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Testing the waters for 3D pens

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3D printer? 3D pen? CAD? LED?

3D pens have a more direct and natural creative interface than 3D printers, but these devices come with limitations of freehand design, such as wobbly lines and approximate angles. This is one reason why they are marketed as creative toys for children most of the time.

Despite being a niche surfing on the hype of the 3D printing industry, 3D pen makers of all horizons have met a lot of success in their respective crowdfunding campaigns.

Some pens rely on a feed of ABS or PLA plastic strands that is heated up and molten through a hot nozzle for instant deposition as the plastic cools down. More recent designs rely on photo-polymers available as liquid cartridge refills, the viscous resins are cured by a LED light as they exit the cool nozzle.

Two years ago, U.S. start-up WobbleWorks was launching what it claimed to be the world's first 3D pen, 3Doodler, which raised over $2.3 million in Kickstarter funding, far exceeding its initial $30,000 goal. Such a success that the company reiterated the crowdfunding experience in January this year for version 2.0 of the same. The company claims it sold over 130,000 3Doodlers and has raised another $1.5 million for ramping up with the slicker 3Doodlers 2.0 version.

3D pen

In May last year, WobbleWorks got competition from London-based start-up Lix, with what it claimed to be the world's smallest 3D pen, gathering 8,030 backers and 731,690 of funding, over 25 times the company's initial pledge. Lix markets its 3D pen as a professional tool for creatively sketching in the air.


Delaware-based start-up Future Make Technology LLC is about to conclude its Kickstarter campaign for a blue LED-based photo-polymer curing pen, the Polyes Q1. The campaign reached its $50,000 goal on the first day of its campaign, and has nearly reached $150,000 so far.

Marketing manager Steve Cho likes to present the Polyes Q1 as a safer alternative to high-temperature fused deposition pens (melting plastic strands well over 200C with the associated unpleasant smell).

He also likes to emphasise the use of Blue LEDs for photo-polymerisation as an eye-safe light (combined with tilt sensors so the light switches off when the pen is pointed upwards). Another feature that Cho hopes will sell well is the variety of liquid inks developed by the company, including transparent, temperature colour-changing or glow-in-the-dark inks and scented inks (so the 3D sketches come out with a pleasant smell of your choice).

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