8th Sep 2013 | 14:45
Portable 3D printing pen has gone from Kickstarter marvel to IFA starlet
3Doodler may not yet be a household name but those familiar to Kickstarter will certainly know of the device.
It has been one of the highlights of the crowd-funding site so far: a 3D printer pen that allows you to bring your own plastic toys to life. It was so in demand that its maker Wobbleworks initially asked for $30,000 in funding and by the end of its Kickstarter journey in March this year, the company raised $2.34 million.
WobbleWorks parked the 3D pen on a small stand in IFA's start-up hall and when we arrived it was mobbed, the desk area littered with every permeation of plastic objects that budding model makers had created.
There were stacks of ABS plastic strips, too, and these are what are needed to power the pen. They are the same biodegradable material used in the more expensive 3D printers around at the moment. You simply feed one of the coloured sticks into the top of the pen and it will make its way through the device, quickly pushing the melted plastic through the tip.
The 3Doodler pen is chunky and noisy. It looks like a cumbersome prototype device that gets the job done but it isn't exactly pretty while doing it. It weighs a reasonable 200g and is 180mm by 24mm in size.
When we were passed the 3Doodler, we were given three simple instructions: one button is for slow, one is for fast and definitely don't touch the nib.
Not wanting hot plastic over our delicate journalist fingers that haven't seen a day's hard graft in their life, we went nowhere near the nib.
Now, holding pens doesn't come easily to this left-handed journalist. Ink usually smudges, writing is spider like and, did we mention about the smudges? Lucky, the 3Doodler is adept in both hands because you aren't using it to write but to build up an object. The paper is only there to touch the tip on at the beginning, then you raise the pen and start creating your plastic masterwork.
It does take some getting used to. We tried it first on slow and ended up with a big plastic blob on the paper before we even started creating anything. If we had wanted to create a blob then we would have succeeded but we wanted to create a cat.
Flip the speed and things seemed a little easier, the plastic came out quicker and we could control the flow a lot more. Still, our cat did not look like a cat. It did have a tail though. This was because when you stop making your model, you have to flick the pen away quick. Otherwise, you are left with an unsightly wispy tail.
A few more goes and the fun starts to flow. You do need to be a touch creative and know what you are trying to make before you put pen to paper but you will have a lot of fun doing it. And, even if you don't have a creative bone in your body there are stencils you can use to make things such as an Eiffel Tower.
3D printing has made the transition from dream to reality, but it still won't be a household thing for many years. We are sorry to break it to you but you will have to still by your iPhone cases and not print them from home for a good few years yet, unless you find access to a cash printer first.
But 3Doodler is a great 3D modelling go-between.
We can understand its over-whelming pre-release publicity because it is so unique - both adults and children will want to play with it and see what they can create. According to WobbleWorks, the pen is not a toy, though - there is a 12+ age restriction on the device.
This rating does mean that there is a slight concern with safety. You are working with hot plastic (the nib can get as hot as 270C) but it is no worse than any of the implements you would come across in a design and technology lesson - only a whole lot more fun.
The 3Doodler release date is this month for the lucky ones who backed the Kickstarter project. If you pre-order now, then the $99 device will arrive in February. Head over to the3Doodler.com for more information.