3D Printer Workflow for Education: A Safe Gateway to Innovation in Education
3D printing stands as a leader in technological advancement. Because it gives students the potential to create and innovate, it's becoming common to find 3D printing in schools, universities, and other educational settings. It’s already been used to reshape design and manufacturing approaches, and now it's equipping students and educators with hands-on learning experiences that used to be out of reach.
As 3D printing becomes more of a standard practice, it also becomes more important to understand and appreciate the safety concerns associated with it. And again, this is especially necessary in the context of educational settings like universities and K-12 classrooms. The good news is that most 3D printing in these settings involves materials like PLA (Polylactic Acid), which is known for being both safe and relatively easy to use.
3D Printing STEM Projects: Assessing the Safety of PLA in Educational 3D Printing
PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources like cornstarch or sugarcane. It's the most commonly used material in educational 3D printing for several reasons:
- Low Emission of Fumes: Unlike materials like ABS, PLA emits minimal fumes when heated. This makes it a safer choice in environments with limited ventilation, such as classrooms.
- Lower Printing Temperatures: PLA can be printed at lower temperatures, reducing the risk of burns and injuries associated with heated components of the 3D printer.
- Biodegradable and Non-toxic: PLA is environmentally friendly and safe for students to handle, reducing concerns about chemical exposure.
STEM 3D Printing Projects: Implementing Safe 3D Printing Practices in Education
While PLA significantly reduces many risks, adhering to general safety protocols remains important. Here's how schools and universities can ensure a safe and enriching 3D printing experience:
Supervised Use: Ensure 3D printers are operated under the supervision of trained personnel. Students should be closely monitored to prevent mishandling.
Adequate Ventilation: While PLA is safer, maintaining good air circulation is still beneficial. Simple ventilation solutions can be effective.
Safety Gear: Encourage the use of safety glasses and gloves as precautionary measures, especially when handling the printer's moving parts or during post-processing.
General Safety Rules: Maintain a safe distance from operating printers, avoid distractions around them, and ensure the printer has cooled down before touching any components.
Regular Maintenance and Inspection: Regular checks can prevent electrical and mechanical issues, ensuring the printer's safe operation.
Material Awareness: Educate students and staff about different filament types. Emphasize the use of PLA in educational settings due to its safety profile.
Embracing 3D Printing with Confidence
Just like 3D printing is changing standard manufacturing processes, it is also revolutionizing education. The biggest change is how it's providing teachers with a hands-on approach. With materials like PLA, the safety concerns traditionally associated with 3D printing are significantly mitigated, making it a highly suitable technology for educational environments.
By following basic safety protocols and focusing on safe materials, teachers can have confidence in enabling students to create and learn.