3D pens are one of the hottest technologies to come out in recent years, utilizing either thermoplastics or UV reactive variants they can allow you to literally draw your creations to life in thin air. They’re pretty amazing, and something that many of us have wished for since we were children.
Choosing one from the myriad of different products currently on the market can be a hard choice, read on and we’ll help point you where you need to go.
Best Overall – MYNT3D !
If you’re looking to make serious artwork and not planning on smashing your bank account into oblivion to do it, this is the 3D pen you’re looking for.
Top 10 3D Pens
|Name||Usable Filaments||Temperature Controlled?|
|MYNT3D Professional||Pretty much anything||Yes|
|3Doodler Create||PLA, ABS, TPU||No|
|PACKGOUT 3D||PLA, ABS||Yes|
|XYZprinting da Vinci||PLA||No|
|Aerb 3D Pen||PLA, ABS||Yes|
|Titanium Micro RP600A||PLA, ABS||Yes|
|Future Make Polyes Q1||UV-Reactive Ink||n/a|
- Top 10 3D Pens
- Best 3D Pen for Artists
- Best 3D Pen for the Tech Inept
- Best for Kids
- Best for Beginners
- Best for a Solid Feel
- The Lightest 3D Pen Around
- Simplest 3D Pen
- Super Ergonomic 3D Pen
- Most Reliable Cheap 3D Pen
- Best UV Reactive 3D Pen
- Why Use a 3D Pen Over a 3D Printer?
Why Use a 3D Pen Over a 3D Printer?
When 3D printers hit the market a few years back, they were supposedly slated to change pretty much everything about the way that we receive products. Instead of that, we’ve been left with a technology which has largely become a novelty due to the high price of good models, their finicky nature, and the simple fact that they require a high level of competence on the part of their user.
3D pens, on the other hand, don’t require nearly the technical skill and allow for actual art to be created once you understand the structuring required in order to bring your imagination to life in thin air.
Since their inception, the technology behind 3D pens has been advancing rapidly, from simple devices which allowed strings of ABS plastic to be utilized on flat surfaces to newer models which use a UV reactive plastic compound in order to draw in essentially thin air with minimal structural support.
Essentially, if you’re interested in simply creating objects rather than messing with programming and unreliable machines then you’re the intended user of 3D pens.
Think of them an arts and crafts version of a 3D printer, what they lack in some amount of utility they more than make up for by allowing the user a whole lot of spontaneous creativity.
How Do 3D Pens Work?
The original basis for 3D pens was pretty simple: a thermal element heated the plastic and allowed you to draw using filaments by briefly liquefying them before they solidify. While they weren’t quite “draw in the air” levels of technology they did offer some pretty impressive applications, at least from an aesthetic standpoint.
Thermoplastics are nothing new, both PLA and ABS have found extensive uses over the years for applications such as toys. They soften when heated which allows them to be used to create objects without many problems and both of these common types exhibit quite a bit of durability.
Thermoplastic 3D pens are still the most common type in use, although they do pose a small amount of safety risk to the user due to the higher temperatures which are required in order to make them liquid.
Other pens use UV reactive filaments. They operate by passing the material close to a UV producing LED which causes the plastic to react as it’s released. This begins the hardening process but means that you won’t have to deal with the smell or risk of molten plastic at all.
For most people, thermoplastic pens are still the way to go since it’s much easier to source the materials required for them, but there is a certain draw to the UV 3D pens since they have a much different drawing “feel” than the original models.
Unfortunately, “cool ink” 3D pens pretty much have to be used on a flat surface, with the parts assembled after they’ve been traced out on paper. Ultimately this makes them a lot safer for children and those who are clumsy, but they don’t allow the true versatility which can be found in the original 3D pens.
What to Look For In Your 3D Pen
There are a lot of factors when it comes down to choosing which pen will be the best for your own purposes. While something simple can be used for correcting 3D prints or welding plastic parts together, something with better ergonomics and a controllable feed rate is going to be ideal for those looking to push their artistic limits.
Choosing carefully, one should be able to find the best pen for their uses pretty quickly, but you’ll have to keep in mind all of the following factors to make sure that everything is perfectly suited for you.
Since 3D pens tend to be rather bulky, the ergonomics of the device are of the utmost importance. You’ll have to make sure that it fits your hand well in order to end up with true masterpieces, otherwise it’ll be like trying to draw with one of those novelty oversized pencils.
For most people, something smaller will be quite useful but you actually don’t want to just try and get as close as possible to your favorite pen. Instead, you’ll need to make sure that you’re looking at something which can be moved smoothly and freely without getting in the way.
The pen name may be something of a misnomer as you’ll hold and use one of these differently, just take a close look at the general shape in order to make sure that you know what you’re looking at.
You pretty much need a controllable feed rate in order to produce high quality artwork. If you’re planning on just doodling and want to save some money it may not be quite as essential, but for those who have seen impressive videos of some of the things which can be done with this technology… you’re going to need a variable feed rate.
The finer the control on the feed rate, the more variations of the differing strands you can produce and the easier it will be to produce truly complex artwork. There are a ton of different models of 3D pen to choose from, so it makes sense to get something tailored to what you’re planning on doing.
However, it’s not just the variability of the feed rate that matters. One of the most important pieces of this whole equation is choosing a pen which flows smoothly. The smoother a pen flows, the better off you’ll be and it really should be the primary consideration.
Some pens have a tendency to feed in “bursts” which causes your lines to be uneven and will really mess things up if you’re working on creating a complex piece.
Usable Filament Types
Since 3D printing has been around for awhile and has a dedicated group of people devoted to it, thermoplastics have been pushed pretty much to their limit. The types of plastic which can be used with your chosen pen is a game changer when it comes to what the finished piece will be like.
Almost any thermoplastic 3D pen will be able use ABS and PLA. Those two form the fundamentals of what is available, but a good pen will allow you to work with some of the more exotic plastics which have different properties.
UV pens are still very limited in the available inks. You really aren’t going to have much choice in this arena, but you already know the pros and cons of going with one of these types so it’s a limitation you’ll have to accept.
Much like the feed control for the filament, good temperature control is absolutely essential for finer work. It really has to be learned with the pen in hand, since writing a guide would be mostly useless when there are so many variables in play while using the pen itself, but finer controls with accurate thermometers will make things a lot easier on you.
The best temperature controls will have buttons which are easily hit, but not too easily, and a large LCD screen to let you set things without having to break out a loupe.
A widely adjustable temperature setting can also let you use different materials, provided the tip of the 3D pen can handle them. This is essential if you’re planning on doing a lot of experimenting to find the one that suits you best.
Corded or Cordless
As with most smaller electronics, the debate will always rage on between corded and cordless models. Some of the better 3D pens can actually be charged through USB, allowing you to hook them up to a wall socket or even your computer with minimal difficulty.
A corded pen, while a bit more cumbersome, has the advantage of not needing to be charged. The lack of maneuverability turns a lot of artists off of them, but they do have their uses.
While they’re simple at heart, there’s still a lot of failure points in the average 3D pen. Instead of being left high and dry if you experience some level of failure with the device you might want to make this one of your primary concerns.
Look into the customer service offered by the brand as well. Since there are a lot of companies producing these devices many of them feel they can get away with poor warranty service since they already have their money.
Reviews are the best way to find this out, nearly every pen has had a failure at some point and whether or not the customer service was good can be super helpful.
Surprisingly, 3D pens aren’t bank breakers for the most part. Quality pens can be found for under a hundred dollars and even the super high-quality, ultra-cutting-edge pens are affordable for most people with a little bit of disposable income.
The simplicity of the devices is nice, since they’re essentially just some electronics and a heating element wrapped together in one package and it lends them to lowered prices. Don’t trip out if you’re low on cash, you’re sure to be able to find something which will easily fit into your budget.
An Overview of Common 3D Pen Materials
Since the material you’re using is one of the most important parts of the art you’ll be able to make, you’ll want to know a little bit about the materials that are available to you before you make a final decision on the pen. Most pens are rated for certain materials, but with some fiddling and good temperature control you can accomplish a lot.
Polylactic acid is pretty much the gold standard for any kind of 3D printing device. It’s super strong, not that flexible, and it’s not going to be completely ruined in any kind of sane setting.
Even more important, for the use of 3D pens, is the fact that it doesn’t need to be worked on a warm surface to prevent warping. While some plastics have a tendency to curl up as they dry, PLA has a reputation for staying put.
It’s also the base for most of the “exotic” filaments out there, such as glow-in-the-dark plastic and those with mixed in wood or metal.
If you can’t use PLA with the pen you’re looking at… it’s not worth your money.
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, is extremely strong and not very flexible. It’s use with 3D pens, as opposed to printers, can be rather limited however. This is because it has a strong tendency to warp when it’s cooling.
It can be used with a 3D pen but you’re better off with PLA for most purposes. There are also less “special” filaments and colors available when using this type of plastic.
Thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU, has rubber like qualities which make it awesome for certain applications. The 3doodler, the original 3D pen, was designed with its use in mind along with the above two types of filament.
It’s a rather strong plastic which is also flexible. For some uses it’s pretty awesome, but keep in mind it’s not a rigid plastic if you decide to use it. For flexible toys and creations, however, you’ll find it’s perfectly suited and commonly available.
You may want to do some looking around before you try any of the “professional” and “exotic” plastics. Even if your 3D pen can get to the temperature some of these materials can be quite hard to work with and you may end up voiding your warranty or clogging up the pen.
Now be safe, grab a pen, and get creating!