Jun 26 2020

Review: Boost Student Creativity with the MakerBot Replicator+

This premium 3D printer combines a host of intelligent features with slick performance.

Consumers increasingly use 3D printers at home for a wide range of applications. Hobbyists use their printers to make parts to fix old arcade machines or even create custom fixtures around the house. Companies are making prototypes with ease, allowing their engineering teams to see how everything fits together before they are sent to manufacturing.

3D printers are useful creative tools for K–12 classrooms too. I’m fortunate to teach in a classroom that has 10 MakerBots, six of which are the MakerBot Replicator+. My middle school students love dreaming up designs to print.

The MakerBot Replicator+ makes it easy for students to take a concept from their mind’s eye to physical form. They’re developing valuable science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts and having fun doing it.

To control all the features of the printer, an easy-to-use, 3-inch LCD display resides on top of the Replicator+, along with a combination dial and button. Next to this is a USB port, which enables students to use USB flash drives to transfer their print projects from their computers to the printer.

Enjoy Easy Maintenance, Advanced Connectivity

Another great feature of the Replicator+? It’s easy to maintain.

Sooner or later, the extruder will need to be replaced. An extruder is a series of parts that together handle the moving and processing of plastic filament. The Replicator+ uses the Smart Extruder+, which effortlessly snaps on using magnets. A front-facing filament drawer lets you change out colors or material types without flipping the printer around.

The build plate maintenance is also quick and easy. Once a build is finished printing, simply remove the build plate and flex it. Objects come right off.

As for advanced connectivity, K–12 district IT departments have the option to let schools use Wi-Fi and ethernet functionality, allowing the Replicator+ to join the school’s local network for printing from computers and mobile devices. This would also allow users to take advantage of the small webcam that is also included, which aims down at the printing area. With the ability to monitor a printer remotely, teachers who are away from their classrooms can, for example, check on the status of their print jobs and cancel if a job is starting to fail.

MORE ON EDTECH: Discover how K–12 schools used 3D printers to make personal protective gear.

MakerBot Replicator+

 

Give Students Freedom to Dream and Create

For nearly a decade, I’ve made 3D printing technology available in my classroom. My first printer, which I got in 2012, was a MakerBot Replicator 2. I knew printouts from this machine would ignite my students’ creativity.

Over the years, I’ve assigned various tutorials and required students to design and print specific objects, but lately that’s changed. Last year, I started giving my students the freedom to design their own projects, and I’m discovering they’re more engaged than ever before. They’re also more eager to learn, because it’s more meaningful when the learning applies to projects they actually want to make.

I still provide direct instruction, but now I allow a lot more time for them to work on their own projects. With a few exceptions, I let them print anything they can dream up.

READ MORE: Learn about the benefits of using 3D printers in modern learning environments. 

For example, one of my middle school students wanted to make Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. After sketching each part on paper, along with precise measurements, he designed each part using Tinkercad by Autodesk, a free, online 3D modeling program that runs in a web browser and is known for its simple interface and ease of use. Once all his pieces were ready to be printed, he downloaded the STL files into MakerBot Print, MakerBot’s new desktop application that allows you to prepare, manage and monitor 3D prints. About two hours later, his parts were finished. He took them home and painted some pieces black, some gold, and the rest he left gray. He assembled his pieces onto a 12-inch-long piece of PVC pipe I had laying around in my shed, and for a few cents of filament, had himself a very attractive piece of movie fan art.

This is just one of the many projects that go on in classrooms like mine all around the country when teachers let their students learn by doing. The best part is that my students are doing this on their own time, completely unrelated to homework in the traditional sense, and yet some of my students will spend countless hours working on their own personal 3D modeling projects. Why? I believe it’s because their creativity is ignited.

When students are encouraged to dream, explore, play and make, you can’t stop them. This is what can happen when we provide students with the tools and opportunities to create — tools like the MakerBot Replicator+.

SPECIFICATIONS

CONNECTIVITY: USB, LAN, USB host, Wi-Fi (n)
MAX BUILD SIZE: 11.61x7.68x6.5 inches
MIN LAYER THICKNESS: 2.54 milli-inch
BUILD MATERIALS SUPPORTED: Polylactide
INPUT FILE FORMATS SUPPORTED: OBJ, STL and more
WEIGHT: 40.34 pounds

MakerBot