No matter what of kind maker you are, practically everyone – from electrical engineers to hardcore crafters – is enchanted by the magical notion of a 3D-printing pen. So, I was delighted when the crowd-funded folk heroes behind the 3Doodler reached out to me to try out their latest offering: the 3Doodler Create.
In addition to the mind-boggling possibilities that the mere thought of a 3D-printing pen conjures, the 3Doodler Create comes with a variety of accessories and materials to help foster a larger range of potential outcomes. I had the opportunity to try some of these accessories and materials, including the pen stand and nozzle set, and a variety of colorful materials, which come in: “MATTE,” “CLEAR,” GLOSSY,” and “FLEXY.” The 3Doodler Create has “HI” and “LO” heat settings, to which the different types of plastics must be heated. One of the updated features of The 3Doodler Create is that the packaging is color coded to correspond to the colored lights that come on when the pen is set to the correct temperature in order to make the process more or less fool-proof.
As someone who had never actually used a 3D-printing pen before, I decided I should try a few different projects. A statement from the the 3Doodler website says, “From whimsical to playful, the creations can be for practical purposes, to create fine art or to simply doodle.” So, I decided to try and make one of each of those suggestions by following one of the video tutorials on the 3Doodler website, then by making a sculptural object without a specific plan, and then by making a useful product.
To use the 3Doodler Create, you switch the pen to the appropriate heat level for the material you’ll be using, and feed a strand of the material into the pen. I had an abundance of the ABS material, so I decided to try that first. It takes about a minute for the light on the pen to turn the appropriate color, giving you the green (or blue) light to go ahead and start doodling. Then, you just push either the “FAST” or “SLOW” button and the 3Doodler Create starts extruding a thin strand of material. When you push the button again, the material stops. I used the “SLOW” speed practically the entire time and it always came out quickly enough for me.
After squirting a few strands of ABS into shapeless plastic tangles, I decided to follow the video tutorial for the famous “3Doodle Poodle” on the 3Doodler website. Following the tutorial, I immediately gained a better understanding of how the materials behave and how best to use the pen and, although it may not win any 3Doodled dog shows, I was very pleased with my poodle.
With a basic understanding of the process of creating a sturdy 3Doodled structure, I decided to go ahead and try to make a classic bust of a human figure. So, I loaded another strand of ABS into the pen, and once I had coiled the neck of the figure, I realized that I could use some vertical strands and then join them with horizontal strands in order to create a sort of latticework structure that would support itself. In no time at all I was constructing a surprisingly accurate Max Headroom lookalike!
The last thing I attempted to make was a phone case. I saw a few phone case projects posted on the 3Doodler website and decided to just go ahead and try to make one freehand. So, after covering my phone with masking tape, I traced the edges of the phone using strands of the “GLOSSY” PLA material.
Although it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I was really pleased with the haphazard and scribbly look of the case that I made from just five strands of material. And, once I removed the masking tape, I was impressed by how well the phone snapped right back into the case. While I have no idea how well it will actually protect my phone, it seems to fit tightly enough to do at least some good, and after a few days of use my new case is still holding strong!
While there were times when the 3Doodler Create seemed to work like magic, it did require the occasional finagling. For instance, when I tried to use the “FLEXY” material, it seemed to be too soft to find its way into the heating element and I had to remove a panel from the pen and push it in with the screwdriver that came with it. Despite this setback, the troubleshooting tips provided in the instructions and the tutorial videos on the website helped me to fix whatever problems I encountered and the pen continued to work properly after each issue was resolved.
One of the best things about the 3Doodler Create is that it bridges the gap between the accuracy of automated 3D printers and spontaneous creativity. In the same way that an electronic music producer might benefit from sitting down behind a drum kit, those who have experience with 3D printing processes might benefit from tracing the contours of their designs with their own hands. The 3Doodler Create could potentially be useful to just about anyone, but it may not be right for just anyone. It does take a little getting used to, so it could be a challenge for those who are more impatient and don’t like making a mess, but for those that love a challenge and mastering new skills, the 3Doodler is a fun and rewarding instrument!