While there are plenty of subjects that are easily adaptable to remote learning, when it comes to more practical subjects - engineering, art and design, for instance - things can get a little bit tricky. 3D printing has been adopted by many educators, because it allows students to prototype, iterate, and prepare themselves for the future of manufacturing.
So, Covid or not, there’s still learning to be done. Students are heading back to school and perhaps now more than ever it’s vital that we practice social distancing and wear the right PPE gear, to try and keep a lid on infection rates.
But how can educators remotely manage 3D printers and stick to social distancing guidelines?
Managing 3D Print Projects: The Pre-Covid Way
Before we dive into the solution, let’s take a look at how things have happened in the “before times” and why it’s not really a viable solution, at least not for the immediate future.
People in a room together: 3D printers are, typically, clustered together in a class, meaning not only are students and educators having to be in a room together, they might be forced within 6 feet of one another.
Now, you could maybe get around this by having students and educators interact with the 3D printers individually, but this quickly becomes impractical and time consuming. Maybe you could spread the 3D printers further around the faculty? But then that presents another set of challenges and makes managing and maintaining them less practical.
Communal surfaces: Like any practical subject, 3D printing involves a lot of touching. Touching computers for slicing and setup. Touching SD cards and handing them to one another. Touching panels and build plates on the printers themselves.
So, not only is everyone in a confined space together, they’re forced to get hands-on and touch a lot of shared surfaces. While providing every student with their own computer is certainly a viable solution to get around the risks of shared computers, providing everyone with their own 3D printer is less so. You could also enforce rigorous disinfection procedures, to make sure every surface gets cleaned between uses, but as we know, it’s perilously easy for someone to get complacent or simply forget.
Managing 3D Print Projects: The Post-Covid Approach
Socially distant 3D printing: With a cloud-based 3D printing solution, students don’t have to be in the same room to print their projects. They don’t even need to be in the same country. Students simply log in to their dashboard, upload and prepare their designs, and when they’re ready, add them to the print queue.
An on-site print lab technician can then monitor and manage the student’s print projects. And once the print jobs are completed, the technician can retrieve the parts so they can be delivered to students or, more practically, have students come and collect them from a safe location - much like going to collect a food order from a restaurant.
This means students get the valuable, practical experience of creating designs and testing out prototypes using 3D printers, but they also get to do it from the safety of their own residence. The students themselves stay safe and educators and technicians are also protected from potential risks.
Implementing Socially Distant 3D Printer Management
3DPrinterOS enables educators to continue guiding their students, and manage 3D print projects while keeping everyone involved safe.
To get started, all you need to do is create an account and connect your lab’s 3D printers (3DPrinterOS supports an extensive list of 3D printing hardware, but if you don’t see your hardware on there, you can request an integration).
Students can then create their accounts, while educators and admins retain full control over permissions, like print quotas for example. With their accounts setup and permissions set, students can now securely upload their designs to 3DPrinterOS. All of this can happen from any machine, anywhere in the world. Your students only need access to a web browser and an internet connection.
Once successfully uploaded, the designs are stored safe and sound ready for the next step: slicing. Again, the students don’t need to be on-site to slice and set up their prints, everything happens from the safety of the cloud, within the 3DPrinterOS dashboard.
Since 2015, 3DPrinterOS has been helping educators around the world manage large-scale 3D printing projects safely and cost effectively, by giving them powerful, simple tools to take the hassle and expense out of 3D printer management, so they can focus on doing what they do best: educating future generations of engineers, designers, and creators.
If you want to see how easily 3DPrinterOS can integrate with your faculties 3D printing lab, book a demo today and we’ll show you how to run 3D printing projects while maintaining safe, social distancing practices.