as impressive as the best 3d printers they are, they are also expensive, especially if you are looking for a device that your children can use. Fortunately, there’s a cheaper way to give your kids a taste of 3D printing: a 3D pen.
These wearable devices work in the same way as 3D printers, melting down filament to place it into a design that springs from your imagination. While a 3D printer uses gears and motors to move the print head, 3D printing pens use you: you use them just like you would an ink pen, only here you’re drawing with plastic filament to create an object. 3D instead of a two-dimensional one. Sketch.
To determine which 3D pen offers the best introduction to 3D printing, we tested two: the $39 Polaroid Play 3D Pen and the $79 3Doodler Create Plus. Both Polaroid and 3Doodler pens work the same way: You insert a 3D printing filament into one end, and a motor pushes it through a heated print head. The melted materials are crushed by the end of the pen and quickly cool down. As you move the pen, the cooling filament takes shape – move it quickly and you will get a thin string of filament. Move it slowly and you will get a thicker filament line.
Which pen handles the job better? Read our Polaroid Play 3D Pen vs. 3Doodler Create Plus comparison to find out which is the best overall 3D pen for crafters looking to reduce 3D printing to the palm of their hand.
Polaroid Play 3D Pen vs. 3Doodler Create Plus: price and availability
The Polaroid Play 3D Pen clearly beats the 3Doodler Create Plus on price, coming in at half the cost of its rival 3D pen. But it gets a bit more complicated when you start buying extra filament to print with.
For a regular price of $39, you get the Polaroid Play 3D pen and four 15-foot long rolls of filament. The 3Doodler Create is $79.99, but it comes with a lot more filament: 3 filament packs, each containing 25 10-inch pieces in various colors and finishes. The 3Doodler pen also comes with an excellent book that includes practical tips and ideas.
When it’s time to order more filament to print. a Pack of 20 filaments (opens in a new tab) for the Polaroid Play costs $17.49, while a refill pack of 10 filament packs (opens in a new tab) (each with 25 pieces) for the 3Doodler Create is $42.19. So the 3Doodler is more expensive overall, but it also offers a much wider selection of materials to print on.
Winner: polaroid game
Polaroid Play 3D Pen vs. 3Doodler Create Plus: Design
These two 3D printing pens look quite similar, they both share the same design: the filament goes in one end and comes out the other. However, the 3Doodler Create Plus is smaller and feels much more comfortable in the hand, which is important if you’re building larger objects.
Both pens also come with a few extra parts. The Polaroid Pen includes a cell phone-sized plastic build plate, while the 3Doodler comes with a similar letter-sized plate. They both serve similar purposes: you can use them as a basis for printing over a template or schematic.
For the Polaroid pen, you use it with the Polaroid Trace app, available for iOS or Android. This converts an image to a black outline or loads a previously created template from a selection included in the application. Then, place the build plate on top of your cell phone and trace the template to create your artwork.
3Doodler Create Plus takes this one step further. You can download templates, print them out, and place them under the build plate to trace. 3Doodler offers hundreds of templates, from toys to bird and animal models to architectural models. These templates also include building tips and guides for assembling the models.
The 3Doodler also comes with the option to replace the nozzle, and a $19.99 kit offers six different shaped nozzles. Just like a cake decorating tool, nozzles of different shapes and sizes produce differently shaped outputs; it also includes a smoothing tool that can smooth extruded plastic to make thinner layers.
One thing to note here: The Polaroid Play 3D Pen requires a USB power source and does not come with a power adapter to plug into the wall. However, any USB power source that can supply 2 amps will work, so the USB power adapter for your phone or a USB port on your computer will probably work. The 3Doodler Create Plus comes with a plug-in power adapter.
Winner: 3Doodler Create Plus
Polaroid Play 3D Pen vs. 3Doodler Create Plus: Performance
Testing both 3D pens, I found the 3Doodler Create Plus to be the easiest to use. It’s smaller and fits better in the hand, two factors that your younger target audience will appreciate. An easy-to-grip device makes it more comfortable to use, which is important when you are operating the pen for a while.
Both Polaroid Play and 3Doodler Create Plus use buttons to control the flow of plastic, with the ones stopping and starting the flow under the index finger. Again, the Create Plus is a bit more comfortable, with the buttons at the top of the pen.
Both pens produce a smooth, even stream of molten plastic, but the Create Plus has a protruding nozzle (or, perhaps, a tip) that makes it easier to see where the plastic is going. That helps when you’re doing a good job or joining multiple pieces of plastic together.
Winner: 3Doodler Create Plus
Polaroid Play 3D Pen vs. 3Doodler Create Plus: Materials
Both pens can print with PLA, a lightweight plastic material commonly used in 3D printing.
However, 3Doodler Create goes a step further, as it can also print with ABS, the plastic that Legos are made of. This is much stronger than PLA, but requires a higher temperature to melt. ABS cools faster, making it ideal for 3D models. Try that with PLA and you’ll get a soggy mess.
The 3Doodler Create can also use two additional types of materials: flexible filament and a wood-textured filament that produces a wood-like finish. 3Doodler also has a rather interesting approach to selling you more materials: in addition to packs of different colors and textures, it produces themed packs, like a nice $30 package which includes the colors of the filament to build a replica of Fallingwater, the iconic house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Winner: 3Doodler Create Plus
Polaroid Play 3D Pen vs. 3Doodler Create Plus: verdict
Our Polaroid Play 3D Pen vs. 3Doodler Create Plus found both pens to be very inexpensive to work with, and both can create some interesting models. Your choice will come down to how engaged you think your kids, or you, will be in using 3D pens to create objects and models.
|Polaroid Play 3D Pen||3Doodler Create Plus|
|Price (20 points)||17||14|
|Design (25 points)||fifteen||twenty|
|Performance (30 points)||twenty||26|
|Materials (25 points)||13||22|
|Total (100 points)||Sixty-five||82|
If using a 3D pen seems like a casual activity, turn to the Polaroid Play 3D Pen and a filament refill pack. At $39.99 for the pen and $17.49 for the filament, it won’t break the bank if your kids frolic with the pen for a couple of days and get bored.
But serious hobbyists and 3D printers will like the $79.99 3Doodler Create Plus better. Its support for more materials and helpful guides means you’ll be able to build more complex designs. And the pen is comfortable enough to keep people coming back for more. The 3Doodler Create Plus is the perfect pen if you want to do more than just dabble in 3D printing, which is why we’ve included it among our best 3D printers.