We have a 3Doodler! This nifty pen is a hand held 3D printing pen, check out the possibilities.
First, an explanation: The 3Doodler works very similarly to a hot glue gun. The plastic filament feeds in through the back, passes through a heating element, and comes out of the tip at one of two speeds, fast, and slow. The now pliable plastic comes out in a thin string which quickly cools in the air and becomes solid again. You can draw flat on a piece of paper, freehand or by tracing a stencil, or draw up and into the air to create free form 3D sculptures. It is easy to build off of your own projects as newly extruded plastic will easily bond with existing plastic. There are two types of plastic that can be used with the 3Doodler, ABS and PLA. ABS is a #7 recyclable plastic that is recommended for drawing up, bendable pieces, tracing onto paper where you want to remove it later, and welding two pieces of plastic together. PLA is a biodegradable plastic, made from corn, which is better for drawing onto surfaces where you want the plastic to stay there permanently (like fabric, paper, ceramics or metals). PLA is also moldable for a few seconds after it is released from the pen giving you more creation options. For this test I used ABS.
Now for the review: it is a lot more difficult to master than I expected (but isn’t everything?)
Pros: Extremely fun and challenging. With practice I imaging that I could become proficient and create things I can be pleased with. It is an interesting art tool that expands the options of an artist to include 3D. Practically I can see it being very useful as part of a tinkering lab. The heated plastic can be used to bond other items together which would be very useful for making small repairs or even designing an object or device. To test it out I tried three techniques; a stencil to be traced, free hand 3D drawing, and a folded paper scaffold.
This was by far the easiest technique. Using a design printed on regular printing paper I traced the design using black filament and then carefully popped it off of the paper. I then used blue filament to add some color and stability to the bird.
This was very difficult. I started by drawing a base and then working my way up. Even on the slow setting the plastic comes out quickly and you need to be ready. Unfortunately the machine pauses often so that it can draw in more filament and heat it making it difficult to achieve a flow of movement with the pen. I'm really not sure what I was going for with the black and red Burton-esque tree...
This was fun. I folded a simple paper crane using lined paper and then traced it with the 3Doodler. After it had set I carefully tore away all of the paper to leave just the outline. This was very tricky. I wish I had had something to hold the crane with so that I could more easily manipulate the crane without risking burning my fingers. In case you’re wondering I had to make quite a few repairs after removing the paper.
Cons: The pen is very bulky and to work it you must hold down one of two buttons the entire time. The device frequently has to stop to pull more filament in which leaves you hanging in midair waiting for more plastic to come out. This makes flow a real issue and can sometimes really mess with your design. The tip that is included with the 3Doodler is very narrow resulting in a very thin string of plastic to work with. It is very difficult to make a smooth line but I imagine that with practice this could get easier.
Conclusion: A very fun and useful addition to any tinkering lab, but no substitute for a 3D printer. I look forward to more testing and would love to play around with some of the other tips available for the pen.