Best 3D Printers for Schools (Under $500)

One new technology you can leverage in the classroom that is a sure-fire way to get kids interested is to use any sort of 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 you to use your new 3D printer and how it may powerfully assist your students in growing, prospering and learning.

We will also break down are the specifications you’ll need to understand as well as the pros and cons for each in class model to choose from. If the characteristics become daunting, I’ve included descriptions of each model’s uses so you can see which one 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 in a 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 teach others, or simply experimenting with the concept are all examples of how it might be utilized. Let’s now take a look at the top three 3D printers for school usage.

  • Creality Ender
  • Dremel from Digilab
  • Anycubic Mega S
  • Voxelab Aquila 3D Printer
  • Flash Forge 3D Printer
  • X-Max

Creality Ender – Best overall choice for under $500

I was expecting a lot from this 3D printer and it completely lived up to my expectations. The Mendelmax 2 was our first foray into the world of 3D printing. We found that it was just too difficult and complicated to set up and begin producing properly. The Creality Ender by contrast was simple and easy to use for a complete beginner.

First off, the majority of the structure is pre-assembled, with the exception of the vertical components. It’s well planned out in every detail. If you’ve ever used a 3D printer before, this will be a snap. If it’s you’re first time with a 3d printer 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 stronger 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 but 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

  • The basic model is available for $200, while the “pro” version costs under $300.
  • The quality of the print is excellent, and it even produces photos comparable to more pricey printers.
  • Has a thriving and growing community.

Cons

  • Great for beginners, not ideal for more professional use.

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) greater than usual and the removable glass build plate makes it simpler to remove the component (which is really helpful for with 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 printed using a heated bed AND an active cooled extruder. The enclosure is completely closed, which means it generates a lot less noise. It makes it suitable for use in even a teaching lab where the noise produced may be heard but not intrusive.

Dremel’s filament comes pre-installed 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 supports all impact print time. For individuals who are unfamiliar with 3D printing, there are several excellent YouTubers and websites that provide a wealth of information on how to design and support an item properly in order 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 2 screws that you may adjust to level it. The machine will inform you if the machine is out of level and whether or not there are any more adjustments to make. To level most machines, the amount of manipulation required is significant and cumbersome.

The smart CPAP machine is controlled by an LED backlit touch screen, making setup and usage a breeze. It has a 1080P camera inside and can be used to view your home via the internet once it’s set up. This isn’t a live video, but every 10 or so seconds, there appears to be a still image of your construction process.

Pros

  • Advanced features ideal for university level applications.
  • It’s quite and can run in the background while you’re continuing with the lesson.
  • High quality prints.

Cons

  • This device may be cost prohibitive for some.
  • You’ll need a specific type of filament from Dremel.

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. Despite the fact that the fans are a bit noisier than others, they have yet to burn out. The ultrabase is an excellent product, as well. There is no tape, glue, or hairspray required and it rarely needs to be leveled. Just wait for it to cool before removing the design.

If you’re a beginner, an expert, or simply searching for the best machine to start a farm at a low cost, we strongly recommend this piece of equipment. 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

  • Simply one of the best starter 3d printers for beginners.
  • Quality of the output is much higher than you would expect from this tier of product.

Cons

  • Customer support for this product was non-existent from our experience. Run-a-round replies to our general inquiries.

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

When we discovered a printer that not only matched, but actually outperformed the Ender 3 in terms of usefulness in a few specific ways we were quite surprised. The screen is not a touch display, but between the UI and settings, there isn’t much room for improvement.

The design of this 3D printer is fantastic and the print quality was 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 silent driver, has a number of community modifications such as belt tensioners and a relocated power supply. The cable management on the Ender 3 was great and like the Anycube has logical, well designed power management in terms of continuing printing after a power outage.

Pros

  • An overall quality budget printer for in classroom use.
  • Easy to assemble and take apart.
  • Good power management.

Cons

  • With lower priced printers you run the risk of build quality issues. We experienced no such issues, however we only use our model for a week.
  • No cutters included for the fillament. No a huge deal breaker though.

Flash Forge Adventure 3D Printer – Glass build machine

The Flash Forge Adventure has 100% genuine borosilicate glass to help avoid edge curling and to 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 quite 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 to be fantastic for beginners and students in high school due to it’s low-cost and that it features a small build area. The printer itself however is a bit large, but not any bigger than an old box TV or microwave.

This printer performs well and has functioned properly 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 through adjusting the settings. If you’re just getting started 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 great low-cost printer.

Pros

  • Affordable, beginner friendly printer.
  • Glass build and comes with helpful software you can download.
  • Quite when in operation.

Cons

  • Limited spool size.

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 was contained in a thick box, which was 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 tool box. The set 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 it’s 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 print 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 there are two build plates and they vary slightly in thickness, we wanted to be able to make a profile with the correct offset for each one.

But a week later 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

  • Best customer support we’ve experienced.
  • Removable plates and good build quality.
  • Larger than other printers and more ideal for complicated projects.

Cons:

  • Print speeds are a bit slow at 50mm a second.
  • No way to monitor your printer with a computer.
  • You need to use an SD card to add a 3D print model.

3D Printers for School – Conclusion

3D printers are not terribly expensive and are an interesting and engaging device 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, but with a beginner friendly printer and some filament you can easily get started creating some interesting models your students will love.