Apr 12, 2016

5 reasons to have a 3D Printing Pen

My first 3D Pen - 3Doodler 1.0
More than a year ago, I saw my first 3D Pen - the 3Doodler - and I immediately bought it. It seemed like such a cool combination of creativity and modern technology. I had already gotten into "traditional 3D Printing" (did I really just say "traditional"?), and figured this was a natural extension of that. I didn't have any expectations of how or why I would use it, but bought it to help figure that out.

Why have a 3D Pen?

After using my 3D pen a few times, I really enjoyed creating things with it, but I also recognized that there are reasons to have them that differ a bit from the reasons for having a 3D Printer. That's what I'll outline here, a few reasons why a 3D Pen might be something you "need"...

Reason 1: Help you understand 3D Printing.

While 3D Printing is not rocket surgery, it's more fun to learn how it works by seeing it rather than reading about it or watching a video. A 3D Pen is a low cost, simple way to see 3D Printing mechanics in action. Yes, it's just plastic melting and being re-formed to harden again. But seeing it first hand - and being able to quickly create something without 3D Modeling skills or expensive machines - is cool.

Reason 2: Be Artistic in a New Way

My 2nd one - the Scribbler 3D Pen
Kids - and bigger people - often love making things. Crayons, markers, paint, yarn and fabric, even duct tape - it's all fun. But how often is there a NEW medium to create things? Not often. Melting plastic and reforming it into a new thing - now that's NEW - that's COOL.

Reason 3: It's Easy.

Making 3D objects with wood is amazing, but very hard, requiring many tools, perhaps dangerous electrical tools, and very time consuming.  Paper machè is great and simple - but it's messy! 3D Pens are easy to set up, take almost no time to get going, have minimal training with very small danger risks (watch the hot end!) and super easy to clean up. Learning how to do it is easy too! In a short session, kids can see results and even collaborate by building different parts of a larger model.

Reason 4: It's Cheap(er).

A great 3D Pen costs about $100 (although I actually got my Scribbler 3D Pen for $69, even though they now seem to be no less than $99). The PLA filament is also very cheap - about $20 for a whole roll (and you can try to calculate how much a printed object costs). A good 3D Printer costs about $500-$1000, and a better one costs more like $2000.

some experimental creations ("art")

Reason 5: Practice Experimenting and Failure

If you think creating something with a pen or crayon that you would call "Art" is difficult, well, just imagine trying that in three dimensions ;)

One thing I love about all arts and crafts is the practice it gives us - as kids and adults - in trying new things, in experimenting, in failing and trying again! Experimenting is such an important step in innovating, and that's why I love all kinds of art for EVERYONE. The 3D Pen is a great tool for this sort of practice - and is a fun alternative that spurs people's interest in something they may have never tried before. That's a good thing!

One reason to NOT get a 3D Pen.

Do not get a 3D Pen as an alternative to a 3D Printer.

not so precise mini-building
It is not at all the same thing. A 3D Printer is basically a robot which melts plastic and forms it into an object that has been modeled with 3D Modeling software. While that type of 3D PRINTING is not artistic - the 3D Modeling part can be VERY artistic. It's just that the actual printing process is not the artistic part when using a 3D Printer.

Conversely, the 3D Pen is NOT a good way to precisely create a 3D object for functional use. It is very hard to create an object of precise measurements or with straight edges or smooth, measured curves.

The comparison of 3D Pens to 3D Printers is analogous to comparing drawing by hand to printing with an inkjet printer - the first being artistic, the second being functional. Bat, as in 3D Printing, an inkjet printer required perhaps some artistic process first, before the actual printing step.

Here's what you'll have a lot of...
One other important point:  Because using the 3D Pen means having it closer to your face while you use it, you should ONLY use PLA - NOT ABS. It has been found that ABS Plastic often has harmful fumes, while most PLA does not.

Engadget wrote a post on this recently, which I try to share with everyone I know who does 3D Printing under any conditions - but I think it is even more important for 3D Pen use because of the likelihood of breathing in fumes.


  1. Thats a great summary and something that I hadn't really thought of. Have yet to dip toes into the 3D Pen market for the students but appreciated that you explained their use in details and also thought that the pros/cons side of the debate and issue was a really good idea.
    Mr Webb and Room Three, Auroa Primary School

  2. Dear Author,
    I am truly thrilled after reading through the reasons why I should get a 3D Printing Pen.
    Thanks a Lot.