The Polaroid Play 3D Pen is an attractive product that continues the tradition of playful, craft-oriented gear that we saw with last year’s Polaroid PlaySmart 3D Printer. Designed for crafters and 3D printing hobbyists, this device is nice, for the most part easy to use, and is reasonably priced at $39.99.
The Play 3D Pen is sold in the US exclusively through the JoAnn chain.(Opens in a new window) (in store and online). It is one of three similar models recently released by Polaroid. The Polaroid Root Play 3D Pen has a wood finish and comes with three types of composite wood filaments. And the Polaroid Fast Play 3D Pen includes three interchangeable nozzles that allow you to modify the extrusion speed.
The glossy, blue and black Play 3D Pen measures 1.9 x 1.4 x 7.1 inches and weighs 5.3 ounces. It’s bigger and curvier than the similarly concepted but high-end WobbleWorks 3Doodler Create+, and it feels less like a pen and more like a soldering iron. When in use, you hold it near the front end, angled down, with the middle one resting between your thumb and forefinger.
In addition to the pen itself, the Play 3D Pen Kit comes with a stand that you can rest the pen on when not in use. That puts the extruder facing down and out of danger of accidentally burning someone. (The extruder can reach 200 degrees C, which is why Polaroid does not recommend the use of the pen by anyone under the age of 14, unless supervised by an adult.) .
Also included is a power plug, which connects to a cable that ends in a USB Type-A connector that fits a cell phone or similar charging brick (Polaroid suggests 5 volts/2 amps), a power bank, or a computer. You also get a screen protector to track objects from patterns on a device’s screen (more on that in a bit), and little sticky squares to keep the protector in place. Finally, the Play 3D Pen includes four starter packs of 5 meters of PLA filament, each in a different color, and a quick start guide.
Filament Care and Feeding
At the opposite end of the pen from the extruder are two holes; one fits the power plug and the other is for powering the filament. Once you connect the cable, you press the nearest button on the left side and a light on the top of the pen glows red. When, after a few minutes, the light turns blue, you can load the filament, by pressing and holding the Print button (the other button on the left hand side) until you feel the filament being pulled into the pen, where it goes into a heater. camera. When the filament starts to extrude (emerges from the front nozzle), you are ready to create.
Two arrow buttons on the right side, in the middle of the barrel, speed up or slow down the extrusion. Depending on how many times you press each button, up to eight extrusion speeds are possible, but I found it difficult to adjust the speed. For one thing, there’s nothing to dial in the speed setting, so you can just hope that pressing the button has the desired effect every time.
To retract the filament, simply press the on/off button for two seconds and the remaining filament will pop out. A nice feature is the Play’s self-retracting latch. After seven minutes of non-use, the pen turns off, retracts the filament and cools down. When loading a new filament color, make sure all of the old filament has been extruded and the new color appears before applying it.
Both loading and filament retraction were seamless in my tests. In general, this was not the case with the WobbleWorks 3D pens that I have reviewed, such as the 3Doodler Create+ Leather Edition. Several had filament jams, and I had to open the pen and remove the filament plug with a tool.
The extra filament is available in packs of 20 different colored 5 meter strands, from JoAnn for store pickup ($24.99) or through Amazon (around $40). However, I did notice that the filament packs are not currently available at my nearest JoAnn and it would take at least a week to get to me via Amazon’s fastest delivery. That said, the pen is also compatible with Polaroid Universal PLA filaments, including Premium PLA, Multi-Color, Glow-in-the-Dark, and Deluxe Silk.
Draw on a screen, on paper or in the air
You can draw freehand, on paper, fabric, wood, or other materials, or use a template. The Polaroid Play Trace iOS/Android app provides a small selection of patterns to draw. You can fit the included screen protector over your device, but the protector is big enough to fit my iPhone 11 screen. Unless you’re adept at small, intricate sketches (and can do it with a thick 3D pen), a better approach may be to print the pattern on letter-size paper. (Screen protector or not, I’m also a bit wary of putting an overheated extruder anywhere near any device’s screen.)
The app’s selection of patterns is very limited, but it also allows you to import images from your device’s photo gallery to turn them into templates. (As a result, you can photograph an object in nature and then display it on the app to reproduce it with your hand.) 3Doodler has an archive of printable templates, and a web search will turn up many more patterns.
With the Play pen, you can even draw in three dimensions. To do that, set the pen to its slowest extrusion speed, draw a small circle on a surface to act as a base, and then slowly lift the pen, keeping the filament taut, and it will stiffen as you draw. In this way, you can connect elements, draw spirals and more. You can also make a three-dimensional object by creating two-dimensional objects (for example, the sides of a building) and then “welding” them by extruding hot plastic along the seam while holding it at the proper angle.
In testing, I did some 3D builds, but mostly I drew some freeform objects or traced patterns on the template. My experience was quite pleasant, and the pen was fairly easy to control, although I never quite got the hang of changing the extrusion speed. Artistically, I would classify myself as a doodler, and the work lent itself to this form of unguided creation.
good messy fun
The Play 3D Pen works fine on basic functionality. Filament feeding was easy, no glitches. That said, it was tricky to control the extrusion speed. Supplies, i.e. filament packs, are hard to come by, but you can find substitutes. Polaroid includes very few templates in its tracking app, but luckily, the app will “stamp” your own photos, and you can find other patterns to track elsewhere.
The price is right, and the Polaroid Play 3D pen is a good choice for artists and crafters who want to (literally) try to create 3D objects from molten plastic (and aren’t afraid to get a good deal of plastic). scraps on your workbench).
The bottom line
The reasonably priced Polaroid Play 3D pen is a good entry point into the world of freehand 3D drawing, though it can be tricky to control the speed of extrusion.
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