How to manage students, 3D printers and data at scale

Aaron from our team had the chance to speak at and attend the Construct 3D conference this past weekend in Atlanta, GA. Here is the presentation from his talk on “How to manage students, 3d printers and data at scale“. We will be posting more content from this event over the next few days on the 3DPrinterOS blog.

How to manage students, 3D printers and data at scale from Aaron Roy

Some highlights from the talk:

  • 3D printing is still not a simple IT technology that can be deployed similar to a fleet of PC’s or Macbooks. I can hand a student a computer and they will know how to write a paper but we can’t just hand a 3d printer to a student and cross our fingers that it will succeed. As many of the other awesome speakers have discussed at this conference, the curriculum is critical, but also important is how we govern, grant and manage access!
  • At 3DPrinterOS we’ve focused on the concept of creating a future where there is one click manufacturing. This is obviously a large and ambitious concept, but focusing in on just 3d printing, the goal is to make it easy for anyone, whether a student, teacher or engineer at work, to get through the actual printing process.
  • In the early days of 3DPrinterOS, we had the pleasure of growing alongside Chip Bobbert and the Duke Innovation Co-Lab. We saw in his program, and in many others, that resources were constantly strained, and labs ran by student admins needed the tools to manage growing infrastructures. As we learned more from other schools, such as UTEP, and many former Makerbot Innovation Labs, students have no problem sourcing and finding models to print (whether of their own creation or from Thingiverse or some other online portal), but admins were being driven absolutely bonkers trying to keep track of the various jobs students submitted to print via excel sheets and good old pen and paper. As great as excel and pen and paper are, we realized immediately that was not going to work with the more students and machines you added to any given campus.
  • We started with the singular problem of giving students access to FDM printers of any type from a single, cloud interface so they didn’t have to download software or use dedicated workstations to start printing.
  • Once we made headway on this first goal of a unified printing experience, we could finally focus on the actual barriers of entry to the process for universities and students. For example, I’m sure many of you have dealt with the issue of getting credentials made for students to access cloud tools. We learned from admins that integrating directly with SSO and OAuth platforms the schools already had in place could make life easier by allowing students to leverage their existing Peoplesoft or NetID credentials to log in to their 3d printing management portal. At Duke, they’ve gone as far to make this something that’s accessible with every student’s credentials (and created the onboarding experience to match).
  • Now when you start tieing students access into their school credentials you open up the door to doing incredible things with data. Data is absolutely your best friend as an educator in making an informed argument for why your specific program deserves or needs X amount of budget. It’s one thing to tell a dean or provost that we need $20,000 to add 10 additional 3d printers to our lab, and a completely different conversation to say “last semester 100 students, accessed our 4 machines, per month and that grew 20% from this time last year”. It allows you to anticipate scale, and have a data-informed conversation as you grow and scale your program.

Interested in learning more about how 3DPrinterOS can help your 3D printing program grow? Check out our features for schools and universities.

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