How your 3D Printer lab can survive the new social distancing standards

The Covid virus has impacted the way we interact in nearly all aspects of daily life, and the education system is no exception. With schools gradually getting back to regular classes, new social distancing standards will have to be implemented campus-wide. This poses some unique challenges for 3D Printer labs, which typically involve students congregating around 3D Printers, shared computers, and printer lab admins/teachers.

AstroPrint, with its unique cloud features, allows a 3D Printer lab to be a safe environment for your students & personnel. The AstroPrint platform also allows your organization to become compliant with the new hygiene/sanitation standards for schools.

THE OLD WAYand why it is no longer safe for your students & staff

  • Typically, students come into a 3D Printer lab then use a shared computer and shared SD cards to interact with the 3D Printers.
  • Using a shared computer for slicing, build plate setup, etc creates issues since many people will be touching the same computer.
  • Sharing SD cards creates the same issue. Everyone is touching the same cards and can therefore spread communicable disease.
  • Many students may be in the Printer Lab at the same time, when sharing the computer(s) and printers. In many cases, this will violate social distancing standards.
  • 3D Printers are often clustered close together in a printer lab. If many students interact with printers at the same time, they will likely be too close. Simply removing their print from the print bed could put the student at risk.
  • Also, students will be touching many parts of the 3D printers, such as the touchscreen, SD card slot, print bed, part removal tools, etc. Then, the next student that comes along will be touching the same things, potentially spreading germs.

THE NEW WAYand how AstroPrint can help protect your students and staff

  • Students use AstroPrint for Education to send their files to the printer lab. There, a lab technician manages the 3D printing process. This could be a staff member, or even a student that has been trained to work with the printers.
  • Students – Log into their AstroPrint account through a web browser on any computer (such as their own laptop), upload the design(s) they wish to print, create build plates and sliced files (if the admin has given them permission to do so), then add the file to the Group Printer Queue. After that, the student has nothing to do until the print is complete. Note: They have not physically gone into the 3D Printer lab. This could be done from their computer in their home.
  • Next – Printer Lab Technicians (and/or Admins) – Manage the Group Queue, deciding which printer the next job should be routed to. The jobs are routed to the printers wirelessly/remotely (i.e. no SD cards). Monitoring/cancelling prints can also be done remotely. The lab technician will need to physically interact with the printer to remove the printed part, and package it for pickup/delivery.
  • Each school/facility will likely have their own pickup/delivery process. Many schools have students come to pick up the part. These schools use Social Distancing protocols similar to what restaurants use for food pick up. Alternatively, the parts can be delivered via mail/post-office. This is even more sanitary, but is likely a lot of extra work that many schools will not want to do (i.e. dealing with packaging, postage, lost packages, etc.).
  • No one is sharing a computer. No one is using/sharing SD cards. Only one person needs to physically interact with the Printers and completed parts. No one needs to be in the same room as anyone else, ever.

Using AstroPrint for Business & Education, you can literally run a 100+ printer printer-farm and stay completely compliant with social distancing and sanitation standards.

Contact us today via astroprint.com/3d-printer-fleet for more information.

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How makers are using Clusters to 3D print PPEs worldwide

We asked some groups in our community how they are using AstroPrint Clusters to coordinate efforts to print PPEs for hospitals and other groups in need. Here is what they had to say:

Printing PPEs in Cincinnati

Patrick Bennett and Richard Eichhorn are coordinating efforts in the Cincinnati Metro Area including Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. They signed up in the AstroPrint Clusters app to become regional coordinators for the Cincinnati area.

We talked to Patrick to find out more:

How many people have joined your cluster and how many parts have been printed?

“We currently have 14 users in our cluster and have printed just over 200 prints which have been distributed to hospitals and local municipal Fire Departments, as well as individuals who need them for their essential businesses/organizations.”

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How to Set Up a 3D Printer Farm to Sell Cookie Cutters

Since we print on demand, we can sell zero of a design and it doesn’t cost us anything other than my wife having fun sketching it. If I put a product online and it doesn’t sell, we don’t lose anything.

Mike Benner

Mike and his wife Shey are the founders of Sheyb, an online store where people can find custom 3D printed cookie cutters. They make their own designs and print them on demand. Currently, they have a farm of 30+ printers and their business keeps growing.

In this interview, Mike tells us about:

  • How they started their 3D printing cookie business.
  • How they manage and monitor their 3D printer fleet.
  • How they leverage social media to drive sales.
  • Where Mike sees other business opportunities for 3D printing entrepreneurs.
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How Enterprises can Reduce Costs and get 20X Output in Additive Manufacturing

We often get asked how a system like AstroPrint can save an Enterprise so much money, while dramatically increasing Additive Manufacturing output.  This article will explore one of the primary ways we can do exactly this.

Let’s start with understanding how most Enterprises buy 3D Printers:  In most organizations, an engineer requests a 3D Printer for themselves, or a department.  After lots of bureaucracy, they get this approved and the purchasing process can begin. Being a large organization, they reach out to a public company such as Stratasys or 3D Systems and enter the Enterprise sales cycle of these organizations.  They then go on to purchase a high end 3D Printer with a service contract and advanced (paid) software package to manage the printer.

(more…)

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TrainLab: How a Toy Manufacturer Uses AstroPrint to Run a Business

TrainLab, a startup toy manufacturer, designs and makes their own toy parts using desktop 3D printers. Like other entrepreneurs, they found a niche where 3D printing made sense and started a business around it.

They started making train track adapters and connectors for kids, selling them on Ebay, Amazon, Etsy and on their own online store.


In this post, Scot Refsland, founder of Trainlab, tells us about how they leverage AstroPrint software to maximize their 3D printer fleet productivity and scale their business.

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How MetalMaker 3D is using AstroPrint to Disrupt the $200B Metal Casting Industry

Lots of innovators are using AstroPrint to power their startup businesses, but none more innovative than the good folks at MetalMaker 3D.

About MetalMaker 3D

MetalMaker 3D has created a mini Foundry system that quickly and easily produces cast-metal parts that do not have the limitations of 3D Printed metal.  MetalMaker 3D parts are dramatically cheaper, faster, and stronger that parts made from traditional metal Additive Manufacturing processes. (more…)

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Cloud development cost

Why User-Friendly 3D Printers Don’t Sell Well (Yet)

The Mod-t, a beautiful, cloud-connected and easy-to-use 3D printer for only $299. NewMatter recently announced it will shut down operations. What went wrong? 

Some 3D printer manufacturers are making their own user-friendly software innovations to make printers more approachable. However, they don’t sell enough units. But why? Don’t people like easy-to-use 3D printers with a sleek design?

(more…)

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Why 3D Printer Manufacturers should NEVER make software

Have you heard of Pirate3D‘s Buccaneer 3D Printer?

It’s the Jony Ives-inspired 3D printer that never took sail.

With a sleek, aluminum body, smooth, crystal clear acrylic housing, and beautiful aesthetics, it’s all beauty and no brains.

If you aren’t in the loop, Pirate3D raised a (then) record-breaking $1.4M+ on Kickstarter for their Buccaneer 3D Printer in 2013.

It was a hit.

Largely because most consumers had never seen such a well thought out 3D printer at such an affordable price point.

At the time, the most well-known printer was Makerbot’s Replicator 2, which ran for $2,200 and Pirate3D claimed to have a better designed, faster printer (The Buccaneer) for just $347.

Truth is: it WAS a well-designed printer and we were just as excited for Pirate3D to pull this off.

(more…)

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Cloud connected 3D printing

Why Cloud-Connected 3D Printers Sell More

It is clear by now that cables and SD cards are not the future of 3D printing. As more users demand their printers to be wireless, 3D printer manufacturers are increasingly making wifi-connectivity a priority for their printer line. However, many of them are simply connecting a desktop 3D printer to a local network and that, is not the future.

A step further is to connect printers to a cloud platform. We live in the era of the internet of things, where every device gets connected to the cloud. However, most 3D printer manufacturers don’t really understand what the cloud does for a 3D printer. What are the advantages of cloud versus local network for 3D printers? Do 3D printers gain value when they are cloud-connected?

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