If 3D printers seem too expensive, or too technically complex, WobbleWorks' 3Doodler 3D printing pen looks like a budget- and user-friendly alternative. It also looks like a ton of fun.
The idea behind the 3Doodler is that it takes the core functionality of a 3D printer, essentially an extruder and a heat source, and jams it into a pen-shaped handheld device. Loaded with either ABS or PLA plastic, common feedstock for traditional 3D printers, the 3Doodler "prints" plastic objects by letting you draw them in freehand in three-dimensional space.
The brainchild of WobbleWorks, a robotic toy company formed in 2011, the 3Doodler came to light today after its Kickstarter campaign met its $30,000 funding goal within its first few hours. The project has pulled in over $150,000 from more than 1,700 backers as of this writing, with only 33 days to go in its campaign.
With so many backers, the $50 entry point for the first round of 3Doodler's has already sold out. The $75 spot has around 1,600 units left, with upper tiers of $99 and up that get you the pen and various extras like additional bags of printing feedstock, or even design input if you pledge $1,000 or more.
Among the various use cases for the 3Doodler, the Kickstarter page suggests you can use it to customize existing plastic objects, to make ad hoc repairs, and also with stencils to make more-precise drawings. A free-hand pen probably won't allow for engineer-class precision like you can get with a traditional 3D printer, but WobbleWorks envisions a vast community of users that swap downloadable stencils for use with the 3Doodler.
With a 3mm nozzle, the 3Doodler can use off-the-shelf filament, and variable temperature settings will allow you to use both PLA and ABS plastic. It's not a child's toy, since the nozzle can reach temperatures of 270 degrees Celsius, or 518 degrees Fahrenheit. But because it requires only a power outlet and has no need for a computer, or even an SD Card with design files on it, the 3Doodler should introduce a new level of accessibility and ease of use for those interested in experimenting with 3D printing.
The first round of 3Doodler pens ship in September to the higher pledge tiers, and to those fast enough to get in on the $50 level, according to the Kickstarter page. For the $75, $99, and $125 tiers, shipments go out in October.