When the first 3D printer pen was announced it caused a real stir, and rightly so. The idea of creating 3D plastic artwork using a pen like instrument was an amazing concept. And even though the original tools were rather clumsy, they gained an enthusiastic following from fans across the world. Now we’ve hit Version 2.0, and while it’s more an evolution than revolution, the results are still as much fun.
The 3Doodler was the first mass produced product of this type, and this new 2.0 version is definitely an improvement. For one thing the new version is less like a bulbous beetroot. This new model is 75% thinner, 50% lighter and comes in a tough aluminum case.
The overall result is a 3D printer pen which actually feels more like a conventional pen in use. Which is pretty amazing when you consider the technology crammed into that svelte shape. Heater, feeder gears, electronics etc.
The whole thing also comes in a very attractive package, with the power block, a very useful user guide, and some accessories including a nozzle remover, cleaner, and micro screwdriver for adjusting the heating element temperature. There are also two packs of filament, one ABS plastic and one made of PLA (the more ecologically sound stuff). The final thing is a handy little getting started pamphlet. Our video below gives a run through of the features and shows off our incredible artistic skills. Ahem!
These little printers take a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t take long before you can pump out something reasonably decent. The key is to remember that it’s just like drawing, except you create your piece on the paper, and then pop it off and finish off with any extruded 3D bits you need to add. Once you have that mindset it’s really quite easy. Just remember the tip gets hot, so keep your hands away at all times!
The filament goes into the slot at the end, and feeds through the pen by pressing either the fast button or the slow one. This is supposed to give you fine grained control over your creation, but we suspect that most people will just use the fast button to get things done quicker. The tricky bit is knowing how much filament you have left once it’s run down into the pen, because you can’t see it any more. Really a sort of plastic window guide would be really helpful for Version 3.0.
The addition of several different colors in the filament packs, as well as glow in the dark, means you can really let your imagination go wild. One thing we found though, is the ABS definitely runs through the pen quicker and easier than the PLA material, maybe because the latter is fed at a lower temperature. It can also be a little fiddly to start the filament off when inserted (you have to make sure it engages with the feeder gears properly) and we weren’t quite sure what to do once you finished your piece. Leave the filament in or take it out by reversing the feeder (by pressing the two speed buttons at once)? In the end we left it in.
We managed to create two very simple 3D structures – a bicycle (hah!) and a pair of Joe 90 specs, in a couple of hours of playing around, and with a bit of practice we can see stuff popping out every 30 minutes or so. Not quite mass production, but pretty fast. Of course you’re limited with the kind of things you can produce with a pen, so we’re guessing it will mostly be small jewelry items, knick knacks, fun text signs and stuff like that. But it’s really down to your imagination.
These little 3D printer pens seem to be carving out their own little gadget niche, mostly because they offer the kind of instant fun that will definitely appeal to anyone who has a creative mind, which is why they’re so popular with hobbyists and slightly older children with a fertile imagination. This new model 3Doodler takes the genre to a whole new era.
Filament: $9.99 / £9.99 a pack