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Getting Started with the 3D Art Pen

Nick Leon - 6/14/2016 9:08:46 AM

What is it? – The 3D art pen is a new device that uses that same technology as 3D Printers.  It heats up plastic similar to the way a glue gun would and allows the user to create 3D objects quickly and easily.  The device was developed as an art tool, but can serve as an excellent tool for creating tactile maps and diagrams for people who are visually impaired.  

The Pen – This device uses a similar heating element to a 3D printer, which melts the plastic filament and pushes it out of the pen similar to a glue gun.  There are various devices on the market that range from $35 to $100.  They also offer different features such as variable temperature and speed, interchangeable nozzles, and accessory bundles. 

The Plastic – The filament used in the 3D pen is the same high quality plastic that is used in 3D printers.  It becomes soft when heated, but dries within seconds and creates an easy-to-feel and durable product.  There are two varieties, ABS and PLA, which are each suited for certain applications.  The plastic can be adhered to a surface such as paper or used to create a freestanding 3D object.  It comes in a variety of different colors and tints.  The traditional size for the plastic filament is 1.75mm.  Some pens use proprietary filaments and only work with their own refills. 
Tips for Use:
  • When selecting a pen, it is beneficial to choose an option that has variable temperature and speed control to allow for various applications.
  • There are two different plastic filaments currently available: ABS and PLA.  Each type is better suited for certain applications, but in general PLA adheres better to surfaces and is more rigid.  However, if you are creating a freestanding object, ABS is more flexible and dries quicker. 
  • The plastic tends to adhere better to matte surfaces such as cardstock or paper that does not have sheen. 
*I have found that it adheres very well to APH QuickDraw Paper.  
  • A spray adhesive can be used to increase adhesion to most surfaces.
  • One option for more durable maps and diagrams is canvas board.  The surface is prepped with a medium that offers excellent adhesion and does not bend like cardstock. 
Other Resources
  • – 3Doodler was one of the first devices on the market and offers a variety of various on their website including FAQs, Educator Packages, and Stencils.
  • – They offer a variety of 3D pens and plastic filaments
  • – There are a variety of instructional videos on this site