Once a staple found only in laboratories and schools, 3D printers, which create three-dimensional objects, are now affordable, educational tools for home use. And what kid wouldn’t love the instant gratification of holding an object they’ve just imagined in their hands? So which 3D printers for the home might be right for your family?
What’s to Love About 3D Printers
“3D printers allow kids to easily design objects in the real world,” Adam Singer, a maker educator in Northern California, tells Parentology. “They also allow kids to see their digital designs take physical form, allowing them to touch and experiment with their creation.”
Singer adds the best projects he’s seen are ones where the final object has a specific purpose. “When the purpose is clear, kids can apply their design thinking to bring useful and unique objects into the world.”
The size of a small box, 3D printers fit easily on a desk or countertop. Most entry-level printers use filament, an inexpensive, thread-like plastic that’s non-toxic and easy to work with. Whatever kids, or adults, imagine – animals, cars, airplanes, action-figures – is created in a software program, then produced into a physical 3-D object by merely pressing print.
In his years of teaching with 3D printers, Singer says he’s seen kids design any and everything: custom chess pieces, phone stands, replacement parts for toys and scale models, just to name a few.
Another benefit of 3D printers, according to Singer, is how they introduce kids to digital design. “Many kids who may struggle with precision in physical, or paper and pencil drawing, often excel in precision when using digital tools.”
3D Printers Befitting Your Family
Parentology found some great beginner 3D printers with price points under $500 (see recommendations below).
Most models come with one color of filament. Other colors can be purchased separately.
Keep in mind 3D printing is not quick. Depending on the size of the design, a print might take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. Watching a design come to life, though, is exciting and worth the wait.
Creality3D CR-100 looks like the front of a big rig. Regularly $199.99 we found it on sale for $159.99. It comes in four fun colors — red, blue, yellow or orange. This printer uses filament, which must be purchased separately.
da Vinci miniMaker Cute and colorful, this 3D printer can be found at Best Buy and Walmart for $169.95. Some packages come with filament and design software.
M3D Micro 3D Printer This is a great printer for beginners. Selling on M3D’s website for $279, this printer comes with software and filament.
Anycubic i3 Mega S is another entry-level 3D printer. On sale for $249, this printer has a touch screen. Filament and software are not included.