Living in the future, as we do, pens and 3D printers are no longer separate items. Now you can create plastic masterpieces on the go with 3D printing pens. Just place the pen on a surface, draw a line in the air, and then start adding details to this anchor.
The pens are still new. 3Doodler, which launched its $2 million Kickstarter campaign in 2013, was the first. There are now several upstarts to choose from, so we tested three popular models for this 3D pen review.
1. 3Doodler Start, $49.99
3Doodler sells two models: the flagship 3Doodler 2.0 and, for beginners like us, the Start. The latter practically screams “easy to use” with its single button and thick, easy-to-grip body. Insert the plastic filament into the hole at the top, press the orange button and wait about 60 seconds for the pen to heat up. Then hold the same button to draw. A $99 kit includes the 3D pen and stencils to help get you through the initial learning curve.
2. Lix Ballpoint Pen, $139.95
Weighing in at 1.6 ounces, the Lix has the thinnest and lightest design we’ve tested, making it feel more like a real pen than its competitors. It even includes a pen-like clip on the end, which has four green indicator lights that show when the filament is ready to use. The effect of the quill is slightly overshadowed by the fact that Lix must remain plugged into a power source while in use. Still, you can rest easy knowing it’s the classiest 3D tool around.
￼Lix’s team “drew” this ball and bowl with black plastic filament.
3. 7Tech Ballpoint Pen, $81.00
7Tech is the only one of the three pens we tested that allows users to control the speed and temperature of the filament. You can read these figures on a small screen and adjust them with two sets of arrow buttons. While 7Tech gives you control, it’s cumbersome: it needs to be plugged in during use, and the filament that comes with the pen is curved in a circular shape, sticking out of the device and getting in the way of an aspiring artist.
This article was originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of pop Science, under the heading “Add dimension to your drawing”.