How I Built a 3D Printer On My Lunch Break

Student Voice

How I Built a 3D Printer On My Lunch Break

Minnesota student talks machines, problem-solving, and choosing printers over pizza

By Jonathan Yang     Jun 5, 2014

How I Built a 3D Printer On My Lunch Break

Greetings! I’m Johnathan Yang, and I am a sixteen-year-old student from 916 Mahtomedi Academy. I recently built a 3D printer along with another student (Andy Xiong), as well as with help here and there by Matt Nupen (our teacher).

With extra time during our lunch break, my partner and I decided to build the 3D printer. You would think that sitting there reading instructions for thirty minutes is boring--but it isn't! In fact, it’s surprising how much anyone can learn from this.

Learning opportunities

Being one of the builders has taught me a lot about 3D printers. I think that creating the 3D printer from scratch instead of buying an already built printer can teach you not only how the printer is designed, but also how it works.

Not only did I learn a little more about the printer, but I also figured out more about electronics and machines as well, such as how machines go together. Previously, I had no experience with how electronics functioned within a machine. For example, if you’re missing just one piece of equipment, then the whole thing can fall apart. One missing item can hold together 100 other pieces. In fact, I now know that having extra pieces is always good!

Dealing with problems and setbacks

You might think you would find lots of problems while building a 3D printer. But for us, there were only minor problems. Some took longer than others to solve and fix, but we always figured it out. When it came to difficult problems, we fixed them by checking online; we could just check on the 3D printer website and/or search for it on Google, and we would find an answer sooner or later.

While having problems made us stressed, it taught us that a small problem didn't mean for that we should give up. One thing that we discovered had to do with directions. The issues we encountered were small, and due to how unspecific the instructions were. But I learned an important lesson: whenever there is a manual that comes with what I buy, I will make sure I read it all.

Using the 3D printer

Finally, after lots of hard work and learning, we finished the 3D printer. We now have to think about what to build with it in the future. As of now, we are practicing 123design, which is a 3D program that allows you to create 3D designs. You can make the designs in any way you like. They can be small or big; the only thing that matters is that the designs are compatible with the printer. Once ready, you must configure the printer onto a computer, and then you may start printing as much as you want.

Learning about 3D printers vs. building them

Actually building the 3D printer was different from reading about it, or from a teacher showing us how to build one. Unless you are a fast learner or reader, you’ll most likely take at least a couple of weeks to understand 3D printing well. Building the printer is also better because you get to know it better from the inside. You learn about every single part that it takes to build the 3D printer, and how it actually prints items.

We’ve learned so much in a quick way, and I’m so grateful that I had this opportunity. I will take this learning with me throughout my education to come--and perhaps even to a job someday!

Additional contributors to this article:

Karin Hogen is a 9-12 English/Language Arts teacher at a small 1:1 high school in White Bear Lake, MN. Karin enjoys all things edtech, and really loves getting kids to read and write about their own personal interests.

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