Schools put 3D printing to work in education Karmen, a Czech company, is helping with that

August 05, 2020

Because of its cooperation with Karmen, teachers are able to manage printers more easily, students can enjoy interesting lectures and workshops on 3D printing, programming and what goes on behind the scenes in the Karmen environment.

The Třebešín Secondary Technical School started with 3D printing in 2011, when they put together their first open source RepRap printer over weekends.

“We’ve gone through a lot over the years of development and teaching 3D printing. From the difficulties putting the open source equipment together, to troubles applying glue to a glass substrate, which we sometimes found next to the printer when things went wrong. The difference is clear today in the effectiveness of construction, improvements in ergonomics when assembling and other improvements,” says IT teacher and lecturer David Frýbert.

The beginnings of 3D printing and dreams of Octoprint

3D printing was still in its infancy, when it was necessary to start prints directly from the printer; there was no overview of what was being printed, when the printer would be free, when something went wrong, etc. For the school, located in a large building full of students and with a large part of the student body having enormous interest in 3D printing, these were major complications.

“As the number of printers increased, my colleagues and I started playing around with the idea of a print server based on the Octoprint platform. As is usually the case, there wasn’t much time for implementation, and we thought more about the 3D printing itself, how to effectively put it to use in teaching and which models to print. In brief, print connection and monitoring somehow fell by the wayside,” Frýbert admits.

However, it was still necessary to monitor how long things were printing and who they were printing for. Those criteria were important for an overview of costs, monitoring the utilization of individual machines and for handling technical problems. Due to a lack of time, something almost all teachers have to deal with, “print monitoring” took the form of a spreadsheet students and teachers used to write down key information. Then came an opportunity to test Karmen, a tool for 3D print monitoring and remote management.

With Karmen, printers are controlled remotely

“After an introductory meeting and getting acquainted with the prototype, we found exactly what we had been needing for a long time – the ability to connect printers to a single network, to remotely monitor their operation with an integrated camera, and the ability to create user accounts on several levels,” Frýbert says enthusiastically.

The first version had its shortcomings, but those were resolved very quickly. Karmen is constantly evolving and improving, and with active customer support, users get quick help with any problems or answers to all of the related questions they may have.

3D printing is a great attraction for students. They can learn a lot about IT, programming and about additive manufacturing. “The Karmen source code is available as open source. This enables students and partner schools to see from the inside to see how Karmen has been programmed. In the future, we want to involve students interested in 3D printing in Karmen’s development, as well as those interested in programming: We will provide them with a platform which they can connect to during their school projects. As part of the school project, students create applications that display information on the current print job, including videos, on a big monitor located at the entrance to the classroom,” Karmen CTO Martin Bílek said, describing the cooperation with schools.

Even if many prints take place overnight or on weekends, they can sleep peacefully in Třebešín because they have the ability to check progress, stop printing or start print jobs remotely, even from a mobile phone.

Karmen helps print 300 shields for the Tiskne celé Česko (The Whole Czech Republic is Printing) project

“The transition to the cloud was welcome, as well as other minor improvements which are part of the current version. For example, being able to keep an eye on what’s being printed is a small but significant plus. We no longer have to keep the lights on in the room throughout the print, and only turn them on if we need to. Print management also helps. We can see exactly what individual printers printed, and when. By connecting everything via wifi, the complicated networking and interconnection of components is eliminated,” Frýbert says, going over Karmen’s advantages.

The Třebešín Secondary Technical School joined the Tiskne celé Česko (The Whole Czech Republic is Printing) initiative to print personal protective equipment against covid-19. Using Karmen, Třebešín printed more than 300 face masks for health care workers and teachers.

“We got the school’s caretaker to “simply” take off the prints when they were done and clean the pad, and everything else was handled remotely,” Frýbert says.

Karmen is built on openness, and is a technological and educational partner for schools. It’s not just about making printers easier to manage – students of partner schools receive education about not only 3D printing and programming in an entertaining way. In addition, Karmen also offers the opportunity to try out what software development means in practice, and to take part in the further development of applications, for example for first year, bachelor’s or master’s theses.

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