Thoughts & News From The Polar 3D Team

Polar 3D Proud Supporter of the GE Additive Education Program


Polar 3D Proud Supporter of the GE Additive Education Program

The Polar 3D 2.0 Printer creating a 3D printed facsimile of a turbine engine part.

The Polar 3D 2.0 Printer creating a 3D printed facsimile of a turbine engine part.

CINCINNATI, Jan. 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Polar 3D is pleased to announce its support of the GE Additive Education Program for primary and secondary schools under which GE Additive will invest $2 million over two years to subsidize Polar 3D classroom packages.  Enabling educational institutions to provide access to 3D printers will help accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing worldwide, a goal GE and Polar share.  Applications for the Program are now being accepted.  Interested schools may complete the application form here.

"We selected Polar because of their commitment to education, strength of curriculum that integrates 3D printing in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math and the open Polar Cloud platform," said Greg Morris, Strategy & Growth Leader of GE Additive.  "We are excited to watch the ecosystem grow and develop pipelines of future talent in additive manufacturing."

"We are thrilled to participate in the Program and appreciate the opportunity," said Greg LaLonde CEO of Polar 3D.  "With GE's leadership and the power of our educational institutions, we believe student access to 3D printing and inquiry-driven project-based learning will reach an inflection point where network effects kick in and the growth of additive experimentation by our students will follow an exponential, rather than linear, trajectory.  Now is the time to inform and empower these students for an additive world."

Here is the timeline for the 2017 application and selection process:

Primary and secondary schools (ages 8-18)

  • February 28, 2017 - Introductory applications due 
  • March 15, 2017 - Down-selected schools notified 
  • April 7, 2017 - Detailed applications due 
  • April 28, 2017 - Final selections notified

For more information on the GE Additive Education Program please see GE Additive FAQ page here or visit

For more information on Polar 3D, please visit  

About Polar 3D

Polar 3D is a technology company delivering software, products and content to educate, train and enable a world for additive manufacturing through the Polar Cloud.  Headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, the Company's Polar Cloud makes 3D printing universally accessible by giving anyone with a browser the ability to create and transform digital models into physical objects.  The Company's patented "polar method" of 3D printing sets its printer apart from the field but the Polar Cloud is open and welcomes all 3D printers.  It's about educating and enabling a future for additive manufacturing by building the Polar Cloud into the largest 3D printing ecosystem in the world.  To that end, the Company and its partners are committed to publishing content on the Polar Cloud to enrich the member experience, including curriculum to drive the advance of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.  For more information, please go to

About GE

GE (NYSE:  GE) is the world's Digital Industrial Company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive. GE is organized around a global exchange of knowledge, the "GE Store," through which each business shares and accesses the same technology, markets, structure and intellect. Each invention further fuels innovation and application across our industrial sectors. With people, services, technology and scale, GE delivers better outcomes for customers by speaking the language of industry.


January EDU Project: Fractal Tree In The Forest


January EDU Project: Fractal Tree In The Forest

Welcome to the first EDU project of 2017 by our own Dr. David Thornburg! Winter is still in full effect, but hopefully this project will have you thinking about a verdant, green tree on a beautiful spring day. Without further adieu, here's Dr. Thornburg's Lesson...

Followers of this blog are no strangers to BlocksCAD, and this is the tool we'll be using today. The best way to access BlocksCAD is through its own site:


Good programming languages (like BlocksCAD) support recursive programming. Instead of looping a single set of commands, a recursive module uses replicas of itself as a part of the module definition. Once a module is called, the values of variables are local to that instance of the module. The result is the ability to create complex objects that can't be made with simple loop instructions.

In celebration of this capability, we'll create a famous recursive structure, a fractal tree. Fractals are complex structures in which any part of the structure is a replica of the structure as a whole. An entire branch of mathematics (chaos and complexity theory) is devoted to the exploration of these structures.

Consider a tree, for example, branches are similar to each other, but their size changes as smaller branches grow out of larger ones.

A similar pattern is found in ferns where the whole structure is similar to the smaller parts that make up the plant.

I became so engaged by these structures that I wrote a couple of books on the topic back in the 1980's: Discovering Apple Logo : An Invitation to the Art and Pattern of Nature, Addison Wesley, 1983.

The language I wrote about, Logo, supported recursion so it was a natural choice. Of course, in those days, the graphics were low resolution 2D images on an Apple II computer ― a far cry from what we can do with BlocksCAD and a 3D printer today.


As our tree is being built, the size and length of branches will change, just as they do with real trees. We start by creating a set of global variables used in our structure.

Next we define a recursive module called tree. This module uses three local variables ― the starting branch length and width and the depth (number of levels) of the tree. These three variables will have their local values changed during use of the module. All other variables will keep their global values.

There are two things to notice in this module. First, you'll see that we don't use the Centered option for the cylinder. This makes it easy to get all the branches connected. Second, the cylinder is tapered from its previous radius at the bottom to the new one at the top ― just like the branches of many real trees.
Once this module has been created, we can create our final instructions.

When this BlocksCAD program is run, it produces the following tree. I changed the rendering color by clicking on the Render window box with the color swatch and choosing green as the new color since it looks more tree-like. Of course the color of your printed object will be chosen by the filament you use.

Here's our printed tree.

This tree also looks like a stalk of broccoli. You should do some research to see why this is.


December EDU Project: Hot Tub + Hour Of Code


December EDU Project: Hot Tub + Hour Of Code

As the chilly winter weather sets in across the nation, we thought this would be a welcome subject for this month's Thornburg EDU Project. At the end of this month's EDU Project, we've got a challenge in conjunction with the #hourofcode initiative, so be sure to check that out as well! Now, on to Dr. Thornburg's lesson!


Hot tubs are relaxing! They come in a wide variety of models, but the main concepts are the same. Unlike swimming pools, hot tub users generally just sit and relax in warm water with small jets blowing bubbles and water streams on your back. After a half-hour, you emerge from the tub well relaxed with aches in your joints pretty well dissipated. The therapeutic value of hot tubs is why they are in training rooms for athletic teams, but a lot of people have installed hot tubs in their homes.

Hot Tub Image Source: Morguefile

Hot Tub Image Source: Morguefile

This project involves the design and building of a hot tub suitable for inclusion in a doll house. This project involves a lot of mathematics, and even explores the concept of water pressure. While it doesn't have any jets in it, you can add those if you want, and make a nice place for your fingers to relax, since our model is pretty small. Normally, hot tubs are about 2.5 meters across. Ours has an outside dimension of only 13 cm.

As with the other projects we've explored so far, this one will be done using Tinkercad.

Step-By-Step Design

1. The first step is to put the ruler on the workplane, and drag a Polygon from the Basic Shapes area of the screen onto the workplane. The shape of this polygonal prism is hexagonal ― just what we want.

2. Our next step is to resize this shape to represent the interior of the tub. The original dimension is 20 mm corner to corner, and 17.32 mm across the faces. The goal is to maintain the aspect ratio and resize the hexagon to 120 mm corner to corner. The face to face size will be 120 x 17.32 ÷ 20 which is 103.92 mm. Next, set the height to 40 mm.

3. Next, we'll make the outer part of the tub. Select the hexagonal prism, copy it, and paste it. To keep from being confused later, make the new shape a different color.

4. Move the interior piece up by 5 mm. You can pull it up with the black arrow, or enter 5 mm in the base position field on the left of the screen, just below the height setting.

5. Now it is time to change the size of the outer piece. Select it, make the corner to corner dimension 130 mm, and adjust the face to face dimension proportionately. In this case, the size will be 130 x 103.92 ÷ 120 which is 112.58 mm.

6. Now we need to align the two pieces so they are centered. Select both pieces, choose the align tool and click on the center button for both the X- and Y-axes. This might be easier for you to see if you use the Top view of the workplace.

7. When you are done, the pieces are centered like this.

8. Next, select the interior piece and choose the Hole tool to the right of the workplace.

9. Select both pieces, and click on the Group button to the top right of the workplace. This gives us the finished view of the tub itself.

10. Now we need to add seats to the tub. Drag a cylinder to the interior of the tub.

11. Change the seat size to 30 mm in diameter, with a 20 mm height. Finally, raise the seat 4 mm from the base. As before, this kind of movement can be done with the black arrow, or by entering 4 mm into the field below the height field.

12. Now move the seat to one of the corners so it makes a tight fit.

13. Copy the seat, and paste five more of them to the interior of the tub. Position them to the remaining corners, and you're done.

14. If you choose the Home view of the workplane, you can see a nice view of the tub. Export everything to an STL file and you're ready to print!

Printing & Assembly

Print a copy of your tub and check to make sure there are no holes in your model from which water can leak.

Things To Do & Notice

Calculate the volume of your tub. Here are some hints: A hexagon is made from six equilateral triangles. In our case, these triangles are 65 mm on each side. The tub is 35 mm deep, and you need to subtract the volume of the six cylindrical seats, each of which has a diameter of 30 mm and a height on 19 mm.
Using a measuring cup, fill your tub with water and compare the volume you found with the volume you calculated. If the numbers are different, how do you account for this?
Our tub has a wall thickness of 5 mm. Water exerts pressure on the walls of its container. Since the density of water is one gram per cm3, what is the pressure inside a full tub in newtons (N) per cm2? Where is this pressure the highest? Where is it the lowest. How thin do you think you can make the tub walls and still safely hold a tub full of water?

#HourOfCode Challenge

From December 5th to the 11th, multiple companies, schools, and organizations are participating in the Hour Of Code program to encourage students to learn and experiment with code. We'd like to get in on the action with this monthly lesson. Can you reconstruct this month's EDU lesson using the code based CAD program, BlocksCAD? If you send us a screenshot of your code solution with an image of your final model, and we will put your name in the hopper to win a 1kg roll of PLA filament in the color of your choosing! We will select a winner from the submissions on January 1st, so you have nearly a whole month to fit in an hour of code! Best of luck everyone!


3D Printing in the Classroom — Who Cares?


3D Printing in the Classroom — Who Cares?

We're excited to bring you this blog post by our Director of Education, David D. Thornburg, PhD.

I've chatted with lots of teachers over the years and now that 3D printers are becoming commonplace in many classrooms, a major complaint has emerged: “We got a printer for our class and after the kids made key chains, we didn't know what to do next, so we don't use it anymore."

This challenge is so commonplace that I thought I should address it. My view is that any technological tool used in education needs to be evaluated on the basis of its curricular connection. Just because something is new and flashy doesn't mean that it should be brought into classrooms. This applies to computers, tablets and other devices, including 3D printers.

In the realm of 3D printing (for example, in the STEAM fields), there are five tasks that form a sequence. These include background on the curricular topic, the design of the 3D parts for the project, the printing of the parts, their assembly into a finished artifact, and experimentation with the object to develop a deeper understanding of the topic. I show this as a loop because the cycle can repeat with embellishments for interesting projects.

Every one of these topics is important. Contrast this approach with one that involves simply downloading and printing designs stored on sites like Thingiverse. While such sites are useful for providing models of difficult-to-design parts, they pale in comparison with the learning that happens when students design projects on their own.

To illustrate the process, I'll show part of our STEAMtrax high school curriculum project on water turbines.


Hydroelectric power provides a significant percentage of the electricity used in the US. The topic of water turbines bridges physics, engineering and mathematics. It allows students to explore Newton's laws, electric power generation and other curricular topics.


After learning about the kinds of turbines used in hydroelectric dams, students are ready to design their own turbine for testing. While there are lots of design tools available (many of which are free), this project uses a free authoring environment called BlocksCAD. BlocksCAD has the advantage of being easy to learn, and for supporting the design of complex shapes.



Once the design of the various parts is completed, the finished designs need to be printed. In our case this includes the turbine wheel itself, the wheel holder, and the end caps placed on the wheel axle that also allow a small DC motor to be added as a generator.


The next step in the process is the assembly of the final system, including its connection to a voltmeter to show how much electricity is produced then the turbine wheel rotates.


Once the assembly is completed, the wheel is subjected to a stream of water and students can see how much electricity is produced by a water turbine they built themselves. This leads to some new questions. For example, our first wheel had eight blades. What would happen if we had six blades ― or ten?

Because our modeling language is parametric, changing blade designs is as easy as changing the value of one variable. This lets students print and try differenct wheel designs with ease. By using an inexpensive laser tachometer, wheel rotational speed can be measured with different water flow rates and comparisons can be made between wheels with different numbers of blades. Suddenly this activity has a strong math component that aligns nicely with existing standards.

From this point, you can go back to the Background step and launch an exploration of different kinds of turbine designs.

When viewed from this perspective, 3D printing is a powerful tool in education. Instead of presenting the curriculum in a linear lecture-driven format where it is quickly forgotten, students learn through the process of “constructionism” where the things they learn will stay with them a long time.

The approach I just described applies to the curricular materials we develop at Polar3D under the STEAMtrax name.

By all means, make a nice keychain if you want, but then please quickly move to curricular-based projects like those provided by STEAMtrax to transform the learning experience using 3D printers as the key technology to do things you simply couldn't do before.


Thanksgiving Challenge Winners!


Thanksgiving Challenge Winners!

Now announcing our Thanksgiving Challenge Winners! We're so thankful for the bounty of 25 entrants, and the decision was a tough one. After much deliberation we focused on a few distinct qualities to chose the winners: theme, build difficulty and detail. Without further adieu, here's our runners up!

Second Runner Up - "Thanksgiving Utensil Holder" by: Brayden Boyum

"The turkey is a decoration and the two little hills on both sides you use to set your forks and spoons and stuff down on it."

First Runner Up - "Thanksgiving Table" by: Jada Fox

"The best day of the year where family comes together this little table shows a beautiful dinner with many different food and the word family on the side because family is the best thing to have at a Thanksgiving dinner."

Winner - "Cornucopia" by: Jayna Searles

"An iconic symbol of the first Thanksgiving, this cornucopia will make a great decoration for your Thanksgiving table."

Congratulations to Jayna on her design challenge win! She will be receiving a roll of our cool Wood Filament! The runner's up will receive a roll of filament in the color of their choice too. Don't forget, you can download these great designs (using the links above) or any of the other great challenge entrants here on the Polar Cloud. Thank you to everyone who participated and keep an eye out for our upcoming Christmas Challenge, debuting soon!