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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Taming the 3D Printer in your #learningcommons

In an ideal world, students would be able to get access to whatever resources they needed within the Learning Commons or School Library and they would leave the equipment as they would found it ready for the next student to use.

But even with staplers and guillotines, students will generally not tidy up after themselves. So processes are put in place to ensure that the equipment is ready for the next student.

Things are a bit different when you incorporate a 3D printer into the mix. It isn't as easy to get the equipment ready for the next student and often when someone us using it, it might be hours before the next student can use it.

So here are some thoughts on managing a 3D printer in our Learning Commons from the operations point-of-view.

  • Payment according to weight: I love the way in which Library at the Dock organises their payment system. They weigh the object and then the patron is charged accordingly (20c per gram). The image below shows a finished object (minus supports) and it would cost the student $5.80.

  • Payment according to size: Some schools use the "box method" for determining payment for 3D models. If the object fits into a box, the student is charged accordingly. For example, gift boxes, small medium and large.
  • Charging the student: We use Papercut in our school and the Learning Commons staff have administrator access. So charging or deducting from their papercut account is quite easy and avoids the issue of handling money.
  • Log book: 
    We envision the use of a simple log book to keep track of who is using the 3D Printer and the costs associated with it. This could come in handy when we have to "balance the books" at the end of the year or even put forward evidence that it is being used for curriculum purposes.
  • Booking form: 
    Can students book the 3D Printers for a day to complete a school project? Is this going to be something that is done by their classroom teacher or themselves? I would image that when projects are due, they might be in high demand, so we need to devise a method for booking them out.
  • All Learning Commons staff can operate the 3D Printers:
    Just as all Learning Commons or school library staff can put paper in the copiers or change the laser ink cartridges, they need to be able to set off 3D Print jobs and do some basic problem solving if it isn't working. In between large jobs the machines also have to be cleaned and sometimes the print bed has to be calibrated. Calibration can take a good 20 minutes. Clear instructions with a process for recording questions will help skill the team up.

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