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

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

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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.

WHAT IS FFF?

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.

Tinkercraft

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.

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



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Smartly Simple: Polar VS. Cartesian 3D Print

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Smartly Simple: Polar VS. Cartesian 3D Print

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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.

Elegant Simplicity

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.

Smartly Simple

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.

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End of part 1 of the interview.

 

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