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We live in a world of surprises. One of the biggest is our endless ability to manufacture from home, whether that be music, books, movies, or other creative projects. The development of affordable 3D printing has further taken the means of production out of the hands of faceless factories and into our individual control. It’s exciting, isn’t it?!
How a 3D Printing Pen Works
So, we’ve tempted you with the phrase “3D printing pen”. But what does that mean? How does a 3D printing pen work?
If you consider a standard 3D printer for a moment, these devices work by applying layers of material (typically plastic) according to a programmed design. The material is built up until a structure is created. This might be anything from a case for a Raspberry Pi project to replacement parts for toys and games.
The important distinction between a 3D printer and a 3D printing pen is the design file. With a 3D printing pen, it’s all in the motion of your hands. No programming is required. No 3D design needs to be uploaded to the printer.
The result is a completely user-controlled artistic experience: a 3D printer in your hand!
What’s in the Box?
Under the inspiring illustrations on the box sits the 3Doodler Create 3D printing pen and mains adapter. Alongside you’ll find a collection of maintenance tools (see below), instructions, and a collection of plastic strands of filament. It’s a simple collection, one that lets you get started with it very quickly indeed.
While the standard pack is enough to get you started, you might feel like expanding your interest in 3D art. Along with the standard colors included in the 3Doodler Create pack, you can select from a massive palette of 65 in total. These include matte, glossy, and even glow-in-the-dark and sparkle finishes. These start at $4.99 for a pack of 25, but packs of 100 can also be bought for around $15, depending on the color and finish.
You can even alter the size and shape of the 3D printing thanks to a useful Nozzle Set, while the JetPack is a battery pack that lets you take the 3Doodler pen anywhere. There’s even a pedal that lets you control the pen with your feet, rather than press the buttons on the side!
Managing Your Plastic
While the results of your 3D printer pen art might be fantastic, you’ll need to bear in mind a few important considerations when using.
First and foremost, the pen works by pushing special plastic strands (3mm ABS or PLA) through a hot nozzle. Therefore, you need to use the pen in a well-ventilated space (perhaps next to an open window or with air conditioning switched on) to avoid inhaling the fumes. This is a great way to avoid a headache and focus your efforts on the creation, rather than the smell.
As mentioned, there are different types of plastic available, but they’re all milled into long, narrow cylindrical “strands” — like the lead in the middle of a pencil — and pulled through the 3Doodler Create. Most of the time, this works well, although you need to switch the heat from hi to lo depending on the plastic type in use.
But there can be problems.
For instance, plastic might get stuck. You might not want to use a full length of a particular color. In these situations, a trio of tools have been provided. A spanner is included to remove the nozzle, while the unblocking tool is a rod of metal with a plastic grip. This is used to force out any remaining plastic. There’s also a screwdriver for removing the maintenance cover, although this is not something you should need to do often.
And finally, consider this: melted plastic will burn skin. While the pen itself is safe to hold, make sure you don’t touch the nozzle while in use!
How to Use the 3Doodler Create
Actually getting to grips with the pen itself is remarkably simple.
After powering up and setting the control switch to HI, you can spend a few moments choosing which colored strand to use while the device heats up. An LED will glow red while heating, then blue when ready. At this point, you’re ready to load the plastic.
With the light on blue, feed the plastic into the loading port, which you’ll find below the power connector. You should then press the Fast button once, and wait as the drive gear starts. The next step is to twist the plastic strand clockwise, while pushing it into the port, until it catches the drive gear and is pulled in.
Within 15 seconds, plastic will be pushed out of the nozzle, so press Fast again to stop this.
This simple process is used whenever loading up the 3Doodler Create’s plastic strands. With the plastic ready to use, you can use the Fast and Slow buttons on the side of the pen to extrude the plastic, based on how fast you want to draw with it. This makes it a pretty flexible tool, ideal for constructions and designs of all types.
Get Started: Create!
To start drawing with the 3Doodler Create, use the Fast or Slow buttons on the side of the pen to push the plastic out. You can draw on any surface, but due to the heat, paper is best. Once dry, the plastic can be removed by bending the paper or card. Note that some fabrics can be used, and the plastic will react in different ways (as will the fabric). There’s plenty of scope here for interesting results!
How quickly you move your hand will impact on how the plastic appears. For instance, fast plastic with a slow hand will result in a thick line. Conversely, slow plastic with a fast hand will give thinner plastic.
These different techniques can be used to good effect.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the 3Doodler pens is the ability to “draw in the air”. Rather than simple extrude plastic onto paper, the 3Doodler Create allows you to take the pen away from the surface, and draw. While you’ll be limited to straight lines — a quick upward motion, followed by a couple of seconds’ stationary is required for this to work — it means you can, for example, make a 3D cube.
Templates are available online and in the instruction manual to help you get started. It’s there you will find the guidelines for building an Eiffel Tower, for instance. But really the way to get good results from this 3D printer pen is to consider the way in which a 3D printer works, and maneuver your hand in the same way.
Amazing Stuff We Made With the 3Doodler Create
Getting to grips with the 3Doodler Create is the very epitome of a learning curve. While there are some useful guides in the instruction book, the best thing you can do is grab a piece of paper and just doodle.
You might write your name (using joined-up, cursive writing, of course) or make a pretty pattern. After a few minutes, I felt confident enough to have a go at building something ambitious, and the result was a flag.
Then I got even more ambitious, and made a chair. These structures allowed me to practice the “air drawing” aspect of the 3D printer pen, as well as appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. In short, the chair was weak, as was the flag pole. It was around this time that I discovered that the ABS plastic was quite flexible, a fact that could prove useful. While it means builds must be planned so that they are sturdy, this “bendiness” can also be used to shape structures after they’ve cooled.
For the best results, then, you have two options:
- Flat 2D creations that can (if necessary) be glued together with hot plastic to create a 3D object.
- Using the 3Doodler Create like a 3D printer nozzle, building up your creations layer-by-layer.
Once you get to grips with these two methods, you’ll find that you can build just about anything! But make sure that when following templates that the pen stays in contact with the paper as much as possible. This ensures tidy results.
A 3D Printer With Finesse
It’s fair to say that a 3D printer is mechanical. While there is always scope for small differences between multiple items, these are often removed to encourage uniformity — to give a “produced” look.
The 3Doodler Create, meanwhile, is the opposite of this. It offers a dimension of individuality and uniqueness to 3D printing. No two creations will be the same. Why would you want them to be?
This is 3D printing for artists, with the bonus of good, reliable hardware. It’s addictive, fun to use, and with a couple of hours getting to grips with it and practicing, the results can be amazing.