and it is a superb low-cost printer.

Pros

Cons

X-Max 3d printer – Reliable Prototype

This is a fantastic machine with responsive and helpful customer service. We’ve used this machine for over 15 days straight each day. The 3D printer was packed well and contained in a thick box, further protected by closed-cell foam.

It included a complete spool of red PLA, two spring steel flexible build plates, and an impressive set of instruments in a toolbox. The collection of documentation and software for this device was some of the best we have seen with a 3D printer. Also included was a Toshiba USB thumb drive with the documentation on it. Last, it comes with WiFi setup instructions that are easy to follow.

The Qidi print software has gone through a few versions since its release and is built on CURA. It supports WiFi printing to the device, and when you’re using Qidi print, you can see how your final image will look on the machine’s display.

It works well, and the included profiles are excellent. When utilizing the program, we did notice that it lacked Z offset functionality, which is available in Simplify3D. Because the two build plates vary slightly in thickness, we wanted to make a profile with the correct offset for each one.

But a week after noticing this issue, they updated the software and added the function we wanted. Compared to other software developers and 3D printers, our experience with their support has been nothing less than professional and responsive.

Pros

Cons:

3D Printers for School – Conclusion

3D printers are not expensive and are exciting and engaging devices to use in the classroom. You can teach your students multiple lessons with the technology that goes into creating a 3D model into a physical item. There is always a learning curve with any new device. Still, with a beginner-friendly printer and some filament, you can quickly create attractive models your students will love.

Editorial Staff

I'm David Unwin and I head the editorial staff here at Teach and GO. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I and my team now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more.