Oct 13, 2016 | By Alec

In hindsight it was inevitable, but we are still amazed by the fact that desktop 3D printers have already reached the sub $250 range – seriously bringing 3D printing within reach of every single consumer. Even children have become serious commercial targets, as XYZprinting is underlining with their da Vinci miniMaker, which is now available. Intended for classrooms, it gives STEM-minded teachers, parents and students an affordable beginner option that can teach kids of all ages about the basics of 3D printing.

Chinese company XYZprinting (owned by the Kinpo Group) is especially known for their basic 3D printers in the sub $500 range, but they have been branching out in both directions this year – unveiling even cheaper and more expensive and more capable machines, including da Vinci Mini 3D printer at CES at the beginning of the year. But one thing seems clear: the largest player in the desktop 3D printing industry, with an HQ in California, is keeping its eye firmly fixed on classrooms, home users and small businesses.

This was already underlined by last month’s release of the $290 da Vinci Mini, while this even cheaper $259 da Vinci miniMaker is completely focused on the classroom. Fully geared towards STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) projects, it is now available in the online store of XYZprinting and on Amazon.com.

However, the differences between the miniMaker and the da Vinci Mini are small. When stacked side-by-side, you’ll see that they have the same 15.8 x 13.2 x 14.3-inch chassis (30 percent smaller than the da Vinci Jr. 1.0) and the same 5.9-cubic inch build volume. Both also feature an open print bed that quickly disperses heat, and both are geared towards PLA. The only significant hardware differences are that the miniMaker has a USB connection, while the da Vinci Mini relies on hassle-free Wi-Fi.

The real difference can be seen on the software front, as the miniMaker is completely focused on STEM-related projects and is auto-calibrated to make classroom use as appealing as possible – kids can just jump right into 3D printing. “Teachers, parents and students are always looking for new and unique ways to make teaching and learning core skills fun for everyone,” said CEO Simon Shen. ”Our new da Vinci miniMaker is not only affordably priced to fit school and household budgets, but it will help encourage, expand, and shape the cognitive skills and abilities of the next generation of engineers, designers, and creators.”

At the same time, its developers have incorporated a few more educational features that spur creativity and increasing difficulty levels. For a purchase also provides access to XYZprinting’s “Educational Ecosystem”, which includes a free 3D printing curricula exchange platform for all grades K–12; the XYZmaker CAD program for very young users, and a 3D gallery including more than 4,500 different (educational) 3D printable objects.

What’s more, the 3D printer’s 5.9" x 5.9" x 5.9" build volume should be perfect for classrooms, while only the non-toxic PLA filament can be 3D printed on the miniMaker 3D printer. The 3D printer is supported both by Windows 7 and above (for PC) and Mac OSX 10.8 and above (for Mac) – giving teachers plenty of flexibility. “With these resources, educators can incorporate 3D printing into their existing curriculum,” said Ian Snyder, a physical and life science teacher from Pennsylvania high school who has been using 3D printers extensively. “Make sure to incorporate creativity into your class. Students have trouble returning to their roots of exploring how things work,” he advises.

At the same time, XYZprinting is releasing a companion product with the XYZprinting 3D Scanner Pro. Capable of capturing full-sized scans of large objects, including people, and fully compatible with XYZprinting’s editing software, it could be a fantastic tool for making educational 3D printing more interactive and fun. The new 3D scanner will be released at the end of next week, on October 21 ($249 as well). One thing seems clear: students of all ages are prime XYZprinting targets.



Posted in 3D Printer



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