We couldn't wait to get our hands on the Polar 3D printer honest with you. We've been dying to try it out. We saw it at CES 2015 and it’s a cool printer. I mean it looks cool because the build plate is circular and it's a mirror. It just really looks great while it's printing. It's exciting to review the Polar 3D printer. It's so simple and beautiful when it prints because it kind of it moves in a polar axis. It spins around and really the great thing about this printer is that you can see what's printing from really all angles rather than maybe just a little window a lot of printers have through the front.
This is an excerpt of an in-depth, hands-on review of the Polar 3D Printer by Tom and Tracy Hazzard, of Hazzard Design. They discuss Printing in Circles with William Steele of Polar 3D. Based in Orange County, California, husband and wife design experts Tom and Tracy Hazzard have spent more than 20 years living and designing together. Collectively they have designed and developed over 200+ retail products that generate more than $500 million dollars in revenue. They hold over 35 utility and design patents with an 86% commercialization rate – double the USPTO-reported national average.
Tracy Hazzard: It always attracts a crowd at tradeshows. I think it's because of the elegant simplicity of it and the low price point - it’s $799 regularly and then for students and educator packages it's $599. Our question before the review was;
Is the quality going to be any good - that was our big question – not that we didn't say we thought it was good, we thought it was "interesting," but we haven't gone out to quite endorse it as being a great printer yet because we wanted to test it out.
Tom Hazzard: Yes, we hadn't used it yet. We were skeptical ourselves while every other 3D printer we see out there is what they call a Cartesian printer, it prints in a big rectilinear volume, like a cube or some kind of rectangle and why aren't other printers doing this?
Tracy Hazzard: So we tested it out and we'll talk a little bit more about that at the end after the interview, but let's hear from Bill Steele.
Tom Hazzard: Bill, thanks so much for joining us today for this interview. We've had a really good time working with the Polar 3D printer you sent us. But before we get into that, could you give a little bit of background information on yourself and your company.
Designed for Educators and Students
Bill Steele: Yes. My name is Bill Steele and I am the primary Founder, developer, inventor of the Polar 3D printer. I'm the one who woke up in the middle of the night with the Polar vs. Cartesian 3D print concept. I brought the idea to my business partner, Ed Estes and showed it to him. We instantly recognized it was the way to proceed. So Polar 3D is a small Cincinnati based 3D printer manufacturer. We focus exclusively on the education market. We sell into schools and any kind of educational environment. Students of any age literally from kindergarten all the way up through postgraduate can learn about additive manufacturing.
Tracy Hazzard: And why is that? What is it about your background that makes you so attracted to education?
Bill Steele: Interestingly enough it happened to be a very large untapped resource. Ed and I both retired from our previous companies and as a matter of fact we brought on a CEO and a CFO that had also retired from their previous companies. So it's basically a bunch of old guys here with nothing else to do. We decided to look at this printer and figure out where it would best fit in the market and we looked at some of the larger companies and some of the small, I'll say, hacker companies, most of the hobbyist printers and things like that. We recognized there was a big miss in the market and that there was nobody exclusively focused in the education space. I was at Microsoft for a number of years and part of my focus there was education. I started working on some projects around the education space and realized that while there is a pretty big opportunity for a company not just to become a profitable company but also to really help out the industry.
The whole idea here is that we want children to be able to learn to invent and have it be okay to fail.
Tracy Hazzard: We could not agree more. We talk about that all the time here that successful failure teaches you so much as a student about how life will be. Can you talk to us a little bit about that flash of genius you had and why it's so special? What has made Polar 3D so unique?
Polar vs. Cartesian Printing
Bill Steele: The interesting thing about that is I was actually working on previous 3D printer projects just as a hobby and somebody brought up a question to me that I thought was kind of curious. I was designing a standard Cartesian three axis XYZ printer and somebody said,
"Can you make it bigger, but not make the size of it any bigger?"
"You mean make it print bigger?"
"Yes, make it print larger parts.
At the time, I was already maximizing space pretty effectively for a Cartesian printer. I thought about it for a while then I realized that if I simply swung one of the – I call it the gantry – if I just swung that gantry around the 180 degrees that 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 realized that it was silly to swing the gantry around, why don’t I just swing the part around underneath of it.
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 very complex and very hard to build.
The simplicity of this current generation device, the Polar 3D printer 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. As an example, we have a major competitor printer that sells into the education space and their printer is physically more than twice the size of ours, but has less than one-fourth of the build volume of ours.
That's simply because of their use of Cartesian coordinates as opposed to our Polar coordinates.
Tracy Hazzard: Well, we have to say when we saw the printer at CES, which is the first time that we saw it and that's what attracted us. What attracted us to you was that it seemed so smartly simple.
Bill Steele: That has a huge benefit often overlooked. We have so few moving parts in the Polar 3D machine that there's a lot less chance of introducing error into the part and it creates a lot more reliable mechanical system.
End of part 1 of the interview.