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The best 3D printer for your school

We realize that choosing the best 3D printer for your school is a difficult decision.

Almost every 3D printer below has won an award of some sort, many of them will be great for high school workshops or for a hobbyist/tinkerer but will not be suitable for elementary/primary school classrooms or libraries.

We have had extensive experience with the printers we recommend below – weeks, months or years using them. We have paid for all the printers we have recommended.

Our perspective is “plug n play” and affordable 3D printers for elementary/primary and middle schools with the most important thing being durability and reliability.

What 3D printer to buy for Elementary and Middle schools

Reliability Price Build Size Enclosed/Air filter Auto-level Materials Adhesion Cost of Filament USB/WiFI/SD LCD Recommendation
Afinia H800 /
UP Box
9 $1900 USD
$2900 AUD
Big
255 x 205 x 205mm
Enclosed w/
Air Filter
YES ABS & PLA Perforated board Expensive
(but can use Zortrax)
USB NO RECOMMENDED
Afinia H480
/
UP Plus 2
10 $800 USD
$1300 AUD
Small
140 x 140 x 135mm
NO YES
(with attachment)
ABS & PLA Perforated board Expensive
(but can use Zortrax)
USB NO RECOMMENDED
Zortrax M200 10 $2000 USD
$2900 AUD
Medium-big
200 x 200 x 180mm
NO YES ABS Perforated
board
Reasonable / cheap SD Card YES HIGHLY
RECOMMENDED
UP Mini 2 9 (still testing) $599 USD

$899 AUD

Small
120 x 120 x 120 mm
Yes YES ABS &
PLA
Perforated board Expensive(but can use Zortrax) USB/Wifi YES HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Note: “Reliability” is a relative term when it comes to 3D printers. Even the most reliable printers we have had require servicing and attention.

Other printers we own that are close

BEE THE FIRST, Flashforge Creator Pro, Cubicon Single, Polar 3D, Up Mini 2 (under review), XYZ Da Vinci Jnr

It is likely that newer versions of these printers or slightly more technical knowledge will make this printers great.

Detailed reasons

Afinia H800 (in USA) / UP Box (in Australia)

Pros:

  • Enclosed printer with auto-shutoff when door opens
  • Prints PLA and ABS (although seems to print ABS better than PLA)

Cons: 

  • Perforated board for print stick down (this requires a sharpened scraper to remove a print – 5 people in our office have cut themselves with these scrapers!)

Tips:

  • These printers print at a hotter temperature than other printers. This could be part of their filament lock-in strategy (have to buy filament from them). Zortrax appear to have a similar strategy and their filament is usable on these printers.
  • Opening the front door of these printers stop the print – if you don’t want this you can tape a magnet onto the latch
  • If the print chamber is getting too hot (things over-melting) you can prop open the top lid
  • Don’t bother with BuildTak on this printer – it runs too hot and tends to destroy it very fast.

Afinia H480 (in USA) / UP Plus 2 (in Australia)

Pros:

  • Reliable printer – we have literally flown these around the world a number of times in hand luggage and they generally still work!
  • Fits in hand-luggage!
  • Open printer so everyone can see what is happening – great for demonstrations
  • Prints PLA and ABS (although seems to print ABS better than PLA)

Cons: 

  • Perforated board for print stick down (this requires a sharpened scraper to remove a print – 5 people in our office have cut themselves with these scrapers!)
  • Un-enclosed printer – big prints tend to warp or lift
  • Don’t bother with BuildTak on this printer – it runs too hot and tends to destroy it very fast.

Tips:

  • These printers print at a hotter temperature than other printers. This could be part of their filament lock-in strategy (have to buy filament from them). Zortrax appear to have a similar strategy and their filament is usable on these printers.
  • Don’t bother with BuildTak on this printer – it runs too hot and tends to destroy it very fast.

Zortrax M200

Tips:

  • These printers print at a hotter temperature than other printers. This could be part of their filament lock-in strategy (have to buy filament from them). Afina/UP appear to have a similar strategy and their filament is usable on these printers.

Up Mini

Note the new Up Mini 2 has been released and is a big upgrade to the Up Mini. Read our review here.

Cons: 

  • Does not have auto-leveling – the big difference between this printer and the Afinia H480/UP Plus 2.

Tips:

  • These printers print at a hotter temperature than other printers. This could be part of their filament lock-in strategy (have to buy filament from them). Zortrax appear to have a similar strategy and their filament is usable on these printers.
  • Don’t bother with BuildTak on this printer – it runs too hot and tends to destroy it very fast.

Others we own but we would not recommend for elementary/primary schools at this time

3D Systems Cube 3, Makerbot Thing-o-Matic, Printrbot
(Note: this does NOT mean these are not good printers, just that when we tried them we found them unsuitable for elementary/primary schools_