Ask Hackaday: Do Kids Need 3D Printers?

Smiling ad family with 3D printer

Mattel holds a fond place in most people’s hearts as they made many of the toys we played with as kids. You might remember the Thingmaker, which was essentially an Easy Bake Oven with some goop and molds that let you make rubbery creatures. But back in 2016, Mattel had an aborted attempt to bring 3D printing to kids under the Thingmaker label. You can see a promo video of the device below. You might not have seen one in real life, though. The product was delayed and eventually canceled. Even so, we frequently see press releases for “kids printers” and we’ve been wondering, should this be a thing?


Let’s define kids. Of course, at some age, a kid interested in 3D printing should have a 3D printer in the same way they might have a guitar if they are interested in playing the guitar. But you probably don’t give your 9-year-old a guitar and hope it catches on. So by kid, in this context, we really mean pre-teen or earlier. We also aren’t even considering resin printers as they are, today, messy and toxic. We’re talking garden-variety FDM printing with relatively safe materials like PLA.

You might think no one thinks you should have your 9-year-old operating a 3D printer. Really? Toybox, recommends its 3D printer for children 5 and up, with adult supervision. Granted, with adult supervision it is possible, but we aren’t sure that’s very wise.

The Pros

Of course, we are always in favor of things that give kids something technical to spark their imagination. A 3D printer can teach many things: patience for slow prints and jams, electronics, mechanics, polymer chemistry, and 3D modeling. All of those could lead to marketable job skills down the road.

There are worse hobbies a kid could have. However, there are some negatives, too. Like many things, your approach is everything. You can help a kid form a lifelong interest or completely ruin any chance of them wanting to do any sort of technology.

The Cons

Printers are not as safe as you’d like. There is a very hot tip, maybe a heated bed, and possibly fumes and chemicals. Of course, with adult supervision, none of that is a deal breaker. Possibly a larger problem is maintenance. Cheap consumer-grade printers tend to need work. Things wear out or need lubrication. Belts wear or need tightening. Now, granted, if Mom’s a Hackaday reader, she can probably do all of these things, but it is going to quickly erode a child’s excitement for the process.

Another issue is expectations. Think of telescopes. A kid sees a telescope in a big box store and imagines using it to see the amazing rings of Saturn and the spot on Jupiter. But with a cheaply-made 2.5 inch lens, you are lucky to see smudges of planets, badly twinkling stars, and — maybe — slightly better views of the moon. How many astronomy buffs have been disenchanted by a cheap first telescope?

Printers for kids are usually not expensive industrial-quality machines. They aren’t going to print in multiple materials and colors. They are slow and won’t print very large models. There are only so many little plastic widgets you can produce before it gets boring.

So What is the Answer?

We’ve often said, having a 3D printer is not far away from being like owning a drill press. Not everyone has a drill press, but if you have one, no one thinks twice about it. Just like kids take shop classes, we think 3D printer classes have their place either in schools, libraries, or hackerspace camps.

Think of the analogy to programming. Everyone these days uses a computer, and kids who know something about how computers work probably have a competitive advantage, but that doesn’t mean you teach every kid software engineering in C++ using real-time operating systems. In the future, understanding how 3D printing works might be of value, assuming 3D printing in 20 years looks anything like 3D printing today. But knowing how to level a bed on an Ender 3 is probably not that helpful.

One way to address this is to have kids design things and have them made via a third-party service or even a parent. Tools like Tinkercad are very easy for kids to pick up and it unleashes their creativity. With a little coaching, learning what to expect from 3D printing and what kind of things to avoid when making 3D-printed parts is probably a skill for the future. Older kids that might be in a shop class, might very well take a supervised 3D printing class. But only a few kids really need their own 3D printer and the ones that do could probably make do with a normal printer, not one specifically aimed at kids.

If you are contemplating running a class for kids, you might find the video from a seasoned “Innovative Arts” teacher in the video below.

Over to You

So what do you think? What’s the youngest kid you’ve had operating a 3D printer? How did it go? Would you try younger or not? Tell us what you think in the comments. If you think your school or library can’t afford a 3D printer, there are options although commercial printers aren’t much more expensive these days. You can actually work with kids without much hardware at all.

72 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: Do Kids Need 3D Printers?

  1. One little note here. I use my printer maybe once a week for different household chores. My little 1 year old LOVES the printer. Every time it’s on she wants to just watch it go for easily 5 minutes (anyone with a 1 year old knows how long this precious time is). Sometimes I’ll be carrying her and walk into the room where it is. She will point at it and basically beg me to make it print something. I’m sure it’s just because it makes funny noises and does a strange thing but never underestimate how young kids can become interested in things. She certainly isn’t opening solidworks any time soon but if interests hold I’m sure she will want to.

    1. yes! my 3.5 year old LOVES our printer. he requests things and picks out filament colors, and can explain (simply) how the whole thing works! we regularly collaborate on projects, making modifications or accessories for his toys or designing gifts for people. it has definitely helped with learning to be patient!

      if he notices the printer shutting idle, he immediately starts talking about what we should make next!

    2. Oh yeah kids love watching the things. Honestly, so do I from time to time. I find it pretty amusing that the little ones have to clarify “printer” references as whether it’s the 3d or 2d printer…

      Kids can play around in TinkerCAD. Not sure I’d have a kid do the whole slice and send to octoprint thing (though that would be easier than SD card). Nicht fur gefingerpoken, sure, but surprisingly that part hasn’t been a problem. (But I don’t have a bed-slinger)

    3. To my mind there is a correlation between childhood and pure research. Not that scientists are kids or visa versa. More that one does not know what the outcome or the uses will be. Most toys are pretty crap because they only do one thing. They may go Broom broom or leave a stain on a chair when you squirt water into them. Toys that are capable of more than one action are far more entertaining and educational. Meccano, Lego, a kitchen will hold a child’s attention for longer, assuming the child has sufficient interest to have said attention held.
      The dangers: so what? My son learned at an early age that putting his finger in the path of a hammer was not wise, just as most of us learn that fire while pretty is not something to play with.
      Wood working at high school helped some kids develop skills that they put to economic use later on. Others discovered that they weren’t at all interested and still others found that while they were not sufficiently interested or adept, they gained an appreciation of what it takes to convert a raw material into a functional and useful item.
      Parental supervision? Of course. General safety, check. Give in to curiosity, you never know where it will lead. Maybe a hobby, a career, the dust bin or hospital but the adventure will have been had, things will have been learned.
      So in summary, thank you for coming to my TED talk.

    4. I was introduced to a soldering iron at around the same time i was writing with things other than my finger due to dad being a Mine engineer in charge of a branch terex africa, sadly parents went diff directions and my mum went with I.T as a new direction so from 8 onwards i could do calc faster in binary or hex quicker than decimal and it annoyed teacher who wanted “show me you workings out” , yeah that caused conflict as did the same happen some of my Japanese friends who used the rounds of ten trick to short hand math.

  2. >Even so, we frequently see press releases for “kids printers” and we’ve been wondering, should this be a thing?

    Didn’t know kids can already be 3D printed, i thought they are made using some other uh… process?

    1. To be fair, it’s a system with ingests a wide variety of raw materials, decomposes them into constituent chemicals and then uses a clever code to self assemble then into a print-in-place, multi material, full colour product. It’s closer to a replicator than any of these ‘robotic glue guns’ were all using!
      If only we could work out how to override the program to make something other than infants.

  3. i know there must be a telescope that bad, because i once had a pair of binoculars that bad. but i just want to speak in defense of cheap telescopes :)

    they can almost always view the rings of saturn and get stunning views of the moon. the disappointment is that there’s almost nothing else worth looking at through them — they aren’t aperture-y enough for faint fuzzies (nebulae, etc), and they often have a very narrow field of view making it hard to use them really at all.

    1. I still have the crappy little telescope I won in Boy Scouts. At the time, it was the coolest thing I had and I’d spend evenings in the back yard just staring at the moon because that’s pretty much all it was good enough for.

      It was crap, but it was enough to get me excited an a couple years later my parents found a half-decent reflector telescope. It was good enough to just barely make out Saturn’s rings, or at least the fuzzy ears on the sides of a fuzzy circle. You could sort of see Jupiter’s stripes. It was awesome, and got me very interested in space, then space travel, then sci-fi which led me to engineering which resulted in my career.

      Things don’t need to be practical or good to make a positive impact on a child’s developing mind.

      1. I’m 63 and still wonder if I should splurge on a telescope. It was the sort of thing you were supposed to have as a kid if you wanted to be Tom Swift.

        But everytime I sort of look, I think it will just be something to sit in the closet after some initial use.

        1. It’s alright to splurge on it, enjoy it for 6 months, and then sell it again or give it to kid who can’t afford it. Go for it. They’re neat for a while at least. Enjoy it!

    1. Learning technical manufacturing skills by 3D printing is pretty much the same as learning to paint with a color laser. Never mind where the model or picture comes from.

      It kinda skips the learning bit – unless all you ever intended to teach was how to use a printer.

  4. I used to think that the CAD aspect would be the hardest part of designing a 3d-printable part, but both my kids learned tinkercad at school in the 5-8 yr old range, and they both adore the Lego CAD program. I think the hardest part is actually “design for manufacturability”; that is, FDM printers have certain requirements regarding support, part thickness, etc, and those have to engage a different part of the brain than “I want to draw a beaver because I love beavers!”. I think resin printers (if you dealt with the toxicity and mess) and MJF/SLS are more accessible to kids in some sense because the fabrication restrictions are easier to understand.

    1. I think the main draw of a 3d printer is as the back half of the process of translating an idea into a physical item. Showing kids that the weird things they think up can actually be built, by them, seems like a valuable thing, as does giving them enough info about CAD that they can then take off and learn how to draw more interesting and difficult things. They also get to exercise their spatial awareness skills!

  5. There shouldn’t need to be any distinction between ‘kids’ and normal user tools really* – if they are old enough to understand the concepts and learn to use them safely with supervision then let them at any tool they are interested in (NOTE WITH SUPERVISION!!!). Even the table saw, perhaps the scariest tool many of us posses isn’t some black magic only suitable for some definition of old/adult folks, so once the kid is large/old/wise enough to actually be able to operate it as safely as such tools can be if they want to learn teach them!

    Then once they get towards being adult like people that can be responsible enough for their own safety you can cut back or ditch the supervision… Oh and of course a more simplistic, cut down, easy to operate version of the tool as often seen for industrial use wrapped up in shinier more enticing caseing and software ‘for kids’ is fine.

    *except size and power – no point handing them the 1000w corded drill a big guy struggles to control even with practice with a handle so vast their little hands can’t even come close to getting a grip. So a ‘kids version’ is probably the same thing as a ‘ladies version’ – something with slightly smaller handles and perhaps a bit less power to suit the lighter smaller person…

    1. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve taught my kids to use all sorts of power tools.

      A three year old/five year old team can effectively use a (small) impact driver. With a handful of hex drive screws and a pile of wood my young kids can build some crazy structures.

    2. I 100% agree with this, my dad had this approach with me when I was a kid. The benefits it gives are mind blowing. I grew up thinking that having a wood lathe, drill press, TIG and stick welders, chop saws, bandsaws, tubing benders, sheet metal brakes/shears, grinders, etc. were just something that everyone had at their house and that everyone knew how to use them. I came from a small town so most of the people I grew up with actually did find all of that normal for a kid growing up, but once I got to college (the engineering program no less) I quickly realized that most people do not grow up with that kind of access to tools and I learned to appreciate it a lot more than I had growing up. Hell there were mechanical engineers in one of my first year classes that had never used a screwdriver before…

      1. I always enjoy it every year when it comes time for the Girl Scouts to build something, I round up all my drills and power screwdrivers. This last time I actually went with to help, and I was horrified the number of the other adult volunteers/co-leaders who didn’t know how to use a basic “variable speed reversible” cordless drill….

        The Cub Scouts apparently have a rule that’s interpreted locally as “cub scouts are not allowed to use power tools” (that’s thru grade 5, so like age 10) which seems a little weird to me. But, I decided to lean into it, and the first pinewood derby car was made almost entirely using hand tools, since I didn’t want to teach the kid something they wouldn’t be allowed to do on their own if they wanted. (They already know how to use a drill, etc). Only had to use a power drill for the holes for the (official sanctioned!) weights, which needed a 25/64th inch hole, whose drill is slightly too big to fit in the chuck of my hand “eggbeater” drill. And would probably have sucked to do by hand anyway… But the kid had a blast trying the variety of different hand saws on scrap to see how they differed before being steered towards a Japanese style pull saw. (Thank goodness the design just had a 45 degree angle on the front, nice and easy single cut)

        That said, it meant I no longer had an excuse to get a scroll saw this year….

  6. A 3D printer nozzle isn’t a serious safety hazard. The WORST that happens is that the kid gets a minor burn that will heal without a trace in a few days. And you usually have to actively try to touch it, which means that a warning that it’s hot can go a long way even with a relatively young child. A heated bed won’t burn you unless (a) you sit there with your hand on it, or (b) you’re using relatively exotic filament.

    Fumes and chemicals… well, you should have decent ventilation, and about the most noxious chemical you’ll run into with FDM is isopropyl alcohol. Which is not a big deal unless you do something absolutely insane with it.

    An FDM printer can do less harm than a kitchen knife can. And, yes, your kid should learn to use a kitchen knife.

    But my daughter never had much interest in *operating* the 3D printer. She would generally talk a parent into printing whatever she wanted.

    Age 5 is not too early for a 3D printer, or a kitchen knife, *depending on the kid*. If your child is rambunctious, inattentive, risk-seeking, or generally crazy, maybe you have to wait longer.

    My daughter is none of those things; if anything she was overly timid until her teens. I would have let her interact with a 3D printer at age 5, with reasonable supervision. I *did* teach her to solder kits at maybe age 7 or 8. With liquid flux. She neither burned herself nor breathed in a bunch of fumes. She did not put the soldering iron down anywhere dangerous, or do anything else weird. I was watching very closely, but I rarely even had to remind her of anything. She ran a scroll saw around that age, too.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t have let my neighbor’s kid near the printer before about age 12, not so much out of fear for her as out of fear for the printer. And I’m STILL not sure I’d let her use a soldering iron in my house. People vary.

    1. “a minor burn that will heal without a trace in a few days”

      heh, i think i still have a scar on my finger from when someone let me play^H^H^H^Hwork with a soldering iron when i was 11 or 12. otoh, i am not sure which one it is anymore because there are so many other scars on my hands!

      but i’m not disagreeing…even if they manage to permanently scar themselves, a heat source like that is still really not that dangerous. it hurt for a while and then it healed with a tiny mark, that’s just how it is. and anyways, unlike soldering you don’t have any real need to put your fingers right in it. only foolish children will get burned by a 3d printer, but the soldering iron attacks you for the mere crime of being clumsy :)

  7. At ages 4 and 7 here (both boys), they come if some car, Tony figure or something else is broken (again :-) ). The question is not how i fix it, only if i can fix it. So yes, they are interested in 3d printing….and duct tape, super glue, screws and if all else fails, a reminder to play a bit more carefully.

  8. “Printers are not as safe as you’d like.”… True but think of the past (60’s 70’s) where we had wood and leather burning kits with a soldering iron, or the Vacu-Form with its hot plate or even the Easy Bake oven. They were all dangerous but we all learned from them while having fun mostly without serious injury or burning down the house. This was the era where we played on metal monkey bars and drank from a garden hose. A 3D printer is good for learning future technology… or making more little plastic bricks for dad to step on in the dark. 😁

    1. Can’t leave out the early version of Creepy Crawlers. Heat and toxic chemicals. Good times were had by all. As far as I know, none of us died or were even burned by the Thingmaker hotplate (more than once).

  9. I see the problem for kids and 3d printers as a time issue. My 6 year old grandson loves to see the stuff That I print. He even loves to see the printer in action—–for about 5 minutes. When I tell him it will be finished printing in 4 hours, the enthusiasm quickly disappears. Another issue is how 3d printers are presented to the
    public. Fast forward the printing process, totally eliminate the post printing finish work and jump straight to the finished product gives everyone not just kids a very false impression of how 3d printing actually works. When this REAL information was presented to my grandson, his interest in 3d printing went from let me do it to let me play with what you print for me. I agree that it might be better to teach kids to design stuff to be printed by others.

    1. I really don’t see that it matters how long the printer takes, or even if your particular part or printer creates post processing afterwards – The child should be excited to see ‘their’ work come to life in CAD and slicer, and then enjoy watching the process in the real world for however long it holds their attention. Then like the rest of us they will wander off to find something else to occupy their time and come back all exited tomorrow to see the ‘final’ results…

      Its not like they have to be held rapt for the many hours the printer may take, only able to enjoy and get excited by the potential to take idea through to creation while hopefully gaining some insight into material properties, electronics, maybe even a little mathematics along the way.

  10. I live in a large household full of mostly customised technology but we don’t have a 3D printer, I’d rather teach my kids the skills that could lead them toward projects that may justify a 3D printer and after successfully outsourcing the prints I’d still expect them to try to make a business case for doing it in-house.

    1. oh man i’m not sure i agree :)

      for me, the thing about 3d printing is just how extremely impromptu it is. the ability to iterate from idea to object on a whim in sometimes less than an hour is the whole point. honestly, after i learned to take that ability for granted, i was surprised how much it changed how i think and work. the convenience of it really puts it in a totally different league than something with the same capabilities but less convenience.

      you know, it’s kind of like press F5 to compile vs. leave a stack of punchcards with the acolytes overnight. both of those processes are “programming a computer” and they both give you an enormous power compared to clerks with pen and paper. but the ability to get your result back in a few seconds completely changes how you work, qualitatively it’s like a totally different and almost unrelated capability.

      i’m so embarrassed to say “F5 to compile” that i have to disclose i use “:map e :w^M:!./doit^M” instead :)

  11. Shop class make sense to me – for me that was grades 7 & 8. If you want to get them introduced earlier and you don’t have your own equipment, try your public library; here in Toronto there are 9 branches with “Digital Innovation Hubs”, which have 3d printers and related software, Arduino and Raspberry PI kits, audio/video recording studios, sewing and embroidery machines, vinyl cutters, and other wonderful stuff that I’d have killed for when I was that age. You pay for the materials, but the equipment is free to use and there are free classes.

  12. No kids do not “need” 3D printers. But that is because it is a dumb question. The real question is can a child benefit from access to a 3D printer? It is going to depend on both the child and the mentor. If the parents have no experience with 3D printers and no one else in the child’s life has experience then unless the child is brilliant it will be useless.
    So the the correct answer is, it depends on the child, the available mentors, and what else could the money could be spent on.

  13. The picture above has snap together articulated characters. I recently printed some similar ones (Modibot from thingiverse) for my 5yr old. FDM doesn’t do well for this sort of thing. The story that picture is selling is total bs. 3d printers won’t turn you into that family.

    I think the best value is the example we can set as parents, aided by the 3d printer: I have a problem, e.g. we need a certain type of iPad holder. I talk though the problem with my son. He sees me design a part, print it, modify it when it isn’t quite right, and then we use it. He will apply those same principles to many areas of life. Same with kids seeing their parents do creative work in general. Could be Woodwork or fixing cars etc.

    3d printer makes it easy to go through this process in the living room while the rest of home life is happening.

    1. I suspect that Mattel was hoping to make boat load of money selling replacement filament cartridges like HP inkjets, with similar lockouts for cheaper products.

    2. The Hot Wheels Car Maker (about 10 years ago) used wax and only molded the bodies. I’d bet that other types of wax would work as long as the melting temperature was close.

      Circa 1979 was the Hot Wheels Master Caster. Unlike the Factory and Car Maker this was not an injection molding device. It used simple, open molds and a tilting melting pot to dump wax into them where it’d cool around the axles set into the mold. Quite crude compared to the others.

      The circa 1970 Hot Wheels Factory used “Plastix” and molded 10 different bodies plus a short and a long chassis. It came with a supply of wheels and axles to drop into the chassis mold.

      Which one did you have?

  14. Go a few years back of the Mattel Thingmaker and you’ll find the Mold Master, an injection mold toy maker using melted plastic and two piece molds. The challenge was holding your finger under the hole where the melted plastic came out to see how hot it was. Everyone had to try it.

  15. I agree it has parallels to other things – however I was teaching my son both c++ and how to use a drill press when he was less than 5, but he had no interest in using my 3d printer..
    It’s an interest thing ie hasn’t touched the drill press since he was 8, has never used the 3d printer, yet programs every day…

    So I’d say a kid is up to using a 3d printer when they recon they want to give it a go!

    ps. How can anyone live without a drill press…

  16. Yes, they do need 3d printers, telescopes, cameras, computers and so on.
    They just do not need crappy kid versions of them.
    That is why my (7yo now) kid has a refurb Meade Amazon warehouse deal and refurb Nikon Coolpix S33 and we use my Anycubic Kossel and Creality resin printer for printing stuff not the garbage “for kids”.
    When you give unusable garbage for kids to play it has opposite effects. It discourages them because it is impossible to use these items, they break quickly and they do not perform any useful function. So you teach them that you do not respect them as well.
    Guess what, when a kid gets to use the real tool they actually learn how to use it, they respect it because it is the same stuff as real, adult tools and they can actually see stars and planets through it, take recognizable pictures, have working 3d prints, write real programs and so on.

    1. I guess this sums up most answers here, don’t give kids useless garbage that will only be a disappointment, give them a real thing.
      But, this doesn’t answer original question: do they need it? Short answer is no, they don’t, we’ve grown up without 3D printers and we were fine. But, it is wrong question, question should be would kids benefit from 3D printer? Answer here is, it depends. If kid shows some interest for a tool (3D printer, telescope, musical instrument, whatever), answer is yes, kid would benefit from it. On the other hand, if you want the kid to use it, then no, it will only collect dust. If you want it, buy it for yourself, use it, ask the kid to join you, and kid might become interested. But don’t buy it for the kid and expect that the kid will start using it just because you want it to.

  17. Nobody ‘needs’ 3D printers just as nobody ‘needs’ a car or a phone, a TV or a house. It just can make your life easier, more satisfying, or pleasant. Goes for kids as well.
    At one time all we ‘needed’ was a cave and a spear. Don’t think anybody wants to go back to that

  18. A 3D Printer is like a drill press?!?
    Nah, a 3D Printer is more like a Easy Bake Oven or Creepy Crawlers.

    To me a 3D Printer isn’t a need but a want. A child doesn’t have to have one. It falls under honestly a music instrument. The child will ask for it and it’s a 50-50 shot the parent will say yes and if the parent says yes from there the child will either learn and use it and do amazing stuff with it OR play with it for a month and then collects dust.

  19. We bought a cheap easythreed x1 for our 8years old son. He absolutely loves it and is able to create his own stuff in tinkercad and print it via the sd card. He is now making small toys for his younger sister.
    It probably depends a lot on the interests of the kid. But in our situation it has told him a lot of new things.

    1. I did not know tinkercad yet. This evening I have shown it to my children and they liked it. I can imagine that they will be able to model something soon that will worth being printed.

  20. I think that in case a kid has a will to learn something by himself then I will support him by buying the necessary stuff. As long as it is within my financial reach and a 3d printer certainly is. Maybe I would suggest to print the first models at public fab places or friends machine to avoid buying if it turns out to be a short time hobby. But when he shows real interest and have tried a few models then I would surely buy a printer for home.

    I would not buy one just to print toys modeled by other people. They have to learn something from it to deserve it.

    Actually it is all fictional because I have already bought a printer for myself so we have one at home. The kids are interested to see it printing and are fascinated by the result. But they are not yet on the level of designing anything themselves. Eldest is 8 year old and she likes to work with her hands instead of the computer. I have shown them the modeling program but they don’t really understand it yet. I use OpenSCAD which is not really child friendly… I should show them something better suited for children.

  21. Regarding safety this is safer than letting kids near water. Any water. Everything with a child requires some level of appropriate supervision.

    I would argue that hobby 3D printing may not be for you if operating and maintaining a printer ends up being untenable. But by all means get the inexpensive printer and find out! Remember that you can always sell it and get a reliable unit if CAM operating is useful or outsource the printing.

    Maybe you or your child gets into some other part of the creative process involved such as modelling.

  22. Depends on the kid and the age. I had a soldering iron and leaded solder as a tween. But it was pretty easy to convince me to wash my hands after handling toxic things, and not put them in my mouth, and not to ruin my soldering iron burning the wrong things. (I had a wood burner before that, which I only used for a couple of projects before losing interest).
    If your child isn’t mature enough to handle unsafe tasks for some of these more esoteric hobbies. Toxic paints and glues for models, hot irons and fiberglass boards for electronics, bicycles, dirt bikes, etc.

  23. One of the major dangers from FDM printer is the generation of PM 2.5 particulate matter and VOCs. PLA isn’t as bad as ABS, of course, but I sure don’t sit in the same room as the printer any longer than I have to. In my old place I’d at least keep the thing in the bathroom and leave the vent fan on, but that’s not an option in my current rental.

    I couldn’t find any journal papers that were Open Access, so I didn’t bother linking them, but I’ve seen several where the VOCs and PM 2.5 levels are concerning and definitely not something you’d want in your main living space.

  24. I had an original ThingMaker Creepy Crawlers set (Army Men and Mini Dragons too) when I was a kid. It was *not* “an Easy Bake Oven with some goop and molds”. The heating unit on the ThingMaker wasn’t powered by a 40w incandescent light bulb. It got very hot and molds would boil the water in the cooling tray. I loved that thing and never burned myself.

    Naw, kids don’t “need” a 3D printer. But, as others have said, if they show an interest I’d expose them to one, see how it goes before spending the cash. Some will love one (and the whole CAD/Blender model making process) and others won’t. Many of the things I made with my ThingMaker when to my younger brother to play with. He loved playing with them but had absolutely no interest in making them. Kids have different interests.

  25. I have been playing with 3D printers for close to 10 years now. I also work in education. From my experience 3D printers are cool but it is the 3D modeling software that actually teaches kids anything. That being said I recently purchased a new 3D printer and I am utterly amazed at how far the technology has come in 10 years. The first printer I got cost about $2,000. and could not even compare to the one I just paid $200 for. Over those 10 years the price has dropped 10X and the technology has improved 10X. 3D printers are getting so good that they deserve a spot in the classroom now. Even a non-technical user can use them now. Auto level (tramming), power failure resume printing, wifi model delivery, and so much more.

  26. My player 2 loves the 3D printer. But it turned out what she loves most is painting the prints and digitalizing plush toys to make 3D prints from them (8yo now). She fitted her whole class with hand-painted sorcerer wands. So now the workshop finally has some really good painting equipment, approved by the government :)
    When she was 4 we looked at lego parts to print to vastly extend the lego railway network.
    At least She can clean the bed surface and restart the printer.
    The cheap diode-laser cutter was so far the most apprechiated item in the workshop – she can digitalize her artwork and builds the most detailed dioramas from 3D printed or laser-cut items.
    I guess as long as you find something the child prefers to do with/along you that is not wasting time on streaming media you already won.
    Don’t expect your child to have the same interest as you. But with us being hackers we will anyways find some project we can work on together. If the child is somewhat creative at least.

    1. Maybe my Anycubic Kossel sucks, or I am setting something wrong, but my prints do not have enough dimensional stability to interface with LEGOs.
      I “succeded” with one crossroad track after a lot of dremeling to make it to connect to LEGOs and it still needs a lot of force to connect.
      Printing LEGO sized version of marble run (smaller version of something like Hubelino Marble run makes in Duplo size) on FDM was horrible failure. Then we tried on my resin printer, and it was somewhat better, but resin is more brittle and less forgiving when trying to connect to LEGOs. And dimensions were still not perfect and required some dremeling/scraping.

  27. Getting your kids a 3D printer is like getting a very expensive Saxophone. If your kid has a huge interest in Playing Sax, then he is gonna love it. But if you want to force him to play a musical instrument he doesnt like, then he is going to hate you, and that sax is going to end up being another piece of junk in his room.


    I gave my son a Ender 3 V2 on 2022 Christmas. He is 9 years old and he uses the printer by himself everyday, without any supervision. He was asking for that printer 2 years ago, so I knew he was serious on 3d printing stuff.

    Of course, I had to assamble the printer, level the bed, put the filament, and upgrade the bed with a PC steel + PEI plate.

    I did teach him how to get from thingverse->cura slicer->usb thumbdrive->printer. And he does everything by itself.

    Btw, the PEI plate must be cleaned after every print, because the grease from my son’s fingers would not allow the filament to stick to the bed. I recomend to get a “Lens cleaner kit” from Costco, since the spray is good enough for cleaning PEI (The alternative was to use Isopropil Alcohol, but I discourage that for kids that young). The kit comes with a rag, and 2 spray bottles.

    So far, the only thing my kid does is just look up for figurines at thingverse. It doesnt require any skill, other than following the same procedure for setting up the printer.

    Would I recommend this setup to any other parents? Only IFF;

    1) Your kid has already stated that he wants a 3D printer

    2) You have the skills and patience to;
    a) Assemble the 3D printer
    b) Level the bed
    c) Install the filament
    d) Teach your kid all the necesary steps to go from thingverse to slicer, and then to print
    e) Troubleshoot any problem with the printer
    f) Have time to educate yourself on how to improve your 3D prints

    3) Have a special room in your house, that isnt dangerous for your kid and your 3D printer. Must be a place that is away from pets, other people, and stuff that can possibly burn

    4) Have a very sturdy place where to put your printer. This place must be safe from flamable materials, since printers could possibly catch fire (Google Creality CR30 issues)

    5) Restrict your son in only using FDM printers, and PLA only.

    6) Have the proper tools for using it, such as a cleaning kit for the build plate, and a flexible PC steel + PEI bed, for easy removal of the objects.

    If your kid is not seriously interested on 3D printers, dont bother getting one for him. Get one for yourself =) and have fun.

    1. Forgot to mention, I hide the tools that came with the Ender 3 (The cutters, the Spatula, and the Glass bed) Those are a huge NO for young kids. Get the flexible PEI plate, dont let them use the glass bed.

  28. The question is are all 3D or 2D printers compatible?
    Will my child be able to use a 3D printer if he or she cannot draw and what use would he or she be able to get out of a 3D printer if he or she cannot draw?
    How much of the results of printing something just waste?

  29. I run a Makerspace and the 3d printer are used by kids often but they often (if not always) need supervision in handling a project. Most of them find an idea on Thingiverse, I optimize the print settings and we let it rip. It’s a good entry into “making” because having something you can hold in your hands that day is exciting. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

    Want an easy print for a kid? Look up “print-in-place” or “articulated” designs on Thingiverse or any other 3d-model-aggregating site and you’re sure to find one to please.

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