Introduction: 3D Pen Tutorial, #1 - GETTING STARTED

About: I design and build 3D Pen and 3D Printing creations!

I have created a 3 part video tutorial series on How to Use a 3D Pen. This is the first part in that series and covers Getting Started with using a 3D Pen. This tutorial is intended for the absolute beginner.

The videos show many visual examples and little details that are difficult to capture in text. Using this Instructable and following along with the video will help a lot.

Topics Covered Are:

  • Essential items needed to get started
  • Speed Control
  • Anchoring
  • Cooling
  • Direction Matters
  • Miscellaneous items to watch out for

The other 2 videos in the series cover BASIC and ADVANCED 3D Pen techniques and they are linked directly below.

3D Pen BASIC Techniques Tutorial:

3D Pen ADVANCED Techniques Tutorial:

** Finally take care and the proper precautions when using any dangerous equipment that this Instructable requires. **

Step 1: Essential Items for Getting Started

The bare minimum you need to get started is really quite simple:

  • 3D pen
  • Filament - I definitely recommend using PLA filament over ABS filament. The reasons for this are:
    • ABS emits a strong odor when penning and there are more health risks of inhaling ABS fumes
    • PLA is largely made from cornstarch or sugarcane and is biodegradable
  • Templates for tracing and penning over make it way easier to get started.
    • Many pens already come with these, so start with those

Two optional items that I will mention are wax paper and tape

  • If you are struggling with PLA sticking too much to the paper or your pen doesn’t have control over temperature settings, you can pen on wax paper taped over your template to prevent this.
  • And note I mean wax paper and NOT parchment paper, which doesn’t work nearly as well

Of course you can add other equipment and tools to help take your 3D penning to the next level (and I talk about some of these in the other 2 videos), but these items are all you need to get started.

Step 2: How 3D Pens Function

3D pens take raw plastic, also called filament, and use a motor to pull the filament through the pen. When the filament hits the bottom of the pen, it gets heated up so that it flows easily through a small opening at the bottom of the pen, called the nozzle.

There are typically three important buttons on a pen:

  • One for moving the filament forward, when you want to push out some plastic and do some penning.
  • One for when you want to move the filament backwards or unload it from your pen.
  • Finally there’s a speed control, which allows you to set how fast the plastic will come out of your pen.
    • Fast setting allows you to easily make thick, chunky lines
    • While the slow setting allows you to make thinner, more detail oriented lines.

Keep in mind that since the nozzle is hot, you can get burned by it or the molten plastic that is coming out the end. So be careful and use caution.

To start drawing, treat it like it’s a normal pen or pencil with the nozzle making contact with what you are drawing on. The big difference with a normal pen, is that you can change the height of the nozzle with respect to the paper, and that can have a large influence on what you draw.

Step 3: Speed Control

My first tip for beginners is to think about speed control. This can be done in two ways-

  1. By adjusting the speed on the pen itself via the speed control button.
  2. Or by changing the speed at which you move your hand.

As you practice using your 3D pen, you will develop a feel for what speeds get you a certain look and appearance. And practicing and experimenting is a big part of getting good with a 3D pen.

Step 4: Anchoring

The second tip is about anchoring. If you are having trouble getting your lines to stick to whatever you are penning on, trying using more anchor points.

What I mean by this is the following:

  • When you start a line, pause as you extrude some plastic, to allow a small anchor point to build up. Then go ahead and make your line. Once you reach the end, pause again, to allow another anchor point to form.
  • The anchor points help to keep the plastic stuck to whatever you are penning on.
  • In addition, if you are trying to make a long line, you can pause at points along the way to make anchor points that will help hold it in place.

Step 5: Cooling

The third tip is about cooling. Keep in mind that the plastic is still hot right after it comes out of the nozzle and can still move around quite a bit. Remember to give your lines and layers time to cool and become rigid again.

Also keep in mind that as you add hot plastic on top of previously cooled plastic, it can start moving around again. Especially keep this in mind for thin or small parts.

Step 6: Direction Matters

The fourth tip is to be mindful of the direction your penning in. Since the line of plastic you are extruding from the pen has some thickness, the nozzle of the pen can smear the filament, depending on the direction you are penning in. The video shows some examples of this.

You can be mindful of this and lift the nozzle slightly off the paper and make the smear disappears. BUT, as you lift the nozzle off the paper, your stability and control are reduced.

Another way around this is to change the orientation of the paper and avoid the smear. Rotating also improves visibility to what you are penning. So don’t be afraid to rotate the paper to get a better angle for penning.

Step 7: Things to Watch Out For

  • Weeping or oozing of your pen after extruding is normal. The amount of oozing depends on a few factors- the type of filament and especially the temperature the pen is heating it up to can have a huge influence on this.
  • Filament does not stop extruding immediately after you stop pressing the forward button. So it really helps to anticipate when you need to stop penning and release the forward button 1 to 2 seconds ahead of time.
  • Always unload your filament when you are done using your pen for the day. This will help prevent clogging or jamming of the pen during the next use.

Great, now you are ready to move on to Part 2, Basic Techniques!