Ever stood in front of a 3D printer and wished you could take the nozzle and just stick it in a handheld pen? That's what WobbleWorks has done and thanks to Kickstarter backers, within the month the final products will be shipping to 3Doodler fans.
If your mind is blown by printers like the UP! Plus and Makerbot Replicator 2, be prepared because this truly 3D sketching tool will scrape up the remaining pieces and dropkick them far, far away. Here's how we got on.
The 3Doodler itself is like a fat Cuban cigar in the hand but it does still feel natural, like drawing and it works best when held exactly like a regular pen. It needs external power to work but that's because it's heating up to 200/250 degrees to get going. So fair enough.
In our hands on, co-inventor Maxwell Bogue made sure we didn't burn ourselves on the 3Doodler's nozzle but even clumsy creatives will feel safe using it. There's fast and slow buttons on the top edge to control how fast the plastic – ABS or PLA – comes out and as you sketch, the 3Doodler makes an excellent workmanlike noise. So it won't be embarrassed next to the rest of the inhabitants of your toolbox.
To get going, we held the button (fast in our attempt) down to get started then when the plastic 'ink' came out, pushed it down to paper on a flat surface to anchor our 3D sketch. Then it was up and away circling vertically and watching it set as we went along. It really is incredibly fast – you don't need to wait for your creation to catch up with you.
The red robot pin that Bogue created for Stuff took around five minutes, used only one stick of plastic inserted into the 3Doodler pen. And when one of the legs snapped off afterwards, all it took was another quick hit of plastic to repair the damage. Awesome.
Printing pen versus 3D printers
As well as being quicker than 3D printers – you'll tend to create hollow objects rather than dense parts due to the nature of the 3Doodler process – it also means you don't have to contend with 3D modelling software to realise what's in your head.
Drawing in the air takes some getting used to though. All we managed to produce was an abstract swirl on our first attempt but we reckon the learning curve won't be too steep and we're more than willing to put the time in.
Marinating those creative juices
In the next month or so, 3Doodler will also be looking after their community of sketchers (note: not necessarily self-styled "makers) by selling 16 colours each of ABS and PLA to use with the pen and sharing stencils of popular designs – like the amazing Eiffel Tower shown on the Kickstarter video.
So you won't be doodling parts anytime soon but the 3Doodler looks great for fixes, decorations and 3D visualisations. Ideas range from making your own Christmas tree ornaments to marking out and drawing changes straight onto expensive achitecture models rather than starting from scratch.
We can't wait to get our hands on a 3Doodler to take home and make sweet 3D sketches with.