3D Printing: Why is Polar Better?


I'm often asked, why we chose the Polar configuration for our 3D printer. We like to answer it in this way ... why is Polar better?

Let Us Count the Reasons

Polar is better for a number of reasons. Let's compare the Polar3D printer to the Makerbot Mini Replicator - the current market leader in mini-printers.


This Makerbot is physically more than twice the size of the Polar 3D printer. So it's much larger, takes up much more space. But interestingly enough, it really doesn't have anything other than that that is better - and we contend that in this case, bigger is not better. It's just bigger.  

For example, if we compare the build plates, the build plate of the MakerBot is a four-inch square. See the above picture. The build plate of the Polar 3D printer is an 8-inch disc.


The Polar 3D printer could print the Makerbot build plates for them if needed. It's only suitable for small items. The MakerBot certainly couldn't print anything the size of the Nasa Saturn rocket replica printed on the Polar 3D printer below (7 ft tall.). There's no way it can fit on their build plate.


The Makerbot can only print small parts.  Once you start getting into medium-sized parts with the MakerBot they simply won't fit on the build plate, no matter how you orient it. Why is that?

It's Simple Math

Well, it’s very simple math. Makerbot printer moves 4-inches on the X axis and it moves 4-inches on the Y axis. 4-times 4 is 16 square inches. The Polar 3D printer interestingly enough also moves 4-inches, but it only moves 4-inches on the radius. There is no other motion other than the rotation of the build plate.

4 Times the Build Volume, 1/2 the Cost

Now if we go back to our math, we know that a 4-inch radius to calculate the area is πr2. So 4 times 4 happens to be the same value as this, 16. But then we get that π multiplier, so 3.14 times that 16. So the Polar 3D printers gets over 48 square inches of build area for our same 4-inch motion that MakerBot gets for their Cartesian motion. That's one major reason why Polar is better.

The Polar 3D Printer does with math what the MakerBot does with bigger hardware. 


The cost savings alone make the Polar 3D superior.

  • The MakerBot machine costs $1,375 because they have to pay for all that additional equipment and hardware.
  • The Polar 3D printer costs $799 retail or $599 for schools because we don't have all of that additional hardware.

Designed for Educational Use

One other interesting aspect, the Polar 3D is designed for school use. However, if you've ever listened to the MakerBot while it's running you will realize that it's quite noisy.  It's noisy because their motors are mounted directly to a metal back-plane that is incredibly acoustically noisy. All the vibrations from the motor transmit through that box and with their large chamber it becomes an echo chamber, especially without the top on it which they don't sell.

The Polar 3D printer, on the other hand, is ways being complimented on how quiet it is. That's one of the benefits of the solid chassis design the Polar 3D has. It's a fourteen gauge steel chassis compared to plastic panels of the MakerBot. One more reason why Polar is better.

Open VS Closed Viewing

When you print with the Makerbot everything is enclosed. So, maybe three kids at most can see it at a time. Remember the Polar 3D target market is schools. With the MakerBot printing, it's very hard to see the actual object being printed.

The Polar 3D printer, on the other hand, is quite open with  great viewing angles from pretty much anywhere and it's just really impressive to see the Polar coordinates moving while the print is being done. It's just kind of mesmerizing, it draws you in.


Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist

So what makes more sense for a classroom, the MakerBot printer at $1,375, that can print tiny objects or two Polar 3D printers at $1,200, which can print amazingly large objects?

You know it doesn't really take a rocket scientist to figure that out.


About the author

William Steele is Co-Founder and Chief Engineer of Polar 3D.