Many on our staff at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County were clamoring for a 3D Printer when we were discussing creating our MakerSpace, but we were worried about cost and space. And I personally was worried about the learning curve: I know nothing – and I mean nothing – about 3D Printers. So I was hesitant to set myself up for failure right out of the gate and worried about losing momentum and staff support when others saw my failure. So we opted instead for a 3D printing pen, which turned out to be a really excellent place to start in 3D printing.
3D Printing Pens work kind of like a glue gun, except that they use filament – the same stuff used in 3D Printers – to create 3D works of art. They are less expensive, pack up easily, and they are a great place to start when considering the world of 3D printing. Here’s our first attempt at using a 3D Printing Pen.
We have 2 different types of 3D Pens: the 3D Doodler and a 7Tech 3D Pen which can be found on Amazon by several different names.
After working with both of the pens I prefer the second 7Tech 3D Pen over the 3D Doodler because:
- The 3D Doodler takes longer to heat up and advance the filament
- It is harder to load and navigate the filament
- You can only use 3D Doodler brand filament, which comes in short sticks so you have to reload it more frequently
- It is less intuitive for first time users
In comparison, with the 7Tech 3D Pen you can buy spools of 1.75 Filament (often at rock bottom prices) on Amazon. These are more continuous strands so you can focus more on building your creation and less on reloading your filament.
A Note about the 7Tech 3D Pen:
If you do a search on Amazon for a 3D Pen you will find a variety of pens by different names that look basically the same, though they may vary in color. The most common name you have probably heard of is the Scribbler. These pens are a different make and model than the 3D Doodler, the most popular brand name 3D printing pen. These pens are all a version of Model #: RP100A and they take a 1.75 mm filament. You can read some about the Samto version here.
Tips and Tricks for Using Your 3D Pen:
Overall, we really enjoyed using our 3D printing pen. For our first project, we simply tried to make a cube.
We then freehanded something that we called a T-Rex skeleton, mostly just because I like dinosaurs and it kind of looks like one. I went back in and added itty bitty arms to keep it on theme.
We then discovered the magic of templates.
Tip #1: Use Templates Whenever You Can
You can freehand draw your own template, which is what my coworker did here. But you can also do a Google search for 3D Pen Templates and find a ton as well. We started a Pinterest board to pin some of our favorites which we keep stocked in our MakerSpace. 3Doodler also has a book which is a great inspiration and starting point, even if you don’t use the 3Doodler.
Tip #2: Buy Some Type of Mat
The 3Doodler actually sells a mat, and even if you don’t use the pen you can use the mat. You can also use a regular cutting mat that you purchase at your local craft store. The mat makes it easy to lift your project off when you are done.
Tip #3: Know Your Filament
There are 2 different types of filaments, ABS and PLA. They have a few differences that are important depending on what you intend to try and make. 3Doodler has a good comparison chart to help you understand the differences.
Tip #4: The Tip of Your 3D Pen is Like a Soldering Iron
You can make little pieces and then solder them together using the tip of your 3D pen.
Tip #5: Be Patient! And Start Small!
Your first time creating with a 3D pen will not be a masterpiece. It takes a while to learn how to keep a steady hand, how best to manipulate the pen and filament, etc. Start with a smaller project and work your way up. It can take a really long time to make a complete project, patience is key.
In the end, we were able to create a very cool catapult using our 3D Pen. (In the interest of full disclosure: my coworker did this, not me) and it can fling um, spit balls (but without the spit, because gross).
And here’s a picture of me sitting in the Teen MakerSpace wearing the 3D glasses that my coworker made . . .
I highly recommend getting a 3D printing pen for your classroom or Maker Space if you can.