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Da Vinci miniMaker Takes 3D Printing to the Classroom

XYZprinting is serious about 3D printing's place in the classroom. A month after shipping the da Vinci Mini, a compact $290 printer aimed at hobbyists and classrooms, the 3D printer maker has a new device that's focused solely on education.

Shipping today, the $249 da Vinci miniMaker is a 3D printer for beginners. Its compact size — the miniMaker is 30 percent smaller than XYZprinting's da Vinci Jr. 1.0 model — makes it ideal for classrooms, as does its focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum. The miniMaker includes a 3D modeling application, access to free 3D models and a 3D printing curriculum exchange platform aimed at grades K-12.

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There's not much difference between the miniMaker and the da Vinci Mini when you see them stacked side by side, as I did during a demo with XYZprinting. The Mini and miniMaker feature the same 15.8 x 13.2 x 14.3-inch chassis and have the same 5.9-cubic inch build volume. They also each use an open aluminum printing bed ideal of dispersing heat and working with the PLA filament used in prints. The miniMaker relies on USB to connect to computers, though, while the Mini has Wi-Fi capabilities.

Besides the STEM-focused software, the miniMaker includes an auto-calibration feature for leveling the print bed. That's certainly appealing for classroom settings where students and teachers alike want to jump right into 3D printing without having to make a lot of adjustments to the printer.

Another thing that caught my eye when watching the miniMaker demo were a trio of toys produced by the printer, including a ferris wheel, carousel and swinging boat. They're meant to teach kids about mechanical assembly, and you're even able to attach motors and batteries to make the toys move. XYZprinting plans to offer a $49 XYZ Steam package with instructions on designing and assembling the toys.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.