Best 3D Printers for Elementary and Middle Schools: USA (updated March 2024)

We understand that choosing a 3D printer for your elementary or middle school can be a difficult decision. While many will be great for high school students or a hobbyist, some are less suited for regular use in a primary, elementary or middle school classroom, Makerspace or library environment.

At Makers Empire, we’ve helped thousands of teachers in America, Australia, Europe and Asia integrate 3D printing and design into the classroom so we understand what works and what doesn’t.

From our conversations with teachers, we understand that the most important criteria for schools when choosing a 3D printer are:

  1. Plug ‘n’ play – that is, ease of use;
  2. Affordability;
  3. Durability;
  4. Safety;
  5. Air Filters – learn why air filters are important;
  6. Reliability; and
  7. Customer support.

Additionally, the ability to print wirelessly or over the Cloud, thereby eliminating the need for USB memory sticks or even being in the same room as the 3D printer, is another useful feature to consider.

The 3D printer market is fast-changing – almost every new 3D printer brings some new feature that will soon be standard on all printers, but none of the current printers on the market has every single one of the current, must-have features.

With this in mind, here is our current list of recommended 3D printers. To come up with this list, we evaluated more than twenty 3D printers, reviewed teacher feedback and assessed recent reviews from independent sources.

We’ve spent weeks, months and even years testing printers to model expected classroom and school conditions. For example, we spent 600 hours printing with the Flashforge Adventurer 4 (ME) printer to make sure we thoroughly tested this printer over time. We want to do everything we can to ensure you have a positive experience with 3D printing.

Makers Empire's Best 3D Printers for American Schools

ModelFlashforge Adventurer 5M Pro
Adventurer 4 (ME)
Dremel 3D45 3D PrinterBambu Lab X1C

Makerbot Replicator +

Overall Rating9.5/109/109.5/1010/107/10
Price$899 USD $799 USD $1,799 USD
$1,199 USD
$2,499 USD
Build Size
Big: 220 x 220 x 200 mm
Big: 220 x 200 x 250 mmBig: 250 x 152 x 170mm
Big: 256 x 256 x 256 mm
Medium: 140 x 150 x 135 mm
Air Filter
Yes, both HEPA and carbon filtersYes, both HEPA and carbon filtersYesYes, both HEPA and carbon filters
Assisted Levelling
Yes, levelling is fully automatedYesYesYes, levelling is fully automatedYes, with attachment
ABS, PLA and other non-abrasive filaments
ABS, PLA and other non-abrasive filamentsABS & PLA
ABS, PLA and other non- abrasive filamentsABS & PLA
Printing Bed Material
Flex Board (PEI)Flex BoardGlassFlex board (PEI & PC)Flex Board
Price of 3D Filament (Plastic Consumables)
Connectivity Options
USB / WiFi / EthernetUSB / WiFi / EthernetUSB / WiFi / Polar Cloud
USB / WiFiUSB, WiFi, Ethernet and Cloud-enabled so you can control it remotely with MakerBot Print or the MakerBot Mobile app.
TouchscreenTouchscreenTouchscreenTouchscreenTouchscreen and Scrollwheel
Built in Camera
Customer Support
GoodGoodVery goodUnknownGood
The Adventurer 5M Pro is truly a leap forward for Flashforge. It’s part of a new era for Flashforge, where they are improving and paring down their offerings. We believe this is going to lead to improvements to general support and also the spare part availability/end of life issues we have seen.
We’ve been absolutely blown away by the print speed of this machine, competing at a level equal to other high speed printers. The fact that the prints come out so clean and smooth at this ridiculous speed is absolutely mind-blowing. In a school setting where print speed is a key criterion for being able to integrate 3D printing into lessons properly, the Adventurer 5m Pro will effectively transform the way you do that.
Built-in ethernet port allows easy connection to a school intranet system. Big build volume coupled with easy assisted levelling means large printing is easy. Removable, flexible bed means easy print removal and higher time efficiency. Carbon and HEPA filter removes any odours or smells, while the built-in camera creates time lapse video automatically. Ease of use and reliability, along with the fantastic price mean the Adventurer 4 is a highly recommended pick.A highly regarded printer. It can print in multiple materials, has an inbuilt camera and can also print wirelessly over the Cloud. In the USA we would rate this printer at 9.5 considering the excellent customer support. Probably best suited to middle and high schools with slightly larger budgets. Superior to the Makerbot Replicator for price, product features and customer support. Best 3D printer for this price range.
There are better options if you have this kind of budget. Also, it is not fully enclosed, which is not recommended. The Makerbot Mini is also not recommended as it is an expensive printer given the small build size and low resolutions prints it produces.
Detailed ReviewRead our detailed reviewRead our detailed reviewRead our detailed review
BuyBuy from the Makers Empire ShopBuy from the Makers Empire ShopBuy from the Makers Empire Shop

Why Buy 3D Printers from Makers Empire?

Intternational (1)

Other Printers We have Bought and Tested for Schools​

When testing printers for use in primary and middle schools we prioritise reliability, usability, durability and affordability.

The following printers were all good in their own way but have since been discontinued. It’s possible that newer versions of these printers or more technical knowledge amongst teaching staff could make these printers great for schools.

Zortrax M200 (2020): A real work horse for us – a great, reliable printer, which has recently been updated as the M200+ (see review above). 

Up Box / Up Box+ (2017): We experienced reliability issues with the original Up Box but the newer Up Box+ is much better. Has air filter and is enclosed. No LCD screen.

Robo C2 (2017): a good printer. No air filter, however.

XYZ Da Vinci Jr (2016): quite a cheap printer but filament rolls are ”çhipped’ so you can only use XYZ filament with it. An enclosed printer with basic LCD and no air filter.


Polar 3D (2014): this printer has a unique circular motion build plate. The inbuilt camera is great – you can monitor printing progress from a remote location, which is very helpful. Not enclosed, no air filter or LCD.

FlashForge Creator Pro (2014): a great printer but more suited to hobbyists/high schools as it has a dual head. This makes it more advanced as it allows for two colours or soluble support but it’s also more tricky to get right. No air filter.

Up Plus 2 (2013): A classic printer. Very reliable and sturdy, but getting dated now. No air filter, not enclosed, no LCD.

BEE THE FIRST (2013): the original version of this printer was problematic – the filament would break in the tube and would require a difficult dismantling. This has probably been fixed now but we haven’t had a chance to try the newer printer. This printer is not enclosed and there is no air filter or LCD touch screen on the version we had.

Makerbot Thing-O-Matic (2011): a classic printer, very DIY. No air filter or LCD. Too dated now. 

Other Printers We Bought but would not recommend

These printers are either discontinued or not recommended for schools. This does not mean that these printers were/are not good printers – it’s just that when we tested them we found them unsuitable for primary and middle schools.

3D Systems Cube 3 – a dual head machine. We struggled to get good prints from it and it has now been discontinued.

Makerbot Thing-o-Matic – a great, early printer. Very DIY, however. Discontinued.


Printrbot Simple Metal – a good printer but quite DIY. It took us a while to have it set up properly to print well. It’s not enclosed and has no air filter. Now discontinued.

Cocoon Create (2018) – for the price, this is a great printer from Aldi supermarket. However, it’s not durable enough for schools. Also, it’s not enclosed and there is no air filter.

Creality CR10: A decent printer with big build volume for the price. However, it is not enclosed and there is no air filter.

Maximise Student Learning with a 3D Printer

Buying a 3D printer is just the first step when you integrate maker pedagogy and Design Thinking in your school.

Which 3D modeling software will your students use?

How will teachers learn how to use the 3D printer and 3D design as an authentic teaching tool efficiently and effectively?

Which class management tool will you use so teaching with 3D doesn’t become a logistical challenge?

How will you ensure teachers can access professional development, resources, training and support they need to become confident and skilled teachers with 3D technology?

Fortunately, Makers Empire’s 3D Printer Packages include everything teachers need to successfully integrate Design Thinking, maker pedagogy and 3D printing into their teaching practice.

Our class, maker and school plans be bundled together with 3D printers to ensure your school’s 3D printing program is a success.