The WobbleWorks 3Doodler 3D Art Pen has come a long way since I reviewed the original 3Doodler five years ago. Its latest version, 3Doodler Create+ Leather Edition, is much slimmer and easier to operate. This $119.99 limited edition device (only 1,000 made) brings a touch of style to the 3Doodler line: the pen is housed in a full-grain whiskey-cured Italian leather case. It comes with a wider range of materials to print than previous 3Doodlers, including various wood-based composites. The Leather Edition costs about $40 more than the 3Doodler Create+ or the Juku 3Doodler Create+, but these pens don’t include any wood-based filament. Think of it, in a sense, as a portable freeform 3D printer.
Anatomy of a 3D art pencil
The Leather Edition resembles a cross between a ballpoint pen and a soldering iron, with a hollow front nozzle similar to a 3D printer’s extruder. Getting the Leather Edition up and running is pretty simple. Plug the wall wart style power adapter plug into the back of the pen and a red light comes on, indicating the pen is heating up. A slider switch allows you to select the type of plastic you are using: PLA or ABS/Flexy (a flexible plastic), which melts at different temperatures.
When the tip is hot, the light turns green (for PLA) or blue (for ABS or Flexy), and you can then load a stick of your chosen filament into the back of the 3Doodler. Insert it far enough, and the gears on the pen grab it and pull it into a chamber, where it’s heated to the melting point. Then press the Fast or Slow button until the tip begins to extrude plastic and you are ready to doodle.
Using the 3Doodler is a bit like 3D printing, but without the printer. While a 3D printer works by extruding molten plastic, layer by layer, to create an object based on the instructions in a 3D file, the 3Doodler leaves the creation to your brain and hand. The fact that plastic cools and stiffens almost immediately after extrusion allows you to, in effect, draw vertically on plastic. The objects he creates won’t be as solid as those from a 3D printer, but with a little practice they will hold together and can be structured in complex ways.
You can also draw objects with the help of templates and then put them together. Not only is it easier than freehand 3D doodling, but it gives you a selection of objects you may never have thought of. On the 3Doodler site, you can find many templates to download. The site also has good FAQs and instructional videos.
Filament sticks: plastic and wood
Like the other 3Doodler pens, Create+ Leather Edition uses the same type of filament that 3D printers use, except instead of coming on spools, 3Doodler filament comes in packs of 25 10-inch long sticks. Four packs are included: Matte (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, which under its tongue twister of a technical name is the plastic that Lego bricks are made of), Glossy (polylactic acid, or PLA, a plastic made from cornstarch ) and two wood fiber composites. The included filament colors are earth tones: black, silver gray, tan, and dark brown, respectively.
Leather Edition has been optimized to use wood filaments (in fact, they are the main filament in the product), and unlike previous 3Doodler Create series pens, it is the first to include wood filaments. while one technically could have used wood with the existing Create+, the fact that it could be used with wood was a serendipitous discovery that WobbleWorks announced late last year, and most Create+ owners may not even be aware of. The Leather Edition, however, was designed to work with wood as the main filament. ABS, PLA and Flexy can also be used with the leather pen.
WobbleWorks sells the filament packs for $7.99 for ABS or PLA, $9.99 for Flexy, and $12.99 for wood-based filaments. Wood strands come in four varieties: natural (pine), hickory, oak, and birch. They’re made up of 75 percent PLA and 25 percent wood, sawdust that WobbleWorks sources from a sawmill in Michigan.
Several tools are included with Create+. A mini screwdriver opens the maintenance cap on the top of the pen and shows if there is any filament inside. A small wrench is used to unscrew and replace the mouthpiece. The release tool is a rod that fits into the filament feed hole and can be used to push any old filament out the front of the pen.
An extra that is exclusive to the Leather Edition is a set of six additional mouthpieces. They allow users to choose the consistency of their lines and come in 0.5mm, 1mm and 1.5mm diameters, as well as ribbon, triangle and square shapes. Essentially, one would use a smaller nozzle for more precise lines, while a 1.5mm nozzle could be used for layering more effectively.
Create+ Leather Edition Test
I made objects using all of the included filament types, including a two tone pine using both types of wood filament. Sometimes I drew objects freehand in three dimensions, but for the most part I used templates that I printed from the 3Doodler site.
In a couple of cases, when changing filament types or colors, I couldn’t pull out the remaining filament by reversing the filament drive. I had to remove the maintenance cover to check for residual filament there; once, I was able to remove a plug of filament that was stuck in there, but several times I had to use the wrench to remove the nozzle and then push the old filament out with the release rod. The first time was the worst, and after that it became a chore.
Working… errr, Playing with 3Doodler Create+ Leather Edition it was a fun and sometimes challenging task. For example, it was tricky to assemble a three-dimensional multi-pointed star, which required me to extrude plastic along a seam while holding one of the pieces upright when bringing two surfaces together. I’ve had a lot of practice scribbling two-dimensionally, but adding a third dimension compounded the effort. Fortunately, practice makes better, and the templates provided a welcome guide when I got tired of trying to create things by drawing in the air.
One thing Create+ could use is a kickstand to keep the tip elevated and the device in place when you’re not doodling, kind of like a soldering iron kickstand. This is a complaint I had when reviewing the original 3Doodler. Once, I touched the hot end of the feather and it stung me, although it did not damage my skin. Fortunately, the pen turns off (and cools down) after five minutes of inactivity.
At $119.99, the Leather Edition costs $20 more than any other pen that includes the same amount of filament, though for now at least, only the Leather Edition comes with wood-based filaments. The pen’s leather casing looks elegant and has a nice texture, and fits well in a stained wood office setting. And to its credit, Leather Edition works much better than the original 3Doodler. However, if you don’t like the look or have ethical reservations about buying leather, any of the 3Doodler Create+ pens mentioned above is a good alternative.