Do I need a 3D printer pen?

Since the invention of the 3Doodler printer pen by Maxwell Bogue and Peter Dilworth back in 2012 these devices have been becoming steadily more popular. Prices vary wildly from £10 all the way up to around £120. There are more manufactures appearing all the time making the 3D printer pen more accessible to more people with the average price below £40. There are May features and ergonomic differences between the manufacturers which gives you a choice of preferences.

What is a 3D printer pen?

3D printer pens are a lot like a hot melt glue gun with smaller coloured glue sticks. But instead of glueing other bits of plastic together the user can literally draw 3D shapes in plastic using either templates or freehand. Effectively drawing 3D models that can be freestanding.

What can I do with a 3D printer pen?

The 3D printer pen is a unique hand held device that can be used to create freestanding 3D drawings or models. These devices are mainly marketed as an artistic device but there are several uses for 3D printer pens. They can be used on their own for small repairs or making decorative items. They can also be used alongside larger 3D printers to link or join items to make larger items. Although they are mainly used for creating freestanding 3D models there are many other decorative uses like creating fridge magnets or personalising other items like phones, tablets or laptops.

How do I use a 3D printer pen?

For the freestanding 3D models there are two main ways of using the 3D printer pen the first way is to draw each of the sides of your creation on a flat surface then bond them together the other more complicated way is to draw them onto a template either bought or created by the user. Experienced 3D printer pen users may even be able to create 3D items freehand.

How does a 3D printer pen work?

Basically the 3D pen uses heat to melt plastic filament which it then pushes out through the nib. The user then manoeuvres the printer pen around creating the desired shape or shapes. Once the plastic filament is away from the printer pens heating element it quickly cools down to make the created shape permanent. The filaments for 3D printer pens have to be able to melt fast and set again almost as fast. Only a few plastics meet this criteria Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene(ABS), Polylactic acid (PLA) and High-density polyethylene (HDPE). The most widely used for 3D printer pens are the ABS and the PLA. The downside of using ABS is the higher melting point which can create a small amount of fumes that can cause slight irritation if inhaled. Some 3D printer pens are only able to use PLA as they only have one temperature setting but it is becoming more common that both ABS and PLA can be used as most devices will have variable temperature settings. PLA plastic is derived from renewable sources like corn starch or sugar cane and is said to be biodegradable this type of filament also has a lower melting temperature so using less energy to melt. Unfortunately PLA takes longer to cool which leaves it soft for longer making the use of additional cooling for more complicated creations a must. Another slight drawback of PLA is it is more brittle than ABS making PLA models more likely to get accidentally damaged.

How hot does a 3D printer pen get?

Depending on what type of filament you are using will determine how hot the 3D pen needs to get, HDPE has the lowest temperature requirement only needing only 120 to 180 degrees C to reach its melting point, PLA requires a medium temperature requiring 180 to 220 degrees C whereas ABS requires 230 degrees C to reach its melting point.

How do I choose the right 3D printer pen?

  • With numerous brands and models available it may seem to be impossible to choose the right pen for you. Things you need to take into consideration are.
    • Is the temperature adjustable
      Is the speed adjustable
      What accessories are available
      What thickness of filament does it use
      What is the cost
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