3D Printing in Schools – Introduction to Health and Safety

Article by Paul Sesto updated September 15, 2016


As Javelin’s 3D Printing Education Specialist I am speaking on a daily basis with educators, professors, students and technicians at elementary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities across Canada. For the last year and a half, I have also had the opportunity to discuss 3D printing with school board health and safety specialists, as they now address the more wide-spread use of 3D printing in the classroom.

3D printing health and safety

MakerBot 3D printers in a classroom

Many people do not know that 3D printing has been around for over a quarter of a century. Our 3D printing partner Stratasys – the world leader in 3D printing – is one of the originators of the 3D printing industry. Stratasys has manufactured printers for 27 years for both the education and commercial markets. Javelin’s other 3D printing partner MakerBot is the leader in the desktop consumer market with the largest install base in the industry. More than 100,000 MakerBot Desktop 3D printers have been sold to date. It is also like a little known fact among 3D printer users that Stratasys is now the parent company of MakerBot.

3D printing health and safety

Students watching their MakerBot in action

I preface our discussion on 3D printing health and safety with the above information because although 3D printers have been around for decades, it is important to note that they are relatively new to the general public. New users can include both elementary and high school aged students, their parents and teachers, principals, school board administrators, IT staff, curriculum leaders and health & safety officials. Now mind you, there have been early adopters of 3D printing among these groups. Some discovered this technology 10 or more years ago with, for example, Stratasys commercial grade printers. Others became involved with 3D printing from the consumer side up to 5 or 6 years ago with the advent of consumer printers like MakerBot.

3D printing health and safety

Students preparing a print on their MakerBot

3D printing is now a common media topic, especially with expanding applications in the medical field and in humanitarian projects – some of which are undertaken by students. 3D printers have become an affordable technology for many schools and have caught the attention of school boards wanting to enhance their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and STEAM (STEM with Arts) programs.

3D printing health and safety

3D printed teaching tools

With the implementation of 3D printing going mainstream at many school boards, various board departments, including IT and health and safety, are now being asked for their input and recommendations when implementing this “new” technology. School boards are often in uncharted waters as they develop their recommendations and/or share health and safety guidelines for the use of 3D printers in their schools and classrooms.

3D printing health and safety

Teacher and students with their 3D printed parts

Health and safety considerations and the successful implementation of 3D printers are very important to Javelin, Stratasys and MakerBot. Javelin works closely with school boards to help address their health and safety questions and concerns. Some of these health and safety concerns include electrical standards for the equipment, printing materials and heating elements and ideal locations for installation within the school.

With this background now laid out, in part two of this blog post we will dig deeper into Javelin’s recommendations and solutions for the common health and safety concerns of 3D printing in the classroom.

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Paul Sesto