Should You Get Your Kid/Child a 3D Printer? Key Things to Know


Should You Get Your Kid a 3D Printer - Kids Around Ultimaker 2+ - 3D Printerly

If you are into 3D printing or have heard of it, you might be wondering whether it is a suitable addition in the home for your kids to get familiar with. Some think it’s a great idea, while others aren’t so keen on it.

This article will aim to help parents and guardians decide whether or not it’s a good idea to get their child a 3D printer.

It is a good idea to get your kid a 3D printer if you want to better develop their creativity and technological abilities early, for a better future. 3D printers are quickly gaining in popularity and starting now will give them a great headstart. You should keep safety and supervision in mind.

There are more details in regards to this topic that you’ll want to know, such as safety, costs, and even recommended 3D printers for children, so stick around to learn some key details.

What Are the Benefits of a Child Using a 3D Printer?

  • Creativity
  • Development
  • Technological understanding
  • Entertainment
  • Entrepreneurial possibilities
  • Memorable experiences

Creating and printing 3D models is a great activity for kids. It offers them a fun way to utilize their imaginations while also learning critical skills.

It can serve as an outlet for the more creative-minded children as they get to make designs of their own and use the 3D printer to bring those designs to life. This teaches them how to go about the design process and also gives them a new medium to create with.

The key factor here is developing your childs mind to partly be a producer rather than solely a consumer. It can translate to creating specialized objects for friends and family, such as 3D nametags for their bedroom doors, or their favorite characters.

It also offers children an opportunity to gain technical skills and learn computational concepts. This will be especially helpful in preparing kids for a rewarding STEM-based career, or a creative hobby that aids in other aspects of activities.

I even managed to 3D print myself a capo for my guitar, a spice rack for my kitchen, and a lovely vase for my mother.

Being able to have a creative activity which closely relates to technology allows a child to really expand on their educational development, and puts them in a great position in the future.

It takes a certain level of skills to really understand and implement a 3D printer. To take ideas, turn them into designs using software, then to 3D print it successfully has many benefits, including learning and even entertainment.

You can make a whole activity of it and use it as something to bond with your child, creating memories in the form of experiences and memorable objects.

What Are Reasons Not to Get a 3D Printer for a Child?

  • Safety
  • Cost
  • Mess

Is 3D Printing Safe for Children?

3D printing has some dangers to children if left unsupervised. The main dangers are the high temperature of the nozzle, but with a fully-enclosed 3D printer and supervision, you can effectively ensure a safe environment. Fumes from ABS plastic is harsh, so you should use PLA instead.

3D printers like many machines can be dangerous if left unsupervised with children. So before purchasing the unit, you have to consider if your children are ready or old enough for the responsibility of owning a 3D printer.

The temperature of the printer bed can get up to 60°C, but the bigger concern is the temperature of the nozzle. It can operate at temperatures well above 200°C which is really dangerous if touched.

Your child would have to know never to touch the nozzle while the printer is on, and for nozzle changes, to only change after the printer has been turned off for a good period of time.

Nozzles don’t need to be changed very often, so you could do it for them when the time comes, but if you are just printing with just basic PLA, a nozzle can last years with occassional use.

I would recommend you do the nozzle changes for the 3D printer when its needed.

Other than the heat from 3D printers, people also mention the fumes from heating these plastics to high temperatures to melt them. ABS is the plastic that LEGO bricks are made of, and it is known to produce fairly harsh fumes.

I would recommend sticking to PLA or Polylactic Acid plastic for your child, since it is known to be a non-toxic, low-odor material that is the safest to 3D print. It does still release VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), but to a much lesser degree than ABS.

To make your 3D printer safer around your child you can:

  • Make sure to use just PLA, since it’s the safer filament
  • Place the 3D printer away from areas which are commonly used (in the garage for example)
  • Use a fully-enclosed 3D printer, with another separate air-tight enclosure around that
  • Make use of an air purifier that can target those smaller particles, or even a ventilation system that extracts air through HVAC pipes.
  • Ensure proper supervision around the 3D printer, and keep it out of reach when not in use

Once you control for these factors, you can let your children get involved with 3D printing and really let their creative imaginations run wild.

Cost of Getting Your Child a 3D Printer

3D printing unlike other hobbies for children is not a cheap one. The initial cost of purchasing a printing unit coupled with the recurring costs of materials and maintenance may not be affordable for some families. 3D printers are getting a lot cheaper, some even going for just above $100.

I think investing in a 3D printer for your child is a worthy purchase that, if used effectively, should bring back plenty of value in the present and the future. As time goes on, 3D printers and their corresponding materials are getting significantly cheaper.

3D printers used to be an activity that was really expensive, as well as filament, and it wasn’t nearly as easy to use. Now, they are around the same cost as a budget laptop on the market, with really cheap 1KG rolls of filament to use with it.

A cheap 3D printer that’s out there for example is the Longer Cube 2 3D Printer from Amazon. It’s under $200 and people have had some pretty good successes with it, but there are some issues that have come up in reviews.

This is just an example of a cheaper 3D printer, so I’ll recommend some better ones later down this article.

Children Creating Mess From a 3D Printer

When you get your child a 3D printer, you might start to get a build up of models and 3D prints around the house. This can be quite troublesome at first, but this is a problem that can be solved with storage solutions.

You can have a storage container that your child uses for their 3D prints or shelves where they can put some of their new creations.

Something like the Homz Plastic Clear Storage Bin (2 Pack) should work really well if your child gets into regular use with their 3D printer. It’s multipurpose of course so you can use it to clean up and organize other areas in your home effectively.

Should You Buy Your Child a 3D Printer?

I think you should definitely buy your child a 3D printer, seeing as they have so many benefits, and have started to commonly be used in schools and libraries. Once you control for safety, your child should be able to really enjoy 3D printing. 

As long as you can cover the costs and the responsibility of supervising your child usinng the 3D printer, I would recommend introducing them into 3D printing.

You can watch many YouTube videos to get a really good idea of how 3D printing works, and what you need to look out for. From designing, to tinkering with the machine itself, to actually printing, it’s a lot simpler than it used to be.

Can Anyone Use a 3D Printer?

Anyone can use a 3D printer as 3D printing technologies and machines have advanced to a point where most units do not require extensive technical know-how to set it up and operate. Many 3D printers are fully-assembled and just require being plugged in to begin working.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you are the artistic/creative type and don’t know how to use those CAD (computer Aided Design) applications.

There is a whole world of 3D models out there on the internet, so you don’t have to make them yourself.

With online repositories like Thingiverse, Cults3D, and MyMiniFactory providing plenty of free designs, you can easily download, modify, and print these models to your taste.

With minimal instruction, anyone can use a 3D printer, bto get the best use out of your new printer, it’s advisable to watch YouTube videos and do some reading to acquire more knowledge on it.

There are several YouTube videos that show you exactly how to create your own unique models and even characters, and you can get really good with some practice. You can get help with troubleshooting for your specific 3D printer from the official support, or by looking online.

Can 3D Printing Be Dangerous for Children?

3D printing is a safe activity for children as long as all safety protocols are observed and it is used with proper adult supervision. Let’s talk about some of these safety protocols.

A 3D printer contains a lot of moving parts, some of which can reach high temperatures during operation. So it is necessary to make sure that proper safety guards are installed around these components and that children are never left alone with them.

Also during the printing process, the 3D printer can give off potentially toxic fumes as a by-product of the filament. It is wise to always operate the printer in a well-ventilated environment.

Make sure to 3D print with PLA rather than ABS. PETG isn’t a bad choice either but it does require higher temperatures to print successfully, and can be harder to make work as compared to PLA.

PLA works just fine for most applications, which is why most people stick to it.

Best 3D Printers to Buy for a Child

3D printing is no longer a niche activity. There are a lot of companies on the market offering various printers for different activities. Some of these entry-level models are suitable for kids to use.

However, when buying a 3D printer for your child, there are some factors you need to weigh before making a final purchase. These are safety, cost, and ease of use.

Taking these factors into consideration, we’ve compiled a list of the best 3D printers that you can buy for your kid. Let’s take a look at them below.

Flashforge Finder

The Flashforge Finder is a compact, entry-level 3D printer designed for kids and beginners. It features a bold red and black design with a touch screen interface on the front for interacting with the printer.

This 3D printer is well-designed with safety in mind. All the printing areas are carefully enclosed in the red and black shell with excellent cable management to reduce accidents.

3D printers aren’t always fully-enclosed so there is an added level of safety that you would have to overcome, so the fully-enclosed design with the Flashforge Finder is loved by people who desire safety.

Exclusively using PLA (polylactic acid) filament is one of the main ways that it reduces toxic fumes and provides an easy material to 3D print, compared to something like ABS which requires more care and techniques.

It costs a little under $300 which makes it a solid competitor in its genre. I’d say it beats out a lot of the competition by offering the basics in a well designed, easy to use, compact package perfect for first-timers.

Key Features

  • Utilizes a 140 x 140 x 140mm build volume (5.5″ x 5.5″ x 5.5″)
  • Intelligent assisted leveling system
  • Comes with ethernet, WiFi, and USB connections
  • Features a 3.5″ touch screen display
  • Non-heated build plate
  • Prints with only PLA filaments
  • Can print at resolutions of up to 100 microns (0.01mm) per layer which is pretty high quality

Pros

  • Enclosed design makes it very safe for kids
  • Uses non-toxic PLA filaments
  • Easy calibration process
  • Has a great design that kids will love
  • Comes with its learning software in the box which can introduce kids to the machine easily
  • Has a very quiet operation which makes it ideal for home use

Cons

  • Has a small print volume
  • Lacks auto print bed leveling

Get the Flashforge Finder for a great price on Amazon today.

Monoprice Voxel

The Monoprice Voxel is a medium-sized, budget 3D printer offering a step up from the printers on this list.

Its grey and black matte finish and the slightly larger than average build volume make it not just one for kids, but one that adult hobbyists on a budget can consider too.

The build space of the Monoprice Voxel is fully enclosed with a sleek black frame With clear panels installed on all sides for easy print monitoring. The printer can work with a wide range of filaments from PLA to ABA.

The printer comes with a 3.5″ LCD for on-device interaction. It doesn’t have a camera for remote print monitoring though.

The Monoprice Voxel is the most expensive printer on this list at $400, but it justifies that price tag with its excellent print quality, superior design, and larger than average print volume.

Key Features

  • It has a build volume of 9″ x 6.9″ x 6.9″
  • Fully-enclosed build space
  • 3.5 inch LCD for interacting with the 3D printer
  • Features printing from the cloud, Wi-Fi, ethernet, or storage options
  • Auto feeding filament sensor
  • Removable and flexible heated bed up to 60°C

Pros

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Enclosed build space increase safety
  • Supports several filament types for more printing options
  • Provides excellent print quality with fast print speeds

Cons

  • Has been known to have some issues with software and firmware
  • Touch screen can be a little unresponsive in some cases

Get the Monoprice Voxel 3D Printer from Amazon.

Dremel Digiab 3D20

When you’re looking for that high quality machine that you can really be proud of, I look towards the Dremel Digilab 3D20. The first thing you’ll realize with this 3D printer is the professional look and design.

Not only does it look great, but it also has very simple operation and safety features that make it a great 3D printer for brand new hobbyists, tinkerers, and children. It uses just PLA, similar to the Flashforge Finder, and is completely pre-assembled.

This printer is well-known to be great for students specifically. It is a little on the premium side compared to the options above, but for a long-term investment into 3D printing, I’d say the Dremel 3D20 is a worthy cause.

You can get started immediately after delivery. It has a full-color touchscreen so you can easily modify settings and choose your desired files for 3D printing. The 3D20 also comes with a 1-year warranty so you can rest assured things will be good.

Key Features

  • The build volume is 9″ x 5.9″ x 5.5″ (230 x 150 x 140mm)
  • UL safety certification
  • Fully-enclosed build space
  • 3.5″ full color LCD operatoin
  • Free cloud-based slicing software
  • Comes with a 0.5kg spool of PLA filament

Pros

  • Has a 100 micron resolution for great quality 3D prints
  • Great safety for children and brand new users
  • Amazing customer service
  • Great manual and instructions
  • Very user-friendly and easy to operate
  • Loved by many users all around the world

Cons

  • It is designed to only be used with Dremel PLA, though users have bypassed this by printing your own spool holder

Get the Dremel Digilab 3D20 from Amazon today.

Best CAD Design Software for Kids

Let’s now take a look at CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. Before the kids can start printing, they need a space to visualize and draft their designs. CAD software offers them that service, with many designed to be very simple to use.

CAD applications are usually very complex powerful software that usually requires many learning hours before they can be mastered. But in recent years there have been some new notable additions to the field that are aimed at younger users.

These new programs are mostly simplified versions of some of the more established CAD programs.

Let’s have a look at some of the CAD programs for kids below.

AutoDesk TinkerCAD

Tinker CAD is a free web-based 3D modeling application. It is one of the most popular CAD apps used by beginners and instructors due to its intuitive interface and the simple yet powerful features it offers.

It is based on constructive solid geometry which enables users to create more complex shapes by combining simple objects. This simple approach to 3D modeling has made it a favorite for both beginners and kids alike.

As mentioned above, TinkerCAD is available for free on the web, all you have to do is create a free Autodesk TinkerCAD account, sign in, and you can begin creating 3D models immediately.

The video below shows you how to even important an image into TinkerCAD, so you can enjoy all kinds of possibilities.

Pros

  • The software is very easy to use and understand
  • It comes with an extensive repository of ready-made models
  • The software has a great community of users that are available to provide help

Cons

  • TinkerCAD is web-based, so without the internet, the students cannot get work done
  • The software only offers limited 3Dmodeling functionality
  • It’s not possible to import existing projects from other sources

Makers Empire

Makers Empire is a computer-based 3D modeling application. It is used by STEM educators to introduce the youth to design and modeling concepts, designed for 4-13 year old students.

This software is currently used by around 1 million students in 40 different countries, with 50,000 new 3D designs created daily.

Makers Empire is one of the more feature-filled 3D modeling applications on the market with various features built-in for educators to make the learning process more enjoyable.

If you have a touch screen device on-hand, it works really well with them as they are optimized for touch screens.

Kids using this program can go from complete newbies to creating and printing their designs in a matter of weeks.

The Makers empire software is free for individuals but schools, and organizations have to pay an annual license fee of $1,999, so I’d definitely give this one a go!

It has a solid rating of 4.2/5.0 and even 4.7/5.0 on the Apple App store. Saving and exporting your 3D printer STL files is easy to do, so you can simply focus on designing some cool objects to print.

Pros

  • Has an easy to use interface
  • Comes loaded with many learning resources, games, and support options
  • Features many competitions and challenges that encourage children to work and solve problems independently.
  • The single-user version is free

Cons

  • Some people have reported crashes and glitches on certain devices, though they implement regular bug fixes.
  • There have been troubles with saving STL files, which if you get, simply contact their support from the website.

Solidworks Apps for Kids

The SolidWorks apps for kids is a free kid-friendly version of the popular software SolidWorks. It was built to give kids an introduction to 3D modeling by simplifying the features of the parent software.

This product is one of the best on the market because of how well it approximates real-life workflow. It is divided into five different parts: Capture it, shape it, style it, mech it, print it. Each part is specifically designed to teach kids about a section of the product design process.

SolidWorks apps for kids as of now is still in its beta phase, so it is free to use. To use it, you can go to the SWapps for kids page and sign up for a free account to access the resources.

Pros

  • Free to use
  • Has a well-built ecosystem to guide kids from the idea conception stage to the final printing stage

Cons

  • Apps requires full internet access
  • Number of apps can be overwhelming for younger users without a tutor

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