The market is quickly becoming saturated with different 3D print pens, 3Doodler, Lix 3D Pen, AtmosFlare, Genesis, and on and on. In a way the 3D printing pen companies are all acting like 3D printer companies – constantly trying to one up another with no true innovation. So what’s the big deal with all these doodling devices? Generally, we are not big fans of these 3D printer pens because it does not ever seem like anyone could actually doodle out any type of end use product even though some of these artists can create really interesting and beautiful things. It’s not right for our business, or any industrial business, at least right now. I can see it as an interesting way to introduce kids, or even adults, into 3D thinking or even as a way to “sketch” a product out. Right now though, it seems the only things these pens are doing is creating doodles and art projects.
3D Printing In Pop Culture – What’s The Deal With All These Doodle 3D Print Pens?
The way that these 3D print pens work is similar to how a glue gun works. Instead of glue you have a stick of filament (ABS or PLA) that is pushed through to the tip of the pen where you can draw on a surface or up into the air. We’ve talked a lot about the 3D print learning curve on our podcast and how we had to rethink the way we thought about design in terms of 3D printing, and I’d say there is a strong learning curve that comes with 3D print pens as well. Last fall at the 3D Print Show in Pasadena they had a few by 3Doodler to test out, and it was not the easiest to conquer, nor did I even come close to accomplishing my first 3D print pen task: drawing a cube. I will say it really did make my brain have to switch gears and think about how to make a cube in the air instead of on paper.
Practice with these 3D print pens can certainly make perfect as the examples at the booth showed. There is even a student group from Tokyo University who made large 3D hand drawn structures that are now on display at the Ozone Gallery in Shinjuku. While it’s a really new and interesting way to create sculpture art, it still seems to be so much of a gimmick and not really useful in terms of product design and manufacturing. The only way that I could think of it as being useful to product design, is that instead of sketching the design out first on paper, you could just sketch it out in the air basically. Maybe even use a 3D scanner to give you a base for your CAD model that can be tweaked and changed into a more finished design file for your actual 3D printer. That might be a far stretch though.
The one thing about the 3D print pens and letting kids go wild with creating their own 3D doodles, is that the tip of the pen is very hot in order for it to melt plastic. The 3Doodler brand came out with the 3Doodler Start, a chunkier pen for little hands and no hot parts. You can even use the 3D print pen right on your skin and it will not burn you – maybe a cool way for kids to have “tattoos” or create fun temporary henna art. 3D print pens for children could really open up the doors in their mind of creating things in 3D. If they really grasp this concept by using the 3D print pens, imagine what they will be able to design and create in CAD once they are a bit older and can use the program.
Aside from 3D print pen art, one truly cool use of these 3D printer pens is with 3D bioprinting. We took a quick dive into that with Debra Wilcox of the 3D Printing Store, but researchers in Australia have created the BioPen. This 3D print pen is designed to repair bones and cartilage by drawing a filament that’s made partially of stem cells onto the site needing the repair. This device is still in it’s clinical trial phase, but it could revolutionize how surgeons repair bone and cartilage injuries. Currently they have to design an artificial implant before surgery and hope that it’s a right enough size and fit, but with the BioPen they can eliminate that step and draw on an exact fitting implant with the specialized filament.
Final Thoughts on 3D Printing In Pop Culture and What the Deal is with all the 3D Print Pens
All these doodle 3D print pens are neat, but I’m still not sure if it is truly 3D printing. It’s definitely 3D drawing, 3D doodling, 3D sculpting, and in the case of the BioPen it’s 3D surgical bone implants. Right now I’d like to think of them just as a gateway to 3D design and 3D thinking. It will be interesting to see other applications of these pens other than art projects and what the kids who are using them today can come up with in a few years in the 3D printing world. If you have any experience using 3D print pens, please leave a comment below or tag us at @hazzdesign on social media with you 3D print pen creations or fails.
- Toyko University student group creates sculptures with 3D print pens
- 3D Doodler Start
- 3D bioprinting with Debra Wilcox
- Australian researchers create BioPen
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