Why the 3D Printer in Your Makerspace Should be a Dremel

Don't buy another 3D printer if you are in a community space and working with students. 

I know what you’re thinking: “But this other printer is only a hundred and fifty bucks! I’ll just have the students put it together! How hard can it be?”

Stop. Don't even consider it.

What is your time worth? Do you want to be spending an hour or more taking that cheap printer apart every time it clogs? (Not to mention losing money on the filament you'll be wasting every time you have a failed print.) 

Or do you want a 3D printer that just works...you load a file, you push a button, and like magic it prints?

Yes, people successfully build very cheap printers and get amazing prints out of them. The difference is those people are tinkerers. They don’t mind doing hours of test prints and dialing in settings to get things just right. 

I am not one of those people. Most librarians and teachers I know do not have the time to be one of those people.

We just want it to work. Period.

So when I bought a 3D printer for my library makerspace seven years ago, I bought a Dremel 3D40. (Yes, my students named it Dennie and made him a name tag. The rule in our makerspace is you have to make the nameplate with the machine. 😀)

Yes, it was expensive. But do you know how many times I’ve had to unclog it, in seven years?


And even that wasn’t a painful experience. I hopped on the online chat, told them the issue I was having, and within a few minutes I had a detailed PDF with photos that showed me step-by-step how to take apart the print head, unclog it, and reassemble it. I was back up and running in no time.

The rest of those seven years, I was just pushing a button and waiting for the magic.

Yes, of course we have failed prints…because I’m dealing with students who are learning. Learning when you need supports. Learning that you really do need to measure things instead of eyeballing them.
But the printer itself is rock solid. And this is not something I use every once in a blue moon. When fidget spinners were all the rage, that printer was cranking out flawless prints all day, every school day. Everywhere you look in my library, chances are you'll see something we've 3D printed. 

Trust me. Do not skimp. Buy a Dremel.

I also really appreciate a company that stands by their products, and doesn’t abandon one model to only focus on their latest and greatest. I was thrilled when they contacted current 3D40 owners and offered an upgrade to the flexible build plate when it came out.  (Nothing is more satisfying than popping a print easily off the bed, after spending years of having to painfully scrape them off...it's well worth the upgrade.)

In my opinion, the newer 3D45 model is overkill for most users. You are not going to have the need to do different filaments in a school location, and switching back and forth has led to issues for my colleagues that have the newer model. The 3D40 FLEX EDU version comes with lesson plans and project ideas. It does print faster, and it does have a webcam for monitoring your prints, but those are the only things that would entice me to consider one. 

Also consider the software that you will be asking students to use. Dremel offers a desktop slicer called Dremel DigiLab that works really well (it's a based on Cura). It’s a good option if you have students below the age of thirteen. If they are over thirteen, and especially if your students have Chromebooks, I really like the simplicity of their Dremel Print Cloud slicer. Students can create their own free accounts (with grown up permission), do the slicing themselves, then share the file with my library account. 

I teach the students to name their file with the filament color they want, their last name, and the name of the object they’re printing. Then I can quickly review it when I see it in the queue and send it on its way over the network to the printer. It’s so convenient...I also like to be able to monitor it from my desk and see how long the print has left, since the printer is located in another room. Teach your students TinkerCAD and you will be printing in no time without having to learn (or teach!) complicated software.

Dremel's customer service when things go wrong is also top notch. A few years back, I contacted them to ask about purchasing a replacement filament door. Mine kept sticking, and one day I tried to open it a little too forcefully and broke the tabs off. They asked me to take a photo of it, and then immediately sent me a new door. No claim form, no hassle, no charge. . .not even for shipping! That’s the kind of company they are…you get the feeling they they truly want you to enjoy every minute of creating with that machine, and they will do everything they can to make sure it’s painless. Someone I know had an issue with their printer and within a week they had a shipping label to send it in to be evaluated free of charge, and the repairs (an entirely new motherboard and several other parts) were extremely reasonable (and it was out of warranty!)

Yes, the filament is on a proprietary size roll, and it is more expensive. But their quality control is better than any brand of filament I've tried, and you can even buy it through library supply companies like Demco now, if that's easier for your library.

I'm not an affiliate, but I should be! 😊 I think I've encouraged at least half a dozen fellow librarians and colleagues to purchase one. Purchasing is now handled through 3PI Tech Solutions. not directly on the Dremel website. (Customer support, however, is still handled at https://www.dremel.com/gn/en/digilab.

I hope this has been helpful in your quest to buy a 3D printer. This is only my opinion, and yes, there have been wonderful innovations lately that make other options just as user friendly as a Dremel…but I haven’t had any reason to investigate them because this little 3D40 just keeps printing away. If there are other printers you think I should consider, I’m happy to look into them!

I loved the Dremel 3D40 at my library so much that I purchased one for my home shop too. (And this was after buying an expensive large format printer that gave me fits for years!) I kept longing for the simplicity of my Dremel and am now thrilled to have one for my personal use too. 

I think a 3D printer is one of the best tools you can buy for a makerspace. It can accommodate everything from the true beginner who just wants to print files off of Thingiverse to students who are designing their own 3D models. The supervision is minimal, printing with PLA smells like pancakes instead of burnt plastic, and it’s literally push button easy. In my opinion you honestly can't get an easier to use, more trouble free 3D printer for a makerspace setting than a Dremel.

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