Polaroid is a familiar name, best known for their iconic instant cameras. In the days before digital photography a Polaroid was the closest you could get to instant images, and while it was an expensive way to take photos they built up a bit of a cult following. What’s not so well known is that Polaroid were also a pioneer of digital cameras, and although they were too far out in front there – and ran into financial trouble as a result – they’ve always been ready to embrace new technology. Now they’ve entered the 3D printer market, with the announcement of their new ModelSmart 250S.
The ModelSmart is unmistakably a Polaroid product – its case even carries the rainbow stripe trim familiar to anyone who ever used their Land camera – but it’s been developed in collaboration with UK-based Environmental Business Products. EBP started out collecting and remanufacturing spent printer cartridges but they expanded into 3D printing two years ago, and this deal with Polaroid gives them the chance to become a major player. The ModelSmart 250S is a mid-range printer that’s ready to go straight out the box, so it should find a ready market with businesses and researchers.
It’s clear from even a quick look that this printer is ideal for professional use. It’s likely to have a mid-range price tag of around £1,500, but that buys capabilities that up to now have only been seen in high end machines. The first thing to really stand out is the size of the build area – at 250x150x150mm it’s extremely large for a 3D printer in this class. Layer thickness is selectable from 50 to 350 microns, which should allow some very high quality objects.
Polaroid and EBP seem to have worked hard at making the ModelSmart easy to use. It has an accurate auto-calibration system, and can be used without a computer via USB drives and a simple touch screen menu. Adhesive print bed covers make it easy to remove your finished work and, according to Polaroid, also reduce wear on the print head. It even has a WiFi-enabled camera inside the print area which lets you remotely monitor the progress of your jobs. Polaroid also offer a library of models that can be downloaded and either printed or modified and added to your own designs.
Instead of going for the common 3mm filament Polaroid have opted to use a proprietary 1.75mm size. When the ModelSmart launches in late March the range will include nine colours of PLA plus a wood-filled filament, and it’s likely to expand in the future. The cartridges have an onboard chip that monitors how much material is left, so you should get a warning if it’s running low.
The ModelSmart’s price tag isn’t small, but from what’s been shown so far it looks like being great value for the money. The impressive print area is tempting on its own and there are enough other features to make it look like a perfect choice for many applications. If you want a professional-class printer at a hobbyist price this might be just what you’re looking for.