Best 3D Printing and 3D Drawing Pen Buying Guide
Do you remember clearing your head with doodles when you were younger? Gliding through page after page and making your mark on paper seemed like an aimless activity to the adults surrounding you (“stop doodling,” they told you), but psychologists agree that doodling can be some serious therapy. They say it can also aid in memory retention and enhance creativity. But enough of that, we’re not talking about pen strokes on a piece of paper. Although what we mean to discuss can be as therapeutic and even more creative.
The doodling we are talking about involves drawing in the air. Yes, you heard us. You and your children can now exercise your creativity by drawing up in the air with a 3D printing pen. A 3D printing pen is a new invention that came into the market just a couple of years ago and it lets you create 3D art by melting colored plastic filaments. The melted plastic is then extruded from the pen while you dictate its direction by going side to side – or up and down! The result is stunning, realistic, and useful art. Having a difficult time visualizing it? The technology is actually similar to a glue gun, except instead of glue, you load some colored plastic.
For children aged 10 and up, a 3D printing pen is a wonderful tool to enhance their imagination. With some reasonable guidance, most of them can be trusted to handle this hot tool (if they have used a glue gun before, they will catch on nicely) and it will keep them engaged for hours. It is creative and productive all at the same time, and here’s the kicker. You will love that the hardened plastic bits that fall off a design are easy to clean up with a broom or vacuum. Other activities are not as easy to clean.
In addition, we love things that create activities to bond with kids. You and your kids could create some pretty fun things such as pendants and bracelet charms, tiny sculptures, cellphone case decals, little model cars, picture frames or even a 3D little Christmas town. You’re limited only by your imagination.
What are the features to consider when buying a 3D printing and drawing pens?
Even though 3D printing pens are new in the market, you’ll be surprised that it is quite saturated. A lot of brands have come out with different features – slim, thick, lcd, and what have you – all to try and get your attention. So if you want make sure that you are getting the right 3D printing pen for your purposes.
● Ergonomic Design
Some designs that you can make with a 3D printing pen are not really complicated but making repetitive strokes can be tiring. If you’re thinking of carpal tunnel syndrome right now, well, it’s a definite possibility if you have to work a long time with the same hand position. So when it comes to hours of drawing fun, an ergonomic design is a godsend. Some pens can be thick and angular, making it a pain to hold them for just a few minutes. So you want to choose one that curves nicely in your hands and has the weight that you like. Whether you want something light or a little weighty is entirely up to you. The same goes for whether you want your pen slim or chubby. The good news is that there are so many choices out there to fit every hand.
● Unclogging Mechanism
A 3D pen works by heating a plastic filament and then pushing it out of the pen in order to make shapes. Even with a heating element within the pen, the melted plastic is on its way to cooling down so it can stay in shape. With such a small nib at the end of the pen, you can imagine what sorts of clogging hazards that pen of yours is prone to. Fortunately, second and third generation 3D pens are better equipped to handle clogging so that it hardly ever happens. And at times that clogging does happen, it is now simpler to disassemble the unit and fix the clog.
● Wide Range of Filaments
As earlier mentioned, the plastic filament is the “ink” that you use to create with your 3D printing pen. There are actually two kinds and each one will influence your drawing style:
ABS Filament – is a nice steady material that has been around for a long time. It creates a hard design with some decent “give.” It is a pretty common material and you might have seen it before because it is what Legos are made of. If you are new to 3D printing pens, you will want to get used to using ABS filament first because it is the more user friendly filament.
PLA Filament – is a plant based plastic (as opposed to ABS which is petroleum based) and creates a hard design but is more brittle and, therefore, more likely to break if bent. But it comes in a lot of nice colors and different levels of translucency. If you are an advanced user of 3D printing pens, you might want to try PLA filament, keeping in mind that this plastic is prone to drooping if it is too hot.
One more thing that you will want to think of when you buy a 3D printing pen is whether or not it will allow you to load filaments that are not of the same brand. If the pen that you want accepts filaments from only one manufacturer, you will want to make sure that they always have a constant supply – you sure wouldn’t want to run out and put a stop to the fun – and that they don’t charge an arm and a leg for them.
● Power Source
Because it has a heating element, all 3D printing pens must have a power source. For now, most of them have to be plugged in to a power outlet. An advantage of having your unit plugged in to AC power is that you have a constant energy source. Some people though get bothered by the power cord and feel that it gets in the way of their design. If you’re one of those who don’t like the power cord, there are pens that are powered by USB rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries. You’ll just have to plan your art activities around charging times, but at least they are very portable.
● Heating Element or Curing Mechanism
The first 3D pens all applied heat to melt plastic for creating realistic art. There are a lot of advantages to the traditional hot tip pen – the technology has been around longer which makes it better researched and it allows you to draw upwards to create standing designs. A knock on the hot pens, though, is that parents are concerned about letting their young kids use them for fear of them getting burned.
Enter the cool ink 3D printing pen. This 3D pen does not use a heating element or plastic filaments, but instead uses a type of photosensitive cool ink that is cured solid by built in LED lights. As a result, no heat is applied and no burning plastic smell fills the air (although this smell is very faint with traditional heating pens). More importantly, parents might feel better and safer about leaving their children alone using this pen. Another plus is that kids get to choose among different types of ink – glow in the dark, glittering, color changing, and even ink that conducts electricity (for science projects). What it doesn’t do, though, is allow you to draw up in the air. You must first draw your designs on paper and peel them off when they are dry.
● LCD Screen
Even though you CAN use a 3D printing pen without an LCD display, why would you want to? An LCD display lets you know exactly how hot your material is, how thick your line is going to be, how much more power you have, and so on and so forth. It gives you ultimate control, so much so that working with a pen without an LCD screen is like working blind. So, go for a pen with a screen. You will want the screen to be readable and to be located where you can see it. After all, a screen is useless if you keep covering it with your fingers.
The world of 3D printing pens is really still new in spite of having been around for about two years. This is why it is not uncommon to see pen models such as version 1 and version 2 or named after the year it was released such 2014 and 2015. Manufacturers are constantly trying to improve their technology so you want to go with a trusted brand that has been doing its homework. Needless to say, get the latest version available because it is most up to date. In addition, go for a manufacturer that has good customer and aftersales service.
● Customer Reviews
Because there are so many players in this new industry, customer reviews are an invaluable form of feedback regarding 3D printing pens. Touch base with experts who regularly work with these pens as well as other parents who have given one to their kids. It is as they say, anecdotal evidence makes for very good advice. You can also look at our recommendations page to find out what ParentsNeed HQ experts have to say.
Most 3D printing pens do not require a lot of maintenance except for the occasional clog. A lot of the time proper handling will prevent most clogging situations, so make sure to handle the pen so that you’re never drawing to close your surface, causing the filament to back up into your pen.
Tips for having fun with your 3D Printing Pen
- Protect your work surface with paper. You will be extruding hot plastic after all and you don’t really want to find out what kind of damage it might possibly do to your furniture.
- When your 3D pen arrives, try a few practice strokes before you begin a project. Getting a feel for the pen and the material you are using will make you familiar with the different thicknesses and fluidity of your lines. Doing this will also improve your dexterity and will increase the chances that your first art project will be a success.
- As with a glue gun, plastic filaments need a few seconds to warm up. If your budget permits, have more than one 3D printing pen so that you and your kids can have multiple colors on standby for non-stop creative fun.
- Warm plastic filament is very forgiving so have fun with your design. When the plastic is cool enough but still malleable you can use your fingertips to move it where you want. If it has gone too cool, on the other hand, you can use a hair dryer to warm it back up.
- Not too good at free hand art? Download some stencils on the internet and print them out. Then follow the lines on your paper with your 3D printer pen. Instant success!
- Prepare a place in your house to prominently display your kids’ art. There’s going to be a lot of it!
Doodle, doodle, doodle! We just can’t wait for you try your hand at bringing your doodles to life! But how do you choose among so many players in the 3D printing pen industry? Well, we’ve made it easy. We’ve been busy doing some 3D artwork of our own using different top rated pens here at ParentsNeed HQ. Even though there are so many fabulous 3D printing pens around, we have narrowed down your options to just 5, and you will want to read about why they made it to our list of favorites for the Top 5 Best 3D Printing and Drawing Pens! Our topmost favorite? We love the 7TECH 3D Printing Pen with LCD – it is a nifty little chubby stick that can bring your ideas to life. Click here to find out why we love it so much.