So you want to get into 3D printing? Or you already started and are eager to share your new hobby with your children? Perfect! But there are some things you should consider before you start.
You’ve been dreaming about a 3D printer for quite a while? Already eyeballed some models? That’s wonderful – but first make sure your kids are really interested. Otherwise, you start mingling your interests with these of your kids.
Also, consult with your better half. The noise and fumes of a 3D printer can be pretty annoying for someone who’s not that enthusiastic about the results. So if buying a 3D printer becomes a family decision, it‘s best for all.
Honestly, we don’t think so, and here’s why.
Kid 3D printers promise three things. First, they extrude filament in much lower temperature than regular printers. Second, most of them have enclosed casings. Third – and most importantly – they offer a special software that is easier to handle for beginners.
While that all sounds great for safety reasons, it’s causing more problems than benefits. When it comes to 3D printers, one rule of thumb is to prefer standards over specialisation unless you know what you are doing.
From what we‘ve seen, the results of most kids printers leave something to be desired. Also, the choice of filament is extremely restricted. What about that cool glow-in-the-dark filament? Or the sparkling alumide filament? The water-resistant recycled PET? Most of these filaments aren’t available on kids 3D printers. Also, the designing software is often limited. That not something you want, especially if your children start designing things on their own.
So who needs a dedicated 3D printer for kids? In our view, Kids 3D Printers are great for classrooms. If you don’t just want to drop the printer in your child’s room and leave, think of buying regular one. You’ll get so much more fun out of it.
Most 3D printers aiming at children are offering a smaller build space. That’s not what you want. Think about what you want to print – drone parts, RC cars, Barbie add-ons, birthday cakes, piggybanks – and see if would fit on the 3D printer.
So you want to save money with a Kickstarter printer? Generally speaking, that’s a good idea. Just a year ago, an affordable Kickstarter 3D printer (remember the Tiko 3D?) was an exciting thing. Nowadays, not a week passes without a new 3D printer appearing on Kickstarter.
But most of these affordable 3D printers come as kits, which have to be assembled. Secondly, Kickstarter 3D printers are early models. They aren’t tested for thousand of hours by the users. You’ll surely run into problems that you have to solve on your own. And the third drawback: Most Kickstarter 3D printers deliver late – and you don’t want to wait months to start, right?
The most important rule: Never leave young children alone with a 3D printer! By all means, 3D printers are no toys and should be handled with care. As a rule of thumb, treat them with the respect you’d handle all your workshop tools.
Most of the physical dangers come from the heated parts and the motors. Their extruders heat up to 260 Celsius. If touched, a hotend can cause severe skin burns! Also, heated build plates reach up to 100 degrees – also way too hot for children. Lastly, the fast moving metal parts from a stepper motor can be dangerous for tiny fingers.
So inform your child about the possible dangers; don’t leave them unwatched, and use precautions (gloves, glasses, etc.) when handling a 3D printer.
When heated, plastic filament emits particles. That’s not the stuff you want to let your kids breathe. ABS filament contains oil, and the fumes are also toxic. Currently, there are no studies available – but better safe than sorry.
Finally, not every filament is food safe. That’s important especially for smaller kids – you don’t want intoxicate them by selecting the wrong materials to 3D print.
Here’s more information on how to select food-safe filament.
That’s a thing you have to get used to as a parent: The children lead the way, and you’re just here to help. So even if the 3D print job isn’t the one you prefer – just clench your teeth and start printing. That doesn’t mean most kids aren’t open to suggestions. If you want to get deeper into that topic, please read Michael Eisenberg’s 3D printing for children: What to build next?
If you are looking for a good software for your kids to design things, then there‘s 3D Slash. It offers Minecraft style designing – perfect for the target audience from 8 to 99.
The best resource for finding 3D printed things is Thingiverse. Also, 3D print search engine Yeggi helps your kids find the things thy want. And if you need some suggestions right now, here are ten things you can 3D print with your kids.
There are several cool Apps, tools and curriculums designed to get kids involved in the world of 3D printing. You find an interesting list at 3D printing resources 4 kids.
License: The text of "3D Printing with Kids: What You Need To Know" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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