In previous articles, we have extensively covered the world of additive manufacturing by providing various tips and information on the topic of 3D printing. We believe that these topics—which cut across 3D printing tools, techniques, 3D Printers and design—must have helped our readers put their interests in 3D printing into practice using domestic 3D printers to build their own designs.
In the same vein, this post intends to introduce the revolutionary 3D printing pen, how it works and its uses/importance to printing enthusiasts and hobbyists looking for new ways to create art. Which leads us to the question of, what exactly is a 3D printing pen?
What is a 3d Printing Pen?
As its name suggests, a 3D printing pen (sometimes called a 3D drawing pen, 3D writing pen or 3D printer pen) is a 3D printer designed like a pen, equipped with the ability to build 3-dimensional objects. It makes use of an extrusion process combined with heating elements to make printing materials malleable, and a corresponding cooling process that solidifies the material while building a 3D model. But unlike the traditional 3D printer which needs to be fed a virtual 3D model before the printing process can take place, the 3D drawing Pen is controlled by you, in such a way that you end up guiding the printer with you
But unlike the traditional 3D printer which needs to be fed a virtual 3D model before the printing process can take place, the 3D drawing Pen is controlled by you, in such a way that you end up guiding the printer with your hand throughout the printing process.
The versatility and direct approach it provides—as you build by hand—cements its status as a disruptive tool or machine in the 3D printing community. Its relative ease of use and compatibility, when compared to a domestic printer, has made it quite popular in 3D printing circles.
The Working Process behind the 3D Printing Pen
Although most developers of the printing pen have secured the financial future of their device by patenting and keeping most of its internal workings a secret, using the device still provides one with a general idea of how it works.
Like most—if not all—printing devices, the 3D printing pen functions by heating a plastic material to its melting point and then forcing the melted material through the pen’s nozzle or extruder  tip.
The heated material then cools down due to a mechanism at the extrusion end as well as contact with cooler exterior air to form the wanted shape or design on your work surface. In non-technical terms, the working process of the 3D printer can be likened to that of a glue gun which extrudes glue that solidifies when in contact with a surface.
What Can You Do With a 3D Printing Pen?
The 3D printing pen is designed to allow you effectively draw with plastic thereby increasing your creativity when printing to new levels.
The pen can be used as a standalone 3D printer or as a complimentary design tool to a traditional 3D printer in diverse creative ways which include:
- Working plastic into any shape you draw on a surface thereby building a 3-dimensional model without using a 3D printer
- Modifying 3D models built with a 3D printer such as adding extra width to unsteady or thinly built surfaces.
- Customizing any object by printing solid plastic designs on their surfaces as well as in any nooks and crannies.
- Executing entire projects in physical space without the need pf a 3D printer. The extrusion and cooling process associated with the drawing pen makes this possible.
Should Safety Measures be employed when using a 3D Printing Pen Domestically?
The very nature of this printing device makes it a compact 3D printing tool for domestic use and its resemblance to a pen means that your workstation could be overrun by curious kids looking to play with it. This, in turn, can lead to unintentional injuries for we all know how children play. As for adults, the 3D printing pen offers relatively no source of danger or injuries except through accidental contacts when not rightly used due to the heat emanating from its nozzle. But its irresistible attraction to kids—below the age of 8—who might end up playing with its nozzle, means that you either:
- Keep the location of your work station separate from indoor activities or
- Sort out a fool-proof location for storing the device when not in use or when not at home.
It is also important to note that there is an option for purchasing a 3D drawing pen that works via the material heating process. And this option is the 3D printing pen which makes use of UV light or rays to soften plastic filament. Thereby eliminating the possibility of injuries caused by contact with hot surfaces.
An Outline of Four Popular 3D Printing Pens
For those looking to purchase a printing pen in the near future, here is an outline of some of the most iconic 3D printing pens in the tech market as well as a little discussion on their features, design, and abilities.
The 7Tech 3D Printing Pen
The 7Tech is designed aesthetically with a built-in LCD display screen and racy colors to attract the average 3D printing hobbyist. The LCD display combined with multiple buttons along the surface of the pen serves as the controllers needed to use it in accomplishing set tasks. The settings which these buttons control include; temperature, flow speed, and power. In terms of build, it weighs a mere 65g and is ergonomically built for easy handling when printing. Its features include:
- Advanced Thermal Control: 7Tech ensures that its user can manipulate its temperature to different levels that ensure various filaments are melted. The thermal control range of this drawing pen falls in the 160-230 degrees range which is enough to melt plastic filaments for 3D printing.
- Speed Control: the speed control slider was basically designed to control the flow of molten plastic during the design phase. Users can easily speed up its flow when handling repetitive tasks or slow down its flow to accomplish more intricate design tasks.
- Jam detection and Unclogging Mechanism: 3D printing pens do get jammed up and luckily, 7Tech is equipped to note such errors and display them on the LCD screen.
- Silent Operation: unlike some of its noisy counterparts out there, this 3D printing pen prides itself as a silent worker that does not emanate cruel or funny noises when in operation.
Lastly, 7Tech comes with a technical manual and an aluminum spatula to aid the understanding of its printing process as well as to eliminate heat discomfort when in use. It can also be used by children above the age of 8.
The Soyan Arts and Craft Drawing 3D Printing Pen
The Soyan is a lightweight aesthetic printing pen designed for easy handling. The product generally comes in grey—although other colors can be chosen—with white splashes along the length of its body. On its surface are the control buttons used for setting its printing parameters when handling projects. These buttons include; speed adjustment, thermal and stand-by buttons. Its features include:
- Advanced Thermal Control: Soyan takes into consideration the melting point of several plastic feeds used in 3D printing. Therefore, its heating temperature can be manipulated according to your specifications but not that its thermal range falls in the 160 to 250 degrees category.
- Controllable Extrusion Speed: feature for the control of flow speed when 3D printing is one that cannot be overlooked. Soyan 3D printing pen includes a button to control this parameter thereby providing creative versatility while you work.
- Heating Coil and Nozzle Design/Alignment: unlike its contemporaries, this 3D printing pen was built in such a way that it minimizes heat and ensures the rapid cooling of the molten material once extruded. Also when in use, its surface is considerably cool due to the design and arrangements of its heating coil and nozzle components in its system.
- Stand-by Mode: on leaving the 3D printing pen for approximately 5 minutes, it goes off by itself thereby saving energy and reducing waste.
The Soyan 3D printing pen is also suitable for kids above 8 years of age and its heat control abilities reduce the possibility of heat-related injuries.
The Scribbler 3D Printing Pen V3
The Scribbler is an attractive printing pen that is made more so by its unique surface coloring and the option to choose your favorite color. Like its counterparts above, it makes use of heat to melt plastic filaments and employs an extrusion process with rapid cooling when printing out materials. The ergonomically built Scribbler 3D pen is fun to use and it spots a display screen on its top surface to aid its use while tweaking its settings. Its features include:
- Highly Flexible and Portable: its lean design and button arrangements make handling quite easy. Users can get their hands around its lightweight bodies while designing complex models. At 65g, the Scribbler is portable and can be used in any location where a wall charger can be found.
- Display Screen: unlike its older versions, the Scribbler V3 spots a display screen that reads out the changes you input via its settings control buttons. This simplifies using the device as you can now take advantage of the prompts it provides.
- Adjustable Settings: the Scribbler also comes equipped with adjustable speed buttons for managing its flow speed, thermal buttons for varying heat produced according to your material’s melting point and a set of instructions on how to get the best out of your 3D printing pen.
- Ergonomic Design: a look at the shape and arrangement of the Scribbler’s buttons showcases a well thought out design that simplifies handling. The pen is easy to grasp and maneuver with regardless of the modeling angle or the surface area you choose to work on.
The Scribbler 3D Printing Pen is basically designed for adult use although children above the age of 9 can be trusted to follow its instructions while using it to avoid unnecessary accidents.
Samto 3D Printing Pen
On examining the aesthetic build of the Samto printing pen, one cannot but see the design similarities it shares with one of its competitors—the Soyan 3D printing pen. The entire product is compactly built and lightweight—65g—which makes it quite easy to use. The pen comes in select colors and its features include:
- Thermal Control: the temptation of most 3D printing pens can be adjusted for melting different plastic materials and Samto is no different. The device comes with thermal control buttons which can be used to vary its temperature from 160 to 230 degrees. This temperature is usually ok for melting most plastic filaments which makes the Samto 3D pen good for general use.
- Flow Speed Control: As expected, the Samto 3D pen also comes equipped with speed control buttons for manipulating flow speed when working on projects. Users can get it flowing slower as well as faster according to the situations they encounter. Thereby improving the accuracy of one’s 3D models.
- Compact Replaceable Nozzle: in terms of maintenance, Samto is built with compact components such as its electric heating nozzle which can easily be replaced if the need arises.
- Advanced Unclogging Mechanism Techniques: the Samto 3D pen makes use of an Unclogging technique which is quite advanced and prevents jamming while working on printing a model. Its LCD display screen also serves as an intuitive means of notifying its user when clogging occurs.
- LCD Display Screen: it also spots an LCD screen equipped to provide periodic updates on clogging, temperature and flow speed when in use.
This device comes with an instruction manual and is suitable for kids above the age of 8. Note that the Samto official website recommends that kids work with it while been supervised by adults.
Using a 3D printing pen is a whole new experience for a hobbyist who has made use of 3D printers throughout their printing career. The ease in which they can be applied as complementary tools when designing intricate or small 3D models makes them a design tool you should consider having.
On the other hand, enthusiasts looking to introduce their kids or students to the world of additive manufacturing should consider starting with the 3D printing pen before introducing a 3D printer.