The 3D Printing pens are essentially a new category of devices that has appeared due to the big interest in consumer-oriented low cost 3D printers in the last few years. These devices are essentially a very simplified version of a 3D printer in a hand-held format or a more complex version of a glue gun. With a 3D printing pen you essentially get an extruder that you hold in your hand and move around to print stuff similar to how the extruder is being moved in a 3D printer by the precise mechanism. Obviously with a hand-held extruder and hand movements you cannot achieve any precision that is even remotely close to what a 3D printer can achieve, but that is not the goal here anyway. You can view 3D printing pens as more of an art oriented devices where it is not about achieving a high level of detail or much of a precision, but being able to let your imagination free and literally start drawing three-dimensional physical objects.


The device that has created the whole market and interest in this new set of products is the 3Doodler considered to be the world’s first 3D printing pen, or at least the first such product that went mainstream. This all happened last year when the Kickstarter project for the 3Doodler turned out to be a very successful crowd funding campaign generating huge user interest and a lot of support. Since then the makers of the very affordable and creative “alternative” to traditional 3D printers have announced that they have shipped more than 100000 3Doodler 3D printing pens. So it is no wonder that after the huge success of the 3Doodler a lot of similar products have appeared on the market and a lot more 3D printing pens will probably become available soon if the interest in these devices continues to grow. We already have a Chinese company making an alternative to 3Doodler, the YAYA 3D Printing Pen that appears to be also available under different brand names as the company also operates as OEM and ODM supplier aside from having the product available under their own brand name. Other similar alternatives are the 3D Air Pen also available for sale, the 3D Printer Pen or the upcoming 3D Simo and probably many other similar devices.


What all of the above mentioned 3D printing pens have in common is that they are quite big in size and not very pen-like in terms of size, so you will need some time to get to use to work with them. There however is another interesting project in the works, the LIX pen – a project for a really compact 3D printing pen that will us FDM (or FFF) technology for extruding thermoplastic materials such as PLA or ABS that are used by many 3D printers. The LIX pen also had a successful Kickstarter crowd funding campaign and there is a lot of interest in this device as it really brings the size down providing a 3D printing pen that is not much larger than a traditional ink pen. If you are considering to get a 3D printing pen and are not in a hurry then this one may be worth waiting a big more for them to start taking orders and get one, we are waiting for just that to happen to get one LIX pen to experiment and play with, hopefully the wait will be worth it.


The 3Doodler and all of the other mentioned above 3D printing pen alternatives, already available or soon to be available, as well as some others that we did not mention or maybe even don’t know that exists are all designed to melt thermoplastic material such as ABS or PLA and extrude it with the person using the pen moving it to either draw flat on a piece of paper or in three dimensions with the extruder material. There is however an alternative option available, or to be more precise more like soon to be available, that does not use FDM or FFF technology for printing using thermoplastic filaments such as ABS or PLA, these devices instead will utilize SLA (Stereolithography) technology. This means that instead of melting thermoplastic the 3D printing pens using this alternative technology will use a special cold photopolymer resin that will be extruded and quickly solidified using UV light. Products that will use SLA technology are apparently soon going to be available like for example Polyes Q1 or Creo Pop both of which do look very promising and we may also see other similar products getting announced soon. Using photo sensitive resin that is more like liquid can provide another interesting creative alternative to 3D printing pens melting plastic materials, not to mention that it may also allow for some interesting alternative uses depending what you mix with the filament.

Let us get back to the important question however and it is if the 3D printing pens, regardless of their form or the technology used are really worth it? You should be well aware that a 3D printing pen is not an alternative to a 3D printer, it is a similar in functionality device, however the target users and uses are different. 3D printers are designed to replicate virtual objects with high precision and accuracy and 3D printing pens are more like for the creative or artistic bunch that does care more about the freedom and creativity that these devices give to their users. The fact that 3D printing pens are generally much more attractive in terms of price as compared to even the cheapest 3D printers makes them interesting for a much broader audience, including a lot of people that just like cool gadgets, but have no idea what they will use a 3D printing pen for. The fact that 3D printing pens do not require any special software, knowledge or skills to be used makes them cool gadgets for everyone, however having some skills and knowledge and at least an idea what and why you may be using such a device for will definitely help. Otherwise there is high probability that you will get one cool 3D printing pen, try it out and not get satisfied with the result you get and just put it a drawer and forget about it. Companies saying that you do not need any experience or knowledge to use a 3D printing pen may be misleading people a bit, you may not need it, but you still need to spend some time in order to get used with the product and to be able to make good use of it, but even then if you suck at drawing things in 2D, then you most likely will be disappointed in what you can do with the device in 2D or in 3D. So even if 3D printing pens are very affordable and seem easy to be used they are simply not for everyone, the same as with 3D printers, although the people making and selling these products may claim otherwise. You should be well aware of the fact that with both, even if you lack the needed knowledge or skills to use them and take full advantage of a 3D printing pen or a 3D printer you can quire them by learning… you just need to want to learn.


This seems to be a question we are getting quite often from people. The ABS filament used for 3D printers has some advantages over PLA filament, however it also has some additional requirements from the 3D printer in order to get good and problem free results. The main problem that ABS has is that it does not stick well to cold build platforms and as a result the bottom of the 3D printed part gets warped, other than that a normal 3D printer designed for PLA materials could handle ABS as well. Printing on such 3D printer meant for PLA filament using ABS and including a Raft material can somewhat help in getting a better print, however the material will still warp if you do not have a heated build platform. So essentially what differentiates 3D printers designed for ABS from those meant for use with PLA filaments is the heated build platform – something that is needed by ABS, but not by PLA. Do note however that even with a 3D printer designed to support ABS filaments and with heated build platform you can still experience the printer 3D filament warping at the edges if the conditions are not right. This is precisely the reason why many people prefer the use of PLA filaments instead of ABS, even if their 3D printer does have support for ABS as well.

Using ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) filament gives you a harder and more durable object that is also more temperature resistant than PLA. With ABS you can usually go over 100 degrees Celsius before the 3D printer part starts to soften unlike 65-70 with PLA. The parts printed from ABS however are often harder to print with good results (not to have warping and curling) from the first try and the 3D printed object may not turn out to be as detailed as when using PLA filament. Another thing to be careful when using ABS filaments – make sure that the printer is in well ventilated area as the fumes produced when melting the filament are not so safe to breath whereas the ones form PLA should not be a problem. So there are some advantages and some disadvantages for both PLA and ABS filaments, and it really depends on what you are going to be using the 3D printer objects when deciding what material you should go for. If you are going to need to work with ABS materials however make sure you plan that before you decide on a 3D printer and go for a one that supports ABS and has a heated build platform as this could save you a lot of headaches, even though the device will be a bit more expensive. For some 3D printers there are also options to upgrade the build platform with a heated one if originally the device did not come with such and thus become able to support ABS as well.


The MakerBot Modio Challenge is now over and the winning entries have been announced on Thingiverse. The first prize, winning an iPhone 6 Plus smartphone, goes for a Modio Lamp, really an interesting idea, the second place goes for Jeff: The World’d Most Powerful Centaur and the third place goes to Omnis Terra: Guardian of the Land of Modioworld. If you have missed the opportunity to take part in the Modio challenge you can now participate in the new MakerBot Thingiverse FirstBuild Icebox Challenge that is accepting submissions until November 23rd. The prizes here are also interesting, as you have the chance for winning a big MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D printer, the new mini one or some filament spools for your future 3D printer projects.

To see all of the entries submitted in the MakerBot Modio Challenge…