Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that 3D printing and fabrication is becoming mainstream. 3Doodler, a handheld device used to create 3D objects, is an ideal entry point for those interested in this technology.

The product is proudly marketed as “requiring no technical knowledge or specific skills”. I was given a private tutorial of 3Doodler at the office of Precise, the region’s distributor for the device. As I entered the “doodle room”, my eyes fell upon a wall lined with cubes that housed what appeared to be a maize of trinkets and doodads. Upon closer inspection I realized that all of these objects were 3D replicas created with 3Doodler. Everything you could think of was on that wall from minions to frogs and they were flawless. I thought to myself, “there’s no way I can create anything like this – and in one morning no less”. The staff assured me that I could and I set off to prove that “no skill required” claim wrong. Did I?

Minion created with 3Doodler

Minion created with 3Doodler

Frog created with 3Doodler

Frog created with 3Doodler

The Device

3Doodler is a pen that’s compact and easy to hold in one hand. I tested the second generation of the device which has been improved since it was first launched. It features a slimmer aluminum casing, increased airflow to cool the plastic faster, dual speed control for pacing and continuous plastic output.

3Doodler_pen

How it Works

You are only limited by your creativity but for those just getting the hang of 3Doodler, there’s http://the3doodler.com/, which has an extensive repository of stencils to get you started. I chose to use the template for hipster glasses because they looked cool and I knew that if I pulled it off, I’d be instantly proud of myself.

Once you have a project and/or stencil selected it’s time to choose your colors. 3Doodler uses thermoplastic sticks made of organic PLA or standard ABS plastic– all BPA free – to create 3D objects. The sticks come in 12 different colors and can even be purchased in color bundles like “Bubblegum” or “Full Metal Jacket” depending on the color combinations. I find this to be helpful and a good way to spur creativity.

After you’re set with colors. Insert the a stick into the pen, turn it on and allow it 30 seconds to heat up. The plastic feedstock is melted inside the 3Doodler and solidifies instantly. When the pen is ready, you place the metal tip on a guideline on the template. When you press the button, the melted plastic is extruded from the tip.

[attention]This device is indicated for use by children. Be careful! The metal tip does become quite hot.[/attention]

But how does the object become 3D? You flat trace each part of the object. After the plastic cools, which happens almost immediately, you remove the pieces from the template. Then you assemble the the 3D object by using the pen to “glue” the pieces together. And, viola! You’ve got yourself a 3D object or in my case – a 3D pair of hipster glasses.

[information]Tricks for flawlessly created 3D objects: Trace in one fluid motion and Apply a thick layer of plastic to ill in the shapes.[/information]

3Doodler_Dress_02

A shirt created by 3Doodler

My Experience

The experience was cool. It was exhilarating to watch myself create a 3D object from one dimensional drawings and hot plastic in a pen. While the product is touted for use by the likes of architects, I see it being beneficial for hobbyists, artists and designers as it’s not actually plum for precision work. The drawback – that one fatal flaw – it jams. Repeatedly. During my tutorial session, the pen would jam and sometimes the fix was as simple as removing and replacing the stick of plastic. Other times, the person running the tutorial heated up another device and replaced the one that was jammed. They could do that in the office because they had so many pens available. At home it was a different story. I had only one 3Doodler and when it jammed, I had to clear the obstruction in order to proceed. It was so frustrating that sadly, I never completed a project at home on my own. Now, the upside of this is that I don’t know the history of the actual pen that was loaned. Each 3Doodler comes with a cleaning tool, nozzle removal tool, mini screw driver, and spare maintenance cover (among other things). The manufacturers have included everything you need to repair and provide regular maintenance to the pen. I’m guessing that proper care could eliminate jamming. But I don’t know for sure.

I did it! Wearing my hipster glasses created with 3Doodler

I did it! Wearing my hipster glasses created with 3Doodler

Already launched in the USA and Europe, and soon in Singapore & Japan, the UAE is the 5thcountry globally to introduce the pen to market. You can learn more about 3Doodler and purchase it at http://the3dbee.com/.

 

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