Best 3D Pen 2020 – What is the Best 3D Printing Pen for You? Learn What to Look for and Where
Before we go delving into the search for the best 3D pen, we must first make sure that we understand what 3D printing even is, how long it’s been around, what the industry looks like now and what the future holds.
The 3D printing industry has taken a frantic growth in the 21st century and has, undoubtedly, come a long way in the past few decades. If your experience has been anything like mine, then you might have heard about 3D printers first when news came out that some mad scientists (the good kind, though) were “printing” prosthetic implants to use on humans. Just the thought of having something not made of flesh in or on my body, acting as part of it gave me the “heebie-jeebies”. After that, curiosity struck, and not just me, but hospitals, universities, manufacturing companies, etc. You name it, and we could 3D print it. As time passed, we came to acknowledge 3D printing as part of our lives, as a matter of fact, there are multiple manufacturing companies that cannot hold the business they have if they had no access to 3D printing, rapid prototyping has become a core feature for many businesses. Other businesses like universities use 3D printing machines to teach some of their courses, building workshops around 3D printing and in some cases, entire courses. So, it’s safe to say the 3D printing, in today’s world, plays an instrumental part in many lives, from university students to doctors and patients.
However new this technology might sound to us, to me at least, it has been around since the late ’80s, mainly for government-related purposes or other very high-tech usages. Whatever it was for, 3D printers were not sitting in our living rooms, and most definitely had not taken the form of 3D pens. A single unit could be worth as much as $300k – $400k. And this is almost 40 years ago, if we speak in terms of today’s value on the dollar, the total would amount to a whopping $650k – $750k. Although not cheap today, 3D printers can be acquired for very accessible prices ranging around the thousand-dollar mark. You may even have stumbled across options for less than $100 while internet browsing. Which means you have probably acquired something that has been 3D printed or maybe even own your own unit.
Regardless of how much of a key role 3D printing plays in our lives, not many of us are familiar with what 3D printing actually is. Well, it’s definitely not origami; I wish there was a time machine to go back in time and laugh at 15-year-old me. However, this technology still sounds so crazy to me that even now I think sometimes that my origami theory wasn’t as crazy as the actual reality. In short, 3D printing is when a three-dimensional object is built (printed) from a CAD model on a computer.
You may be familiar with CAD modeling, where the designer takes an object and basically “draws” the 3D outline on computer software. For 3D printing, that same designer would take the file he/she built and run it through a printer. Much like you would hit the print button on a word.doc, 3D printing does the same, but on its own software and using a different machine. Once you hit print, the printer will start depositing layers of material on top of one another, until the object on the CAD drawing is completely built.
The material used for 3D printing may vary depending on what the object is going to be used for, what cost are you able to pay or maybe even how fast you need the prototype to be ready. The object you are printing may have any type of form, from cubic to spherical and as many other crazy shapes, you can imagine. Depending on the shape of the object the material may require to dry faster, if you need the object to be hard then the material used might need more time to dry up but will, in turn, provide more hardness to the shape. All sorts of materials can be used when 3D printing, from plastic, to cement, food and even cells, YES, cells! In some cases, cells are being used to 3D print organs that will later be used as substitutes in human bodies. So basically, the present of the 3D printing industry is the future of the 3D printing industry. Imagine human bodies, towns, and small pieces of food packed with nutrients. The fact is that today’s present is paving the way for what will be the future of the industry.
Now that we know, or at least understand all the potential applications of 3D printing, we must now dig a little bit further into the hardware itself. In the introduction to this article, we have discussed what has been the ground base for the past 30 years in the 3D printing industry, but we are now entering a new era where hardware has morphed its shape from big industrial units to small household appliances and most recently, into handheld devices. This is a 3D pen review nonetheless.
What is a 3D drawing pen?
The answer is quite simple now that we got all our basics down. It’s a handheld 3D printer that operates at a smaller scale. The only major difference with traditional 3D printers, operationally speaking, is that the printing is not done automatically following a 3D drawing from the software on your computer. The pen is held by the user and prints where it is pointed towards. The actual design is done by the person operating the printer manually and not by a computer program. Vaguely speaking, it’s a pen that draws three-dimensional objects.
Here’s How it Works:
At present, 3D printing pens work using plastic materials. I guess we have no yet got to the point where we’re comfortable relying on our doctors pulse to print out a new organ for us, but if I had to guess, I would put my money on not being too far away from having reconstructive surgeries with a 3D printing pen, perhaps using them to seal open wounds or reconstruct torn muscles and ligaments.
Much like an ordinary glue gun, the principle of how a 3D printer pen works is the same.
A chord of plastic material (the color of your choosing) is inserted into the back of the pen, which then pulls the material and heats it to melting point, the temperature generated by the pen will depend on the kind of material you are using, as every type of plastic will have its own chemical properties and in effect will have different melting points. The pen will then shoot the melted plastic through the nozzle at the tip of the pen, where the user will then take charge of moving the pen in order to create whatever figure is on the menu that day. Here’s an insight on how 3D printing pens work.
Even though both glue gun and pen follow the same basic premises, when dissecting a 3D pen you might find a bit of a difference in the organs you will find. It should be a relief as remember, this is top-notch technology, unlike a glue gun. The 3D pen’s main components are: A small motor which is used to pull the material through the pen, a PCBA which is just a fancy name for a motor controller (this is the fancy component that looks like a computer chip), and a nozzle that will vary in shape depending on the type of pen you have or the brand you are using. Different pens will be specialized for different uses and in turn, will vary in nozzles and components.
What Materials do 3D Drawing Pens Use?
There’s not a whole lot of options. Now, 3D doodle pen users, let’s call them doodlers for short, have a wide array of material to choose from. The truth is 3D pens can use almost all the same types of plastics as a conventional 3D printer, yes, I just said “conventional” do describe a 3D printer. However, for doodling, you are most likely better off choosing between ABS and PLA.
ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene):
Let’s forget about the name (honestly, I already have) and let us concentrate on the properties of the material. ABS has a low melting point and can be toxic if it reaches temperature of 400 degrees Celsius, luckily it will melt way sooner than that, at around 210 degrees Celsius (this is the temperature your pen should be set to when using ABS). Which means it will be cooling down before it can even reach temperatures considered risky. It is an impact-resistant material with slight flexibility attached to it, meaning it will most likely not shatter when dropped or bent.
PLA (Polylactic Acid):
This is the plastic you find yourself using in everyday life. At the supermarket when you decide to take a bag or at your neighbor’s party when the red cups come out. The fact of the matter is that PLA is a biodegradable material and one of the most environmentally friendly plastics out there. In terms of 3D printing, PLA has pretty much the same hardness as ABS but the biodegradability has a price to it, making the material less flexible and that way, less durable than its counterpart.
Things to Consider When Buying a 3D Pen:
1. Operating Temperature Range
The operating temperature refers to two open subjects. One is the temperature the 3D pen can be set to. For instance, you are planning on using ABS, then you will need the temperature settings to keep the melting point of your chosen working material within range. The second subject is how well the pen you have chosen will work under your work environment, do you live in cold or hot temperature? Some pens performance may be affected if the temperature of the work environment affects the way the system heats or cools down.
2. Speed Settings
Some pens come with variable speed settings. You should be taking this into account when making the final purchasing decision not just because it’s a nice feature to have, but because you might need it depending on the design of the object you are printing, the type of material you are using or even just based on your skills to draw in 3D. Some experienced users may be able to draw at a higher speed, others may need to slow things down, and on the other hand, some materials just need a longer cooling time which will have a direct effect on the speed you will be using.
3. Pen Cooling Time
Just like any other motor and electrically operated machine, even the best 3d printing pen needs time to cool down its system. The premise is simple: the components accumulate energy and produce friction, which in turn results in a warm machine. The warmer the machine gets the closer you are to breaking it, just like a car. But you should not worry about having a burning hot pen in your hand, this is part of the reason why the controllers (PCBAs) are there for. The controller will have a “temp-out” feature that will turn off the unit or level the consumption of energy to a level where the temperature in the unit does not cross a certain limit. The reason you should be looking out for this is to optimize your drawing time; the less time your pen needs for cooling the more time you’ll have for doodling.
4. How Often Does the Pen Clog
Clogging cannot really be measured accurately, so you will have to rely on comments and reviews online, hey! You’re reading one now! So, you’re one step ahead. As you already know, printing pens will take a solid plastic material and melt it, so the user can then draw a 3D item. The tricky part for 3D pen companies is: When the user stops painting how to prevent the melted material from solidifying inside the unit? It’s not possible to stop the material from cooling down and ultimately solidifying, but what pen companies can do is come up with a design that will prevent melted material to remain inside the extrusion tube once the user decides to put the pen down.
5. Surfaces the Product Works On
You are building with hot melted plastic here. Of course, you will have a few obstacles and surfaces you don’t want to be using your brand new pen on, for instance, your mom’s new table. But whenever you buy an ink pen you are not expecting it not to work on some surfaces, the same goes for 3D pens, the more surfaces you can use it on the better. So, make sure to look for a pen that allows for as many surfaces as possible, or at least the surfaces you will be using it on most.
6. Does the Pen Work Wirelessly?
We are now reaching a place in history where we require most of our gadgets to be entirely wireless or at least partially, meaning, they at least must be connected in order to re-charge. With 3D pens, you have both options, and there’s a valid reason behind it. As we learned before, 3D pens work by melting plastic and this translates into higher energy consumption. So, in order to use material with higher temperature melting points, chances are you will be stuck with a cord sticking out of your pen. That said, for fully wireless units it is likely they are meant to be used on materials with lower melting points and at this stage, these are usually targeted towards children and don’t make the best 3d pen for adults.
This subtitle pretty much speaks for itself. Pick a pen with a warranty that you feel comfortable with. I wouldn’t look to this as a major deciding factor, but it wouldn’t hurt to know experiences from other users with company warranties. The truth is you are never expecting a new product to fail, but it can happen, so you might as well make sure you feel comfortable with this part of the deal. You will find that most options out there have a one-year warranty, so if you happen to find one with less than that just discard it and look for another one, the reality is there are many options out there with a 1-year warranty that are likely to meet your requirements as well.
So, what’s the best 3D Pen?
Like most questions, this is one easier said than answered. 3D pens, much like 3D printers, are slowly becoming a key element in workshops, schools, universities, and companies. For designers, they have become a key element in quick prototype and sample creation. For doctors, they will slowly begin to morph into work tools. For artists, there are endless possibilities. The best 3D pen reviews out there are not those that give you a final answer on which pen you should buy, as the author of the review probably has his own idea of what a pen could and should be used for.
This review is intended to give you the tools and ideas of how to find the pen that is best suited for you, instead of the pen we like the most. Regardless, we are more than happy to draw up a summary of our suggestions based on your customer profile. Let’s get to it!
1. 3D Simo Kit – Best 3D Pen for Architects
“From ash, we come”, is probably the best way to describe this unique crafter pen. Topping the list as our most unique item on it, the 3Dsimo is a pen sold in pieces, hence the word “kit”. On top of that, the outer housing on the pen has been 3D printed with a wood infused material, “to ashes we return”. outer-housing that has been 3D printed for it. Extraordinarily, the firmware and design are all open source and can be found online, making this the best 3D pen on the market for the curious. This means if you connect the pen to your computer you may be able to play with the settings and customize them to your liking.
Additionally, the 3D Simo comes with the ability to set to different material modes, which allows for flexibility in building architectural models. The wood material profile allows the user to build models of trees, furniture and more. The marble material profile behaves very similar to PLA but also gives the user the option to draw into the air. And the metal material profile is for material with an admixture of powdered metal, when polished the finishing of the model acquires the aspect of bronze. Other material profiles may be created, making this the best 3D pen for architects that are happy to tinker with the product and adjust the settings to fit their needs.
The pen comes out-of-box ready for work with ABS and PLA but this can be adjusted as well. The 3Dsimo kit sits at an affordable starting price tag of $49 and comes with a 1-year warranty attached to it but it is not the only version this witty brand offers.
- The assembly is a feature all in itself, as it’s part of the fun aspect that comes with this product. Assembly takes 10 – 15 minutes.
- Pre-set with 3 different material modes: Wood, marble and metal.
- The user can build his/her own material profiles different to the material modes that don’t come pre-set with the product out-of-box.
- All manuals and information for modifying the material profiles and function of the pen are found on Github and accessible for free.
|Customizable||Not the most ergonomic design for long projects|
2. 3D Simo Multi Pro – Best 3D Pen for Multitaskers
Sitting high up in our list in terms of design and beauty the PRO version of the 3D Simo is a magnificent combination of style and functionality. As well as the “tinker” kit, this option can also be considered a kit item, not settling just for 3D capabilities, the Multi-Pro tool also serves its purpose as soldering, cutting and burning tool. The brand claims that more accessory attachments will come in the form of screwdriver, heat gun, drills and more. By far our favorite item on the list, the down-side? You guessed it, the price, sitting at a whopping, higher-than-average starting price. Regardless, the Multi-Pro tool is worth it if you have some extra cash lying around or on the other hand, some wire that needs cutting.
The multi-function feature, appealing and ergonomic design make this sexy looking pen the best overall item on the list.
- 3D Drawing capable
- Foam cutting capable
- Soldering capable
- Burning capable
- 280-degree heat capacity
- LCD guides you with instructions for usage.
|Multi-functional tool with currently 4 different heads||App is still not ready.|
|Further development of 4 more different heads are being developed currently: Heat gun, Sawzall, Drill and Electric Driver.||Price (if you’re only looking for a 3D pen)|
|Price (if you’re looking for different tool capabilities)|
3. 3D Simo Basic – Best 3D Pen for Kids
A huge upside to the 3D Simo Basic is its interchangeable battery, with a lifetime of up to two hours. Like most children focused products on the list, the Simo Basic uses a proprietary non-toxic filament blend with a low boiling point. Allowing it to maintain its safety claim when it comes to exposing the little ones to high temperatures. A beautiful bulky design offering a pick between two vibrant colors; turquoise and red. It sits at a high starting price of $69.00 USD but when it comes to adding the points for the fight in the best 3D pen for kids, the Simo Basic will score mad points for its design. If you have not noticed yet, we really like Simo, the branding and design are just out of control and the performance is not subpar either.
- Materials designed to keep children safe from toxicity and high temperatures.
- Replaceable batteries.
- 2-3 hours of drawing time on one battery charge.
|Long battery life.||Price (in comparison to other 3D pens for children).|
|Large variety of colors available of proprietary blend material for kids.|
4. Lix Pen – Best On-the-Go 3D Pen
The Lix 3D Pen started out as a Kickstarter campaign marketed as the world’s smallest 3D pen. If the claim to be the smallest 3D pen in the world is or isn’t true, we will leave up to the company, but the fact of the matter is the pen is highly portable and easy to take from one place to another. The Lix Pen functions with both ABS and PLA filaments and from a functionality standpoint, it is comparable to almost any other 3D pen on the market. Where the Lix stands out is through its portability, engineered with aluminum which makes it extremely lightweight and easy to carry, making it a perfect fit for the traveling user. The Lix pen comes in up to three different colors: Matte gray, black and gold, providing you with the opportunity to choose the color that matches your style best.
What is the downside to this amazing work of engineering? It kind of goes without saying that portability is a key-word for wireless, while the Lix only works when connected to a chord. This is most likely done to ensure maximum performance, but it does make you think how portable the pen actually is if it always has to be connected to a chord.
- Writing and drawing in the air.
- Quick melting and cooling of materials.
- 1 minute to optimal charging heat upon plug-in.
|Fast use after plug-in time.||Wired pen.|
|Made from light materials.|
5. MYNT3D PRO Printing Pen – Best 3D Pen for Designers
Topping the list on elegance and style the MYNT3D is a flexible use pen. Regardless of the sleek and modern design, the MYNT3D PRO looks like a bit of a hassle ergonomically being square-shaped and not round. It comes with an adjustable temperature by down to one degree which allows for use of a wide variety of filaments, including the most popular ABS and PLA. The adjustable speed feature also aids in the versatile design that defines this pen. You will also get a deal of 3 different filaments with purchase of the basic kit along with an A/C adapter. The MYNT3D is above average on the pricing scale with a starting pricing of $70 USD on the company’s official website for the PRO version.
The MYNT3D Pro comes with an adjustable feed of material which allows the user to regulate the flow of the material for optimal control during design. While the OLED screen helps monitor the temperature of the material in order to help achieve a variety of effects. This combined with the temperature being adjustable by ranges of one degree make this pen an attractive asset for designers.
The MYNT3D Junior is an option built to battle it out with the IDO3D for a shot at the best 3D pen for kids. With a more sleek and appealing design, the MYNT3D Junior is equipped with a low-temperature nozzle built to protect the user.
- Adjustable feed speed for material.
- OLED screen to help monitor material temperature.
- Adjustable temperature by iterations of as low as one degree.
|Minimalistic design that makes the pen hard not to like.||Square shaped design can be uncomfortable.|
|Flexibility to use with different materials.|
6. Dikale 07A – Best Budget 3D Pen
We would like the LCD screen to look a little wider but apart from that, the Dikale 07A is a pretty solid contender. Although marketed as a safe choice for the little ones, the nozzle is not covered so the claim is not entirely accurate to our eyes. The unit comes with a pen holder accessory, a USB charging cable, and an A/C power adapter. Selling online from $32.99 the 07A is a good take on a budget pen with ok features; adaptable to a wide variety of filaments, decent power supply, and a 1-year warranty make the Dikale the best rated 3D pen for budget buyers. With affordable pricing and acceptable performance, it’s safe to say the Dikale 07A takes the award for the best cheap 3D pen out there.
- One key automatic feeding and withdrawal
- Third gear speed setting
- Can support power bank for charging.
|Budget friendly||Not our favorite looking product on the list|
|Easy to use and operate|
|Comes in a wide variety of colors|
7. 3DOODLER CREATE+ – Best 3D Pen for Professionals
The self-proclaimed “first 3D pen” on the market is an eye-catching piece of art that makes art. Beautifully and well built, the 3Doodler is a good option for experienced artists. This is a second take on the popular first version of the 3Doodler inspired to give more versatility to the user and higher performance. Which it plans to provide with a dual drive motor that helps avoid jamming of the system up to 99% of the time according to the manufacturer. The Create+ comes in two different colors: blue and white, my personal favorite being the white version. As an homage to its name, the 3Doodler Create+ cements itself as the best 3D doodle pen in the market, with the ability to use different filaments, colors and the technology to back up your swift and solid doodling.
The Create+ comes with interesting extra features in comparison to its predecessor: two different speeds and the ability to use other filaments apart from the usual ABS and PLA. But the starter pack comes equipped with both ABS and PLA filaments that come ready for use upon opening.
- Dual Drive System
- Speed control
- Adjustable temperature
|Difficult to jam||No LED screen|
|Wide range of monochromatic colors|
|Doodler comes with free projects and stencils|
8. AIO Printing Pen – Best 3D pen for Adults
Although it comes equipped with a 5-speed setting and an adjustable temperature setting by intervals of 1 degree Celsius. This makes for a very solid base for a professional product, however, some points need to be taken away from the unit as it is only PLA compatible. AIO Robotics makes up for the lack of range in filaments with an affordable price for a professional unit of $59.99. With a neutral black color design, the AIO printing pen comes equipped with a clear LED display that allows not only to adjust the temperature but also material flow for the different varieties of PLA that can be used with it. If you’re looking for a professional pen with a reasonable entry price, then we recommend looking at AIO Robotics.
- Adjustable speed
- Compatible with PLA filaments
- LED screen
|5-speed adjustable setting||Only PLA compatible|
|Adjustable temperature setting by intervals as low as one degree Celsius.|
9. CoLiDo 3D Pen – Best 3D Pen for Beginners
If you’re looking for an entry-level item with a slightly less professional feel to it, the Colido is probably a good place to start. With a retractable nozzle, this pen offers a good alternative for inexperienced users looking to avoid burn wounds or damaging surfaces but allowing for easier printing than the usually covered safety nozzle. Additionally, this pen comes kitted with outline stencils and large amounts of filament, which you will probably be burning through real fast until you get the hang of it. The major con for this unit? Besides the above-average price tag, the ID design on this item is not the most appealing but hey, everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
- Retractable Nozzle
- Non-toxic and biodegradable filament
- Free samples of drawing samples
|Retractable nozzle makes it easier to create but harder to get burned||We are not fans of the COLIDO design|
|No LED screen|
|Higher price tag than other pens with a LED screen|
10. Scribbler Duo – Best 3D Pen for Artists
Unlike any other item on this list, the Scribbler 3D pen has a head with two separate nozzles that can work simultaneously with different color filaments. A unique feature only found on this pen, that allows the artists to explore the most creative of 3D pen creations. This unit also works with a wide variety of filaments and has 6 different speed settings. Design-wise, the Scribbler has an appealing two-color format and matte metallic tones. This item also comes kitted with a stencil book to inspire and guide your creations.
- Double nozzle that work simultaneously
- 6 speed settings
- Adjustable operating temperature
|Multi-color creation||Price tag could be considered high|
|Affordable plastic filament|
|Wide LED screen|
1. IDO3D Vertical
Filaments: UV Hardened Gel/ Power: n/a / Warranty: 1 year
IDO3D Vertical introduce themselves as the first of 3D pen for kids. Whether or not that’s true, I’ll leave it up for them to answer, but the reality is the IDO3D is a safe product specifically engineered for children. You can find a total of 5 different pens, each one with its own color. Each pen acts as a cartridge for a different color UV-hardened gel which oozes as the user squeezes on the cartridge. Probably quite different from how you would expect a 3D pen to work after reading most 3D pen reviews. By this I mean the IDO3D doesn’t use heating technology to melt and extrude plastic like most pens, the material it uses actually comes “pre-melted”. Once the gel starts oozing from the nozzle, a UV light attached to the tip of the pen will act as an “accelerator”, hardening the material on the spot.
The UV light is interchangeable between all pens. Enabling you to use different colors one after the other instantly. Recently IDO3D has come out with a PRO version of their first design which seems to work quite well, but probably more suited for fun endeavors rather than professional work. The IDO3D is one of the best 3D pens for kids today, and probably the most fun to use.
2. CCTREE Low Temp Pen
Filaments: ABS and PLA / Power: UBS / Warranty: 1 year /
The CCTREE is a low-temperature burning pen. Which means it’s also a great option for kids. Unlike the IDO3D, the CCTREE is a corded unit that uses PCL instead of the proprietary gel used by its aforementioned competitor. This might make it less fun for kids to use, but in turn, makes it a more versatile option. Unlike its counterpart, the CCTREE temperature can be adjusted in order to use materials with higher boiling points such as ABS and PLA.
The downside to the CCTREE is probably it’s ID if you ask me at least, but this is a personal opinion. I just figure that if you’re looking for the best 3D pen to buy, you might as well look for one that pleases your eyesight as well.
3. 3DOODLER START
Filaments: Eco-Plastic / Power: USB / Warranty: 1 year /
The Start version of the well-known brand is a pen specifically designed for kids which, so it burns at a low temperature and comes equipped with a sealed nozzle to avoid children having direct contact with the hot tip. Nevertheless, the nozzle only burns at a warm temperature for safety. In order to achieve melting at a lower temperature, 3Doodler had to create a proprietary blend of material that reaches boiling point quicker than the more common ABS and PLA, the company calls it: Eco-Plastic.
Much like any other child-oriented product, 3Doodler does a great job of capturing the attention of kids with options of starter kits that appeal to different interests. The kits include their own specific components and colors of filaments paired with an instruction guide to print different designs such as robots, architectural sights, and ships. In terms of fun, the 3Doodler Start is a great option and comes with a 1-year warranty.
We’ve covered what a 3d pen is, things you should consider when buying a 3d pen and best 3d pens on the market right now. Remember, keep in mind what you’re looking for, if that’s design or if it’s performance will be up to you but our suggestion is to find the design that appeals the most to you personally and hopefully this article gives you an idea of which 3D pen is best for YOU. Happy printing!