In September, if all goes according to plan, the world’s first 3D printing pen will go on sale for $75. The pen, called 3Doodler, essentially allows you to lift your flat sketches off the paper or, if you like, draw in three dimensions.
3Doodler is a Kickstarter project and in less than 24 hours it has raised over $500,000 in pledges, far more than its goal of $30,000. As you can see in the video below, the inventors have already created an impressive prototype, and now it’s time to launch 3Doodler on the market. The target price is $75 for a September 2013 release. The inventors say they have already located a Chinese manufacturer that is capable of meeting these targets. The final device must be 24mm (1in) thick and weigh less than 200g, with an external power brick that accepts 110-240V.
At its core, the 3Doodler is a standard 3D printer, but your hand controls the printhead instead of a bunch of computer-controlled motors. (See: What is 3D Printing?) Inside the 3Doodler is a filament feeder (accepting ABS or PLA plastic), a heating element, and an extruder, and that’s about it. The melted plastic comes out of the extruder and sets very quickly. As far as we can tell, the plastic comes out of the extruder at a certain speed, so depending on whether you want a thin (weak and flexible) or thick (strong and stiff) line, move the 3Doodler quickly or slowly. For strength and flexibility, simply go back and forth over the same section, building a web of plastic tendrils (like on the Eiffel Tower above).
Judging by the massive support for 3Doodler on Kickstarter, it’s safe to assume that people are really excited about the concept of a freehand 3D printer. However, it’s not hard to see why, if you were a kid who dreamed of drawing sketches that literally jump off the paper. The actual reality of freehand 3D printing can be a bit more complex than most users expect, but to that end, the inventors have partnered with professional artists to provide 3Doodler backers with templates/templates that you can just complete. The Kickstarter page also seems to lack evidence that 3Doodler is capable of drawing straight lines, but hopefully it’s just a matter of using a ruler.
In the future, this could be a very exciting springboard for inventors and hobbyists alike. While 3D printers have revolutionized the rapid prototyping tool, the 3Doodler is even faster; adds a whole new dimension (!) to brainstorming on the back of the napkin. To begin with, I suspect it will be quite difficult to create meaningful sketches with a 3Doodler, but over time, and with a whole range of usability tweaks and additional accessories that I’m sure will follow, the 3D printing pen could become as ubiquitous as the ballpoint pen. 2D Bic. (See: 3D Printing: A Replicator and Teleporter in Every Home.)
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