To say that 3D printing was a huge trend at the Consumer Electronics Show this year is an understatement. Rows upon rows of the various show floors were dedicated to new 3D printing solutions and concepts. While no two printers are made alike and each has different capabilities and features, most of them look… well, exactly the same: some type of modular unit with a central platform where the product is created.
One 3D printer, however, aims to differentiate itself with its unusual look. It’s called the 3Doodler, and instead of the typical box-like structure, it’s a hand-held pen that allows you to “draw” your 3D-printed object.
I was able to try the device, talk to the 3Doodler team at CES, check out a variety of things the 3Doodler has created. The amazingly intricate models, clothing, and accessories that have spun out of the pen make the device seem intimidating at first, but it’s surprisingly easy to use. I even tried on a 3D-printed jacket and necklace, and while the former was slightly stiff, it was definitely wearable. I’m actually quite taken with the necklace.
The 3Doodler works much like a hot glue gun: there’s a button near where your index finger naturally lies for activating and deactivating the pen, pausing it, and switching to auto-on. To get started, you press the tip of the pen onto a flat surface and begin drawing, bringing your 3D-printed object to life.
Still, while I was able to make a really great curlicue, the wallets, jackets, and miniature castles that I saw at 3Doodler’s booth seemed so far beyond anything I could create. The pen may enable the democratization of art, but there’s definitely a learning curve. The average user (i.e., mildly artistic but also mildly incapable) will mess up more than a few times before making something worth keeping.
With the 3Doodler, the possibilities are immediately obvious, albeit time-intensive. For some of the more amazing 3D objects—the really intricate stuff—you’re looking at a time commitment of hundreds of hours. To produce enough 3D material for those pieces, you would also need hundreds of the plastic sticks you insert into the pen.
The 3Doodler’s biggest draw is probably its price: $99. In a market where “cheap” 3D printers cost upwards of $300, the 3Doodler downright affordable—and better yet, it works.
Photos via Molly McHugh