Afinia. A brand of 3D printers and scanners that you've most likely never heard from. And for good reason. They are over priced hunks of junk. (In my personal opinion.) They wrap their relatively flimsy 3D printers in a durable metal case, with dual ventilation fans for printing stinky ABS plastics but that is where the luxuries stop. Our school, up here in sunny Nunavut, purchased two Afinia H+1 3D Printers "The best of the best" I quote from the principal. I wish he consulted me first, though.
As you can see from this photo above, the Afinia H+1 produces far inferior straight lines compared to a cheap Creality Ender 3 printer when printing at similar speeds. Which just shouldn't happen. A "bargain bin" printer shouldn't be able to run rings around a VERY EXPENSIVE printer. That isn't where the sub-par ends, though. The Afinia slicing software, Afinia Studio, is also vastly inferior to the most common, and free, slicing software out there, Ultimaker Cura. And the teeth kicker? Afinia doesn't support using the Cura slicer. I assume I could make a custom profile, but for a school, that's not going to happen.
I must admit, that it's probably by design that I can't use Cura right out of the box. Cura allows you to tweak practically EVERY setting on the 3D Printer and could lead to some troubles if a student tries to mess around with it, whereas the Afinia Studio software just works. Change any setting you want it will still work. Aside from maybe lowering or raising the Z height too much.
One benefit that Afinia likes to pimp is their inclusion of three different print heads for use with different materials. One for PLA one for ABS and one for flexible TPU filament. They boast about having individual setups for different material instead of "jack of all trades" extruders. They also come with really ugly fan shrouds that were clearly 3D printed on an Afinia printer. You can tell this because they look atrocious!
Going through the list of differences between the print heads, it quickly becomes apparent that the differences between the extruders are superficial at best. A metal feed tube for the ABS and a slightly different heating element. That's about it. Nothing fancy. And I've actually been using an ABS print head to do PLA because I didn't notice that I had the wrong one in there. Which tells me the 3D printer is unaware of which print head is which. Amusing considering the size of ribbon cable that connects the extruder to the print head.
On to what we are using these printers for; Trinkets!
The students are obsessed with the 3D Printers, often coming to see me at all hours of the day as I'm loading up the print bed with new objects for them. The vast majority are trinkets. And because I'm in an Elementary school from grade K-6, some of the trinkets are quite amusing. AirPods, for example.
I had to explain to the student that I wouldn't be able to make real air pods, but I could print them some fake ones. They explained that they wanted to mimic their older sibling and were okay if they weren't real.
The eyeglasses on the other hand... I think we need to fly an optometrist up here asap. Corona and all the restrictions has prevented a lot of kids from getting their eyes checked of late and a few of them are complaining about blurry vision and are asking me to put real lenses in the fake glasses. Which then leads to me explaining that making lenses for glasses os a specialised job. Something I couldn't do because it might risk further damage to their vision. Plus the whole I don't know how to make lenses.
- Built in Ventilation for reduced smells
- Out of the box print ready
- Wide variety of filament types available to use
- Automatic assisted bed levelling
- End of Roll filament detection
- End Of Roll filament detection keeps nozzle at temperature instead of going into a cool standby mode
- Automatic bed levelling can malfunction if some bolts on the back aren't torqued properly
- Afinia Studio software allows for sub-optimal control over tweaking 3D Printer settings
- Rather flimsy design creates hilarious vibrations (this one might be a positive, actually, it's really funny!)
- May make you the most popular teacher in the school.
We've been using the 3D printer for about a month now and I have had one student show great interest in learning how to make her own jewellery on the 3D printers. She has designed two necklaces and one ring in TinkerCAD, a browser based CAD software that is akin to Scratch in the sense that it's as easy to use as drag and dropping a file. Select your block, drag it onto the build plate and then modify the parameters of the object with an easy to use interface. I am extremely proud of the student for showing the initiative to learn and create. We can lead a horse to water, but we can't make it drink, right? I am hoping that her successes inspire fellow students to try making their own creations as well!
3D Printers definitely fall in line with the STEM studies, allowing engineers and mathematicians to use technology to explore scientific studies, such as robotics, biology, engineering and physics with relative ease! It also inspires the artists to take 2D ideas and make them into something 3 dimensional that they can hold! (And paint in art class! Booyah! KILL ALL THE BIRDS WITH ONE STONE!)
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