I am not, by any means, an expert in 3D printers. I’ve used two different printers in my life. The first, which was an amazing introduction to 3D printing, worked extremely well for a couple of months. However, it has been out of commission this school year with various issues, and we are hopefully getting a replacement soon. The second printer is the Polar 3D, which has been faithfully chugging out prints since we got it in December. (Thanks to @nathan_stevens for recommending this printer!)
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had problems with the Polar 3D. In fact, I have a table full of printing mistakes that the students love to pick up and speculate about.
“What did you do wrong here, Mrs. Eichholz?”
“Why didn’t this one work?”
“What was this supposed to be?”
Some of them look like intentional works of art. A couple of them look like piles of white poop. One of them, intended to be a dog, looks like one of the mutant creatures in Sid’s yard in Toy Story, it’s head slipped to the side halfway through printing.
But 99% of those were user error. Either a student forgot to take into account that the printer won’t print in thin air, or (much more likely) I forgot to do something before I started the print.
Here are the things I like about the Polar 3D:
- It’s small, and fairly portable.
- There aren’t a lot of parts to maintain.
- Software is cloud-based (so I don’t have to rely on our district to update it).
- It’s fairly inexpensive. (With educator discounts, you can purchase it for about $600. Our classroom got ours through Donors Choose.)
- Polar 3D’s customer service is great.
- I can keep tabs on it from any computer, and it has a camera that streams so I can make sure my print is continuing as planned.
- I can usually fix what’s wrong with it by calibrating it or pushing the filament in more.
- I have never had a jammed extruder.
What could be improved about the Polar 3D:
- The small heart attack I had when it wouldn’t connect to our district network was not fun. But Customer Service was a HUGE help.
- The “remaining time” for a print is not always entirely accurate. I started a print today that, for 30 minutes, said it would take about 50 minutes to complete. I looked again 15 minutes later, and it said it would take about 4 hours to complete. BIG DIFFERENCE!
- The print quality is medium, but perfectly fine for the projects we do in our classroom. I wouldn’t use it to design a prosthetic or a new lung, though.
Interesting fact about the Polar 3D: the best way to prep your build plate for printing is to spray it down with layers of Aquanet Hairspray (be sure to let them thoroughly dry).
Yep. You read that correctly. You even get a starter can of Aquanet with your printer.
Another interesting fact: I didn’t even know Aquanet was still in business.
Overall, I would definitely recommend the Polar 3D for classroom teachers and school libraries. It’s a great tool to introduce design thinking, and I feel like amateurs like me can troubleshoot the problems fairly easily.
Plus, the Aquanet is great for bad-hair days. Though possibly not entirely great for me to be smelling on a regular basis…
If you would like some more advice on purchasing a 3D printer for your school, check out this article.