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Learning to Make and Making to Learn - Building 3D Printers in EDD

I have always had a love-hate relationship with 3D printing. 3D printers are often finicky, require general maintenance, and encourage a lot of 'junk' to be generated. That being said, there is a lot of really good engineering design involved in the 3D printer itself, and there are many useful 3D prints out there (r/functionalprint).

This year, in our Engineering Design and Development course, I decided to start off the year with a class set of Creality Ender3 v2 printers. The Creality Ender3 v2 incorporates many of the enhancements that the community has contributed to the Ender 3 line of 3D printers. The Creality Ender 3 is fully open-source with design files available on github. Over the past year, hundreds of 3D printable add-ons, upgrades, and enhancements have been shared out on the internet. I wanted to use this as an example of how my students can leverage the power of open-source hardware, social media, and learn how to learn on their own.

Our students were given some minimal instructions and pointed in the direction of youtube to assemble, calibrate, level, and print from these tools. Students worked together in groups of 3's and 4's to navigate the included assembly guide and follow support material found on-line.

It took most groups about 3 class periods to finish the full assembly. Giving them this freedom to build, break, and fix on their own has been really empowering. We all learned a lot this past week. A few big take-aways that we learned:

  1. The included sample filament tangles easily. Re-roll it onto a spool or pitch it and use a full spool of new filament.

  2. Bed leveling is an art, but not that difficult when you have the z-axis limit switch set correctly.

  3. Bed leveling is important, but bed adhesion is, too. A little sticky glue goes a very long way to getting a first layer on the bed.

  4. You can't learn about 3D printing without actually letting students worth through the struggles of printing and making mistakes.

  5. In every engineering exercise there is always the debate between make vs. buy. With the vast resource of thingiverse and other on-line repositories, this is even more so. Our focus on this first project was to just get all students familiar with printing and maintaining the tools and knowing what possible designs are available.

We now have six newly built Creality Ender 3 v2 printers in our space and a full class of students that are capable of operating, tuning, and leveling these printers! Each printer has a few unique add-ons and enhancements. I'm excited to see how these printers evolve and get used throughout the year!

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