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Hands-on with the 3Doodler

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January 13, 2014

During CES 2014, Gizmag had the chance to try out the 3Doodler, a '3D drawing pen' that us...

During CES 2014, Gizmag had the chance to try out the 3Doodler, a '3D drawing pen' that uses plastic filament instead of ink to sketch inventive objects

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It's been almost a year since the 3Doodler debuted on Kickstarter, raising a whopping US$2.3 million in the process, and since then we've been curious to see just exactly what a "3D drawing pen" can do. Luckily, WobbleWorks was more than happy to show off its new sketching tool and let us try it out for ourselves at IFA's Showstoppers event during CES. In short, it's fun and easy to pick up, but don't expect to craft anything too elaborate on your first try.

The way the pen works is simple. First you fit a 3 mm piece of ABS or PLA plastic filament at the top, which heats up near the tip. Then you press one of the two buttons on the side to control how fast the partially-melted plastic flows out of the nozzle. It sounds easy enough, but as with any new tool, mastering it appears to take quite a bit of practice.

Sketching 2D images on paper with the 3Doodler can be tricky, as you can see by my failed attempts to write the word "Gizmag" below, which only got as far as the first two letters. The plastic dries in about a second, so if you move at the wrong pace or lift the pen for even a moment, it will trail out disproportionately, and you'll have to correct it. I imagine it's much easier once you're accustomed to how the 3Doodler works, but I felt like a pre-schooler trying to use watercolors for the first time.

Sketching 2D images on paper can be tricky, as evidenced by my failed attempts to write th...

Where the 3Doodler really shines though is when you begin to sketch upwards, right off the table. After sticking one end of the filament to a piece of paper, I just held down the button and slowly moved my hand upwards, forming little swirls as I went. It wasn't anything complicated, but it was still strange to watch the plastic follow right along with my movements. Imagine doodling a line drawing on paper, then setting the paper down only to find your doodle still hovering in mid-air in front of you. Of course, with the 3Doodler, you have to ensure there's a proper support structure keeping it upright, but the concept is quite similar.

The pen may have a few practical applications as almost a multi-colored glue gun – a rep even showed us how he had repaired an arm on his glasses with it – but the 3Doodler's main purpose is to just be creative, which should be evident from the word "doodle" in the name. Another visitor, after glancing over some of the colorful creations on display, looked genuinely confused and asked aloud what the point of it was, to which a rep enthusiastically responded, "For fun!"

And honestly, it is more fun than I expected. It only took me only a couple minutes to blow through an entire stick of ABS plastic just making little squiggles on paper and in the air. If I didn't have to move on to see the other exhibits, I probably would have spent a couple hours trying to get more used to it so I could at least draw something recognizable. It's clear that building something more elaborate requires practice and patience, since the only people who seemed capable of putting anything decent together with the 3Doodler were the very people who had designed it in the first place.

One 3Doodler rep spent some time demonstrating how it could construct crude figurines of a...

One rep spent some time demonstrating how it could construct crude figurines of animals and small structures, but the "pièce de résistance" was a massive recreation of the Eiffel Tower, which we were told involved combining multiple fragments together.

WobbleWorks was also revealing its first line of accessories for the 3Doodler that are planned for release later this year, including nozzles in various shapes, sturdy plastic templates for tracing simple shapes, and a pen holder that both stores it and guides it more steadily on a flat surface. The 3D drawing pen will also be hitting retail stores like Brookstone and online shops like Think Geek in the near future.

For now though, if you want to pick up a 3Doodler for yourself, WobbleWorks is accepting pre-orders through its official website for $99 each, and plans to begin shipping in March of this year.

Product Page: 3Doodler

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things.   All articles by Jonathan Fincher
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10 Comments

Doesn't seem like it would be that useful, but the price is right for a fun novelty gizmo.

Mihai Pruna
13th January, 2014 @ 07:34 am PST

Could be a fun toy, but I can see you would go through a whole stack of supply stick before you did anything that was better than crap.

I suppose practise would help, but an accessory for remaking or forming new plastic sticks out of the little bits would be the only way to go for me.

The Skud
13th January, 2014 @ 06:13 pm PST

It looks like it may be good for touch-ups or other post-production work on 3-D printing jobs.

rocketride
14th January, 2014 @ 09:13 am PST

They should have a smelter to recycle plastic back into sticks.

telocity
14th January, 2014 @ 09:39 am PST

'Wibbly wobbly' ...but not yet 'timey wimey'! :-)

Richard Grosser
14th January, 2014 @ 09:45 am PST

Kind of like an expensive, hot-melt glue gun.

Bassmandan
14th January, 2014 @ 10:50 am PST

The business part of a 3D printer in your hand instead of numerical, XYZ controlled. Hmmm

REScott
14th January, 2014 @ 03:11 pm PST

I like telocity's idea about being able to reform and recycle the mistakes. I also like REScott's train of thought.

Paul Anthony
15th January, 2014 @ 08:07 am PST

I just received mine in the mail and I'm looking forawrd to playing with it. One thing I noted is that it has two threaded holes in a flat part of the body that's parallel with its center axis, and a three conductor receptical so one could externally control the feed buttons and mount it to a three axis motion rig, if one cared to. I think my kids will enjoy it. I hope the plastic filaments aren't as expensive as printer ink.

Satweavers
15th January, 2014 @ 11:21 am PST

It doesn't seem all that amazing to me, we used to do a similar sort of thing with old hot glue guns in high school. (30 years ago!) You could stick the hot glue to something, and then just pull and as you pulled away the glue strands would dry in the air. I've fixed the torn windows on my soft top of my car with a similar hot glue gun, by building up the hot glue into a "structure". Oh, by the way, you can buy a hot glue gun and a couple hundred glue sticks for under $10 at any craft store. It seems the only fancy thing about this is the type of plastic it's melting.

Rich MC
5th February, 2014 @ 01:40 pm PST
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