Polar Bill & 3D Printing in Circles! - WTFFF? (Get your mind out of the gutter, it's not what you think!)


WTFFF, a popular 3D printing podcast, focuses on interviewing the "whose-who" in 3D printing. The podcast has been rolling for several months now, and already has over 110 installments.


Naturally, the first question that came to mind when I checked out the podcast was: what's with the three "F's" in WTFFF? According to Tom and Tracy Hazzard, the dynamic duo that hosts the podcast, the "FFF" represents their mantra of learning about the best of "Fused Filament Fabrication." Works for me.

For their 103rd entry in WTFFF, Tom and Tracy sat down with Polar 3D's cheif engineer and co-founder Bill Steele, to learn a little bit more about the 3D printing scene, and Polar's niche in the industry. They put together this interview as in tandem with their review on the Polar 3D printer which can be found here.

Tracy Hazzard: We couldn't wait to get our hands on this (Polar 3D) printer to be honest with you. We've been dying since January to try it out. We saw it at CES and it’s a cool printer. I mean it looks cool because the build plate is circular and it's a mirror. It just looks so cool while it's printing and you're just excited! It's so simple and beautiful when it prints because it kind of it moves in a polar axis. 

After explaining the genesis of the Polar idea, Bill expands on what sets Polar apart from the other printers in the game.

Tracy Hazzard: Can you talk to us a little bit about that flash of genius you had and why it's so special? What has made your Polar 3D so unique? 

Bill Steele: The interesting thing about that is I was working on previous 3D printer projects just as a hobby, when somebody brought up a question to me. That got me kind of curious. I was designing a standard Cartesian three axis XYZ printer and somebody asked: "can you make prints bigger, but not make the size of it any bigger?". At the time I was already maximizing the space pretty effectively for a Cartesian printer. And then I realized that if I simply swung one of the – I call it the gantry – if I just swung that around the 180 degrees I could double the path that that traveled and make the printer bigger. And then in the middle of the night one night I got to thinking about that and I realized that it was silly to swing the gantry around, why don’t I just swing the part around underneath of it.

And as soon as I started looking at that aspect of it, I realized that I should just rotate the part on the build plate and immediately realized that Polar coordinates were the way to go. My initial versions of it were complex and hard to build. The simplicity of this current generation device, the Polar 3D printers as you see it today: that's the idea that I had in the middle of the night.  I realized that it was so simple because it eliminated so many components that standard printers have.

Bill talks about Minecraft and some of the other cool applications for Polar 3D printers.


Bill Steele: One other fantastic resource that most of us adults don't use, but kids use it all the time, is something as simple as Minecraft. Microsoft bought Minecraft recently and we've seen a huge explosion of tools built around this concept of using blocks to build objects. Now we did it as kids using Lego's, but the benefit that the kids have today with these tools is that they can size the Lego's differently, digitally, and they can zoom into a small spot and put tiny Lego’s to make it fine detail, and then when we zoom back out, you just see a smooth surface, and then the neat thing about that is the printer or these tools that work like this will generate the appropriate files for 3D printing.

Tracy Hazzard: I didn’t know that. So Minecraft has some kind of function for that? Oh,we're going to have to check that out.

Bill Steele: Yes. There's a service called Printcraft where you can develop something in Minecraft, and then send it to the Printcraft server, and it will email you your SDL file which you send to the printer.

Tom Hazzard: I have to tell my nephews about this.

After the interview Tom and Tracy talk Polar between themselves and give feedback on the Polar 3D printer.

Tom Hazzard: I'll tell you after not only experiencing and using the printer for the last couple of weeks, but also after that interview with Bill, I'm thoroughly impressed.

Tracy Hazzard: I want one. I think it looks just so cool while it's printing, and it has something that – it's beautiful while it’s printing. There's something beautiful in the polar coordinates, it just is and the simplicity of the overall machine and less parts and less maintenance and it just seems robust for such a low price.

Tom Hazzard:  It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. And we've been working a lot with it and now especially because you can not only use their software, but you can use something like Simplify3D or Cura, Repetier, you can use anything with it. I'm  encouraged to continue working with it and experiencing it.

Tracy Hazzard: I have to say the parts, I mean check out the blogpost because you'll get to see photos of the parts, but the parts look as good as some that we printed on $4,000 printers.

Tom Hazzard:  And this is an $799 printer. I mean that's what's so shocking, but it's because they did it smartly.

Tracy Hazzard: Yeah, it’s smartly simple.


Reported by Robby Wellington, Polar 3D's Cub Reporter and hungry intern from the University of Cincinnati.

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