Introduction: 3D Printing Pen Tutorial

In this project, I am going to give you a basic introduction to 3D printing pens and how to use them.

What is a "3D Printing Pen?"

A 3D printing pen is like a handheld 3D printer. It uses the same kind of heating element and extruder that you would find on a desktop 3D printer. But instead of being controlled with computer software and motors, you guide the printer head by hand.

How Does it Work?

Like all 3D printing devices, a 3D printing pen works by heating a plastic filament to its melting point and forcing it through an extruder tip. This is very similar to how a hot glue gun works. The melted plastic is very soft and can be fused onto a surface or worked into any shape that you want. Once the melted plastic leaves the tip, it begins to quickly cool down. After a few seconds, the plastic hardens and holds whatever shape you have worked it into.

What Can You Do With a 3D pen?

These pens allow you to effectively draw with plastic. You can work the plastic into just about any shape and apply it to most surfaces. You can use it to add raised decorative designs to everyday objects. With practice, you can even make 3D drawings in empty space. These pens can also be used to modify and repair other 3D printed objects.

Step 1: Watch the Video

Here is a video walkthrough of the project.

Step 2: Select a 3D Printing Pen

There are several different types of 3D printing pens to choose from. Most of them follow the same basic design but they all vary slightly in their features. When selecting a pen you should consider things like "What filaments can it use?", "Are the temperature and speed settings adjustable?", and "What accessories are available?" Here is a quick comparison of some of the more popular models.

3Doodler:

Cost: $99

Filament: ABS and PLA

Speed Settings: 2 speeds

Accessories: Interchangeable tips, stand

3D Air Pen:

Cost: $70

Filament: ABS

Speed Settings: 1 speed

3D Simo: (Only available in Europe, Japan and South Korea)

Cost: $100

Filament: ABS, PLA, WOOD, HIPS, LAYbrick, Bendlay, Flexi

Speed Settings: Digitally Adjustable

Temperature Settings: Digitally Adjustable

3D Printer Pen: (available in the Netherlands and ships internationally)

Cost: $88

Filament: ABS, PLA and HIPS

Speed Settings: 2 Speeds

Temperature Settings: Digitally Adjustable

Accessories: interchangeable tips, extruder and motherboard

Yaya 3D Pen:

Cost: $120

Filament: ABS

Speed Settings: 2 Speeds

CreoPop:

Cost: $119

Filament: uses light-sensitive photopolymers instead of melting plastic

Speed Settings: 1 speed

Temperature Settings: No heating elements. Polymers set with UV light

Accessories: Rechargeable Battery with USB charger

Other Models Currently in Development

3Doodler 2.0

3DFormer:

Lix Pen:

Step 3: Set Up Your Pen

Before you can start printing, you need to do a few thing to set up your pen.

Power On: Start my connecting the power supply to your pen and turning it on.

Select a Filament: Then select a filament that you want to print with. Make sure that your pen is designed to print with this kind of filament.

Select the Temperature Setting: If your pen is designed to work with different filaments, select the temperature setting that is appropriate for the filament that you are using. Wait a moment for the pen to heat up. Most models will have an indicator light to tell you when it is hot enough to use.

Insert the Filament: Slide the filament into the filament input port. If you are inserting a previously used piece of filament, trim the end with a pair of scissors so that it is flat. This helps to prevent jamming. Once the filament is set all the way down into the pen, press the extrude button. You should feel the internal motor start to pull on the filament.

Select the Speed Setting: Select the fast setting and press the extrude button until the melted filament starts to come out of the tip of the pen. Then you can adjust the speed setting based on what and how you are printing.

Step 4: Making 2D Sketches

The easiest kind of project to start with is using your pen to make 2D sketches out of plastic. This may sound like an odd application for a "3D pen" but these sketches are different in that you can pick them up off the paper when you are done.

First select a nice clean surface to draw on. Paper works fairly well for this. You can also use a printed drawing as a stencil. You can find lots of stencils online.

To start a sketch, extrude a small bead of plastic onto the paper. This will be the initial anchor point. Then draw a line by slowly moving your pen across the paper while extruding plastic.

Keep the tip of the pen close to the paper so that the melted plastic is pressed onto the paper before it has a chance to cool. The hotter that the plastic is when it makes contact with the paper, the better it will stick. You want the whole line to be well adhered to the paper because many filaments will shrink as they cool and this can pull the plastic off of the paper and distort the shape.

At the end of a line, stop extruding plastic, but do not move the pen. Wait for few seconds to allow the plastic on the paper to cool. Then pull the pen away. This will leave a small point of plastic sticking out where the tip of the pen was. You can smooth these out by gently touching them with the side of the tip. The tip will remelt the point of plastic and squish it back into the line.

When you want to connect two lines, pause at the point where the lines meet. This will allow the heat from the tip to partially remelt the first line and make a stronger connection.

When your sketch is completed, gently peel it off of the paper. You can now use a knife or a pair of scissors to carefully trim off any rough edges. After doing this, if you feel that the lines of your sketch are still a little too rough, you can stick it in a toaster oven for a few minutes. Set the temperature to just above the melting point for your filament (320 °F/160°C for PLA , 225°F/106°C for ABS). This will partially remelt the plastic and soften up the edges.

Step 5: Assembling 3D Objects From 2D Sketches

The simplest way to make a three-dimensional object with a 3D printing pen is to assemble it from several two-dimensional sketches. As an example, I am making a simple warren truss bridge.

Start by sketching out each of the sides. I used a stencil to help me keep the sides even.

Set the bottom piece in the middle of your work surface. Then hold up the first side piece next to it. Apply a small bead of plastic at points where the pieces come together. Locations with more exposed surface area are easier to stick together. I connected them at the corners of each triangle. If you want a stronger connection, you can apply a new line over the whole corner where the two pieces come together. Do this for each side piece of the model. Lastly attach the top piece in the same way.

Once the overall shape is holding itself together, you can go back and add drops of plastic to reinforce any weak areas. To give the model a more finished look, go back and trim off any points that are sticking out with a pair of scissors or wire cutters. I do not recommend putting a three dimensional shape into a toaster like you might do with a two dimensional sketch because the shape will probably warp.

Step 6: Creating Freehand 3D Objects in Space

The ability to make freehand drawings is space is probably the most celebrated feature of the 3D printing pen. It is also the most difficult. Making drawings in empty space is extremely difficult. You will need to practice quite a lot before you can make nice shapes like the ones that you see in the advertisements. So don't be discouraged if your first attempts don't look very good.

To begin a 3D sketch, you need to start with a solid anchor point. Make a large dot of plastic on the paper. Then slowly lift the pen into the air while extruding at the slow speed. You need to move your hand at the same speed that the extruder pushes out the plastic.

To make a straight line, hold the body of the pen in line with the plastic and very gently pull on it. A small amount of tension will keep the line of plastic straight while it cools. When you reach the point where you want the line to end, stop extruding plastic and hold the pen still for a few seconds. The plastic needs to cool and resolidify before it can support its own weight. You can help the plastic to cool more quickly by gently blowing on it or by having a small fan pointed at your work area. Once the plastic has hardened, pull the pen away. The melted plastic in the nozzle may leave a small point or trail off in a string from the pen. You can just trim this off with scissors or wire cutters.

Making a curved line is more difficult. Again, start by making a thick bead on the paper to use as an anchor point. Lift up the pen from the paper while extruding at the slow speed setting. Move the pen in the direction that you want the plastic to initially go as if you were making a straight line. Once you have extruded about an inch of plastic, stop. As the plastic begins to cool you need to move it into the appropriate shape. You can speed up the cooling process by gently blowing on the plastic or by having a small fan pointed at your work space. Once the first bit of plastic has been worked into the appropriate shape, extrude another inch and shape that section. Continue this process until you have completed a large section. You will eventually need to create another anchor point because there is only so weight that one point can support.

When you want to join two pieces of plastic, hold the pen at the junction for a few seconds. This will allow the heat from the tip to partially remelt the first piece and fuse the two sections of plastic together.

The most difficult part of creating freehand sketches in space is working at the right speed. You need to move your hand at the same speed that the extruder puts out the plastic. Otherwise it will sag. You have to move the pen around to shape the plastic as it is cooling. So you need to intuitively know how quickly the plastic will cool and solidify. This takes a lot practice to get down.

Step 7: Modifying and Repairing Other Plastic Objects

3D printing pens can also be used to modify and repair other plastic objects. The melted plastic that comes out of 3D printing pen can bond to most surfaces, but it bonds most effectively to other thermoplastics. The heat from the tip and the melted filament is able to melt the surface of the other plastic and fuse the two plastics together. This works especially well if the surface being modified is the same type of plastic as the filament.

Because of this, a 3D printing pen is ideal for modifying and repairing other 3D printed object. If you have an object that was created on a desktop 3D printer, you can use the pen to add details to it. The pen is able to be moved around and print in any orientation. This lets you do things that would be impossible for a fix axis printer.

You can use the pen to repair objects that are cracked or chipped. Just hold the tip of the pen close to the surface. Then extrude out a small amount of plastic directly into the crack. Use the tip to work it into crack and then smooth it out. Wait long enough for the heat from the pen melt the surface. Any repairs that you will not look perfect, but they will strengthen the object and make it more functional.

Look for everyday objects that are made of the same material as your filament. For example ABS is used in making Legos, Monitor/TV cases, coffee makers, cell phone cases, most computer plastic. ABS is often labeled with the recycle code #9 or ABS.

Legos are particularly fun to work with. You can add decorative details to your play sets. You can give your Lego figures custom hair. You can make your own free form pieces that will attach to the blocks. You can even use it to permanently fuse pieces together.

Comments

author
MarkD149 (author)2017-06-08

Anyone who need some 3D pen templates, download from www.3dpentemplate.com. It would be easy to get started.

author
Desmojonic made it! (author)2017-06-08

Polaroid 3D have just released a 3D Pen, it's really easy to use. I've had one for about 6 months now and love it. Go here: https://www.amaze3d.co.uk/

IMG_2436.JPGIMG_2456.JPG
author
HLightning11 (author)2016-03-07

cool! i have the new 'i do 3d' pens, settled by UV light.

author

Honestly, they suck. They don't dry well and are very stickywhen they're not dry...

author

I really want that one

author

Same here

author
MarkD149 (author)2016-12-20

​When you tried a 3D pen with HIPS, PC, or metal-filled 3D filament or wood filament, then all the I do 3D, creopop can be forgotten and put in history. Like 3d dreamer pen with instant solid, you can draw something in the air, instead of on a flat surface.

author
albhednomad (author)2016-02-14

I've actually used the 3D printing pen I bought at a local radioshack to fill in a rather large gap on the casing of a donated defibrillator. Worked a lot better than I had thought it would.

author
mchau2 (author)2016-01-19

feels right at home with Chinese warning tag! so want one! brilliant Lego application!

author
MarkD149 (author)2016-01-10

I don't think it is fair to compare a 3D pen to a hot glue gun in term of size, functionalities and its applications. The current problems is that most of 3D pen is prone to be clogged/jammed. That put people off from 3D drawing and doodling. Who could come up with a jam proof 3D pen?

author
omontoya1 (author)2016-01-07

so it's basically a hot glue gun bit with PLA instead of glue

author

Yeah. That is basically what it is.

author
nerd_at_work (author)2015-10-17

great tutorial, I was looking for a way to built my own 3d printer, but I think I'll go for the pen.
It looks much easier to work with, then built and program a desktop printer.

author
DIYWEAPONS (author)2015-01-16

Do you think you could modify a glue gun to do a similar thing

author
Yonatan24 (author)DIYWEAPONS2015-09-29

"American Hacker" (YouTube) Made a 3D Pen from a hot glue gun

author
tokuta (author)DIYWEAPONS2015-01-27

hot glue doesn't cool fast enough for this kind of thing but you can make sculptures out of it if you are patient and putting plastic inside a hot glue gun is a very bad idea( I've done it before) it will ruin your hot glue gun

author
DIYWEAPONS (author)tokuta2015-01-27

What i meant was could you modify a glue gun to use the plastic filament.

author

You can buy those devices from Aliexpress too (I bought fro U$ 70 with free shipping)
Its cheaper than branded ones
Got one and a few ABS rolls to try and they work fine

author

Great, that sounds like a pretty good deal, thanks for the info

author
bananaguns (author)DIYWEAPONS2015-01-25

Hey im bit sure if I can post links, but newegg has 3d pens for 50 new or openbox for $35ish. Ive always bought open box items from them and theyve always been brand new, I guess people have just returned them and they cant sell it as new anymore. In anycase they have free 3 day shipping so itd be much better than ordering from aliexpress or dhGate. Heres the link
http://m.newegg.com/Product/index?itemnumber=288-000S-00002R if you cant share links here, just search "open box 3d stereoscopic newegg" on google and it should be first!

author

Just remind to check for the seller rep, number of sells... just like you were using ebay

author

Thanks, I probably wouldnt be getting one anytime soon but I will bare that in mind..... thanks for the advice

author

You could, but hot glue takes a lot longer to cool and solidify. So that might cause some problems. But they do sell precision hot glue guns.

author

OH what I actually meant was could you modify a precision glue gun to use the plastic filament ?
Also, where can I buy a 3d printing pen and for how much?

author

There are links in step 2 to websites where you can buy the pens. It also lists current prices. Hot glue guns won't really work because most of them don't get hot enough.

author

Right,thanks for a lot for the help :-)

author
SylvainVPC (author)2015-02-09

Great job but it's a little big for now.

Do you think you could make it more compact later ?

author
MooMeat42 (author)2015-02-07

:'( but but the zero force members.. the flexure.. tiny plastic people could die

author
PhilippeG1 (author)2015-01-17

extraordinaire instructable, on apprend comment ces stylo fonctionnent et comment s'en servir de façon rationnelle, ce qui était jusqu'à présent un obstacle à l'achat.

Grâce à vous je vais imprimer le dessin d'un papillon et au lieu de le réaliser en papier, je vais le faire en matière plastique.

author
Kafukai (author)2015-01-17

Great information. This is very useful tutorial for beginners.

author
e-beth (author)2015-01-15

2D sounds very similar to piping icing on a cake. The key to straight lines with icing is to extrude some in the air first and then drape the line on the surface rather than try to "draw" a straight line right on the surface. I wonder if that is possible with the plastic? The lines would look less "wiggly".

author

It can work the same way. But keep in mind that plastic is a little more viscous than frosting and it harden much more quickly. It is also much more rigid after it hardens.

author
acexkeikai (author)2015-01-15

Does it fuse with ABS Plastic or just support it?

author

It will easily stick to the surface just like it will stick to most surfaces. But it will scrape off. If you want it to fuse to the base plastic, you need to hold the tip very close to the surface so that the extruded plastic will still be really hot when it is applied.

author
KansS (author)2015-01-16

For any questions about international delivery you can mail us at info@3dprinterpen.nl

author
KansS (author)2015-01-16

Hi,

The 3D Printer Pen: (available in the Netherlands)
Is also avaible for other countries and can be order from every place across the globe. The 3D printer pen is also compatible with Interchangeable tips, extruder and motherboard.

author
acexkeikai (author)2015-01-15

Does it fuse with ABS Plastic or just support it?

author
dturck (author)2015-01-15

which pen would you recommend as being the best?

author

I have only personally used the Yaya brand. I can't talk from experience. But just based on the reviews that I have read, I would recommend 3Doodler 2.0. The second version of the 3Doodler is much much slimmer and easier to manipulate. Most of the 3D pens are so big that it is really difficult to make any fine details. This model is in the kickstarter now and should be out soon.

author
harbor_ma (author)2015-01-14

I am the first!

author
gravityisweak (author)2015-01-13

As an owner of a 3Doodler, I must say, you make this look easy. These
definitely have a learning curve and it takes time even to be able to
make straight lines that are even a little close to looking good. Great
instructable!

author
dvdspeler (author)2015-01-13

Yeah! 3D to the masses!

author
JavaProgrammer (author)2015-01-13

nice job.

author
seamster (author)2015-01-13

Ha! Love the custom LEGO hair. That might be the best use I've ever seen for one of these 3D pens so far. Nice!

author
Mr AbAk (author)2015-01-13

Nice guide and documentation...

About This Instructable

84,620views

448favorites

License:

Bio: My name is Jason Poel Smith I am a Community Manager here at Instructables. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker ... More »
More by DIY Hacks and How Tos:36 Things to Cook in a Coffee MakerHow to Make a Festivus PoleAdd Wings to an Infant's Halloween Costume
Add instructable to: