Introduction: 3D Pen Tutorial, #3 - ADVANCED Techniques

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 third part in that series and covers Advanced Techniques for 3D Pens.

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:

  • Point to Point Filling
  • Heating
  • Continuous Surface Finish
  • Fine Details and Finishing

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


3D Pen BASIC Techniques Tutorial:

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

Step 1: Point to Point Filling

This technique builds off creating Simple Structures, which I talk about in the Basics Techniques tutorial. Point to point filling allows you to create much more intricate shapes.

Say we want to create one of the main branches of a tree. We start by sketching out the side profile and then penning that out.

We can then build up structural “ribs” along the way, gradually tapering them down as we work our way out to the end of the branch. Once we have all the ribs in place, we can use point to point filling to create the outer structure.

The way this works is we quickly add lines from one rib to the next, bouncing back and forth, until we fill in half of the branch. Then we flip it over and do the other side.

Finally, to add some strength in the other direction, we apply some lines perpendicular to the main point to point surface. Then press them in so they don’t bulge out too much. This allows us to build up the structure for a great looking branch.

Point to point filling can be used in a ton of different situations, so practice up!

Step 2: Heating

With this technique, adding some tools to your 3D pen toolbox can help immensely. We are going to take advantage of the fact that we can reheat what we pen and move it around and mold it.

So first let’s talk about the tools- basically anything that can heat the plastic significantly can work. This can be a simple lighter or gas lighter. I went for a slightly more expensive handheld torch. The reason for that is you get a much better level of control with the handheld torch.

This control is important, because you can easily overheat the plastic and cause it to either burn or melt too much. Having good control over the placement, strength and duration of the flame is very helpful and the handheld torch does all of that!

Heating can be used in the following manner: we can pen out flat objects and then heat them up to be able to mold and contour them as we like. This heating also melts the plastic a little, allowing it to stick nicely to the main body.

If we don’t get it exactly right the first time, we can gently reheat it and get the molding just right. So now we have been able to take these flat parts and give them a great shape and form.

Step 3: Continuous Surface Finish

Let’s now talk about adding a nice looking surface finish to any object. I call this a continuous surface finish. The goal here is to have long, continuous lines of filament that produces a nice looking result.

Some tips to making this come out well are:

  • Having a smooth surface to pen over is key. Since you are trying to create long, unbroken lines that look uniform, any blob, edge, or hole that your pen gets caught on will disrupt this.
  • That’s why I recommend doing the following prep work before laying down the final surface:
    • Fill in an gaps, holes, or big changes in the surface with your pen
    • Use your flush cutters to trim off any blobs
    • Sand down the surface with some 150 grit flexible sandpaper, to get a decently smooth surface. You don’t have to go crazy with sanding- if you can run your finger over a smooth continuous surface, your good to go.
  • Making your unbroken lines long will help reduce the number of seams on your surface. However there is usually a limit to how long you can make them, based on the specific object you are creating. Try to blend the seams into the geometry of the object

Cleaning up these seams takes us right into our next tool and technique.

Step 4: Fine Details and Finishing

Having a tool that can precisely sculpt and shape the plastic that you have penned is very valuable, for improving the detail and polish of your 3D pen creations.

There are two types of tools that can serve this purpose. The first is the common soldering iron, that is used with electronics. You can switch different tip types in and out, and they are common and relatively inexpensive.

The second type of tool is called a wood burning or engraving tool. For 3D penning, this tool has some big advantages when compared to a soldering iron:

  • The first is the length of the tool itself. Soldering irons typically seem to be longer than wood burning tools. This length makes it hard to sculpt fine and precise features in your object. The wood burning tool is nice and short and gives you great control.
  • The second is that the wood burning tool comes with a ton of great tips and attachments, that are useful for 3D penning. A soldering iron only has a few tip types, all geared towards electronics tasks.

So how are some ways you can use this with 3D penning? The first way is to smooth out those unsightly blobs of plastic at any seams.

The second way is to use a fine pointed tip to fix the surface finish of the area you just smoothed.

The third way is to use the fine pointed tip to carve out delicate features in your objects.

Finally, there is even a hot knife attachment for accurate trimming of thicker sections of plastic. There are so many possibilities with this tool- it is highly recommended!

If you haven’t already check out Part 2, Basics Techniques, to make sure you haven’t missed any of the fundamentals!