The technology behind a 3D printer pen is a bit similar to FFF / FDM 3D printer. Like their 3D printer counterparts, 3D pens utilize heat to extrude malleable plastic to form various shapes. There are also UV pens, which are more or less similar to DLP technology. However, generally when someone refers to 3D pens, they mean FFF / FDM style technology.
Most 3D pens have (at minimum) a filament feeding slot, a heated tip, a button or squeezing area to command the extrusion process and a power input (or built-in battery).
How does a 3D printer pen work?
As the name suggests, they have a pen-like shape with a heating apparatus and filament processing tube. This allows users to trace shapes and create them in real time in much the way an extruder would. Users can sketch out lines vertically and horizontally by controlling the extrusion. After making each line, the user has to wait a few seconds for the plastic to cool and then can move on to the next one.
What types of materials can a 3D pen use?
Is a 3D printer pen safe to use?
Many people who are interested in 3D pens raise questions about the user safety of the technology. Like with 3D printers, this depends largely on the pen and the materials in question. While 3D pens can use ABS, PLA is less smell inducing and requires lower temperatures. However, lower temperature plastics are a double-edged sword since they take far longer to cool. Similarly, certain pens can get very hot. To curb this sort heating issue, many companies have installed built-in temp controls that manage the heat when the pen is not in use.
Although most 3D pens need a power connection, certain pens operate by using rechargeable batteries. Other devices, like the Lix 3D pen, can run on USB power. Most pens use a standard 110 to 220 volt system. Smaller pens tend to be easier to handle but run the risk of heating up.
3D pen features vary from manufacturer to manufacturer
Since there are multiple producers on the market, certain pens have additional exclusive features. 3Doodler pens give users the ability to switch out pen tips. Some have displays that help the user determine temperature or adjust other settings. Similarly, pens can vary in terms of nozzle diameter and filaments used.
The pens mechanisms can vary. Certain pens use a button to extrude, whereas others have a squeezing mechanism. While most pens are refillable, some (like the IDO3D) are disposable, single charge pens. The disposable pens are a very cheap option for beginners.
What can you do with a 3D pen?
3D printer pens are primarily used for creating free form structures. They can also help build prototype models and rough sketches for prints. Aside from art and illustration, 3D pens are being used for dentistry as well.
Some users have noted that they can be used to repair plastic objects. This applies to 3D prints with abrasions or other flaws. 3D pens can give the ability to post-process a print to give it the desired structure. It can even be used on non-printed objects, as the video below demonstrates: