The new 3Doodler pen promises low-cost, low-maintenance access to 3D printing.
If 3D printers seem too expensive or too technically complex, WobbleWorks' 3Doodler 3D-printing pen looks like a budget- and user-friendly alternative. It also looks like a ton of fun.
The idea behind the 3Doodler is that it takes the core functionality of a 3D printer, essentially an extruder and a heat source, and jams it into a pen-shaped handheld device. Loaded with either ABS or PLA plastic, common feedstock for traditional 3D printers, the 3Doodler "prints" plastic objects by letting you draw them in freehand in three-dimensional space.
The brainchild of WobbleWorks, a robotic toy company formed in 2011, the 3Doodler came to light today after its Kickstarter campaign met its US$30,000 funding goal within its first few hours. The project has pulled in over US$200,000 from more than 2400 backers, as of this writing, and with 33 days to go in its campaign.
With so many backers, the US$50 entry point for the first round of 3Doodler's has already sold out. The US$75 spot has around 1200 units left, with upper tiers of US$99 and up that get you the pen and various extras, like additional bags of printing feedstock, or even design input if you pledge US$1000 or more.
An Eiffel Tower model printed with the 3Doodler.
Among the various use cases for the 3Doodler, the Kickstarter page suggests that you can use it to customise existing plastic objects, to make ad hoc repairs and also use stencils to make more precise drawings. A freehand pen probably won't allow for engineer-class precision like you can get with a traditional 3D printer, but WobbleWorks envisions a vast community of users who swap downloadable stencils for use with the 3Doodler.
With a 3mm nozzle, the 3Doodler can use off-the-shelf filament, and variable temperature settings will allow you to use both PLA and ABS plastic. It's not a child's toy, since the nozzle can reach temperatures of 270C/518F. But because it requires only a power outlet and has no need for a computer, or even an SD Card with design files on it, the 3Doodler should introduce a new level of accessibility and ease of use for those interested in experimenting with 3D printing.
The first round of 3Doodler pens ship in September to the higher pledge tiers and to those fast enough to get in on the $50 level, according to the Kickstarter page. For the US$75, US$99 and US$125 tiers, shipments go out in October.