Solid sketches for CAD: from 3D pens to 3D printers?

Solid sketches for CAD: from 3D pens to 3D printers?

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

Despite being a niche surfing on the hype of the 3D printing industry, 3D pen makers of all horizons have met a lot of success in their respective crowdfunding campaigns.

Some pens rely constructions rely on a feed of ABS or PLA plastic strands that is heated up and molten through a hot nozzle for instant deposition as the plastic cools down. More recent designs rely on photo-polymers available as liquid cartridge refills, the viscous resins are cured by a LED light as they exit the cool nozzle.

Two years ago, US start-up WobbleWorks was launching what it claimed to be the world’s first 3D pen, 3Doodler, which raised over USD2.3 million in Kickstarter funding, far exceeding its initial USD 30,000 goal. Such a success that the company reiterated the crowdfunding experience in January this year for version 2.0 of the same. The company claims it sold over 130,000 3Doodlers and has raised another USD 1.5 million for ramping up with the slicker 3Doodlers 2.0 version.

In May last year, WobbleWorks got competition from London-based startup Lix, with what it claimed to be the world’s smallest 3D pen, gathering 8,030 backers and £731,690 of funding, over 25 times the company’s initial pledge. Lix markets its 3D pen as a professional tool for creatively sketching in the air.

Delaware-based start-up Future Make Technology LLC is about to conclude its Kickstarter campaign for a blue LED-based photo-polymer curing pen, the Polyes Q1. The campaign reached its USD 50,000 goal on the first day of its campaign, and has nearly reached USD 150,000 so far.

Marketing manager Steve Cho likes to present the Polyes Q1 as a safer alternative to high-temperature fused deposition pens (melting plastic strands well over 200ºC with the associated unpleasant smell).

He also likes to emphasize the use of Blue LEDs for photo-polymerization as an eye-safe light (combined with tilt sensors so the light switches off when the pen is pointed upwards). Another feature that Cho hopes will sell well is the variety of liquid inks developed by the company, including transparent, temperature colour-changing or glow-in-the-dark inks and scented inks (so the 3D sketches come out with a pleasant smell of your choice).

“The orange inks smell like orange, green smells like apple, and so forth. So there’s a very playful appeal to it, as kids are so curious and thus we try to accommodate their curious and playful nature by stimulating multiple senses — visual, olfactory, etc”, explained Cho.

“But it’s not just limited to children, as we welcome technical designers who want to expedite the conceptualization to prototype/physical manifestation process via free hand and free range of motion”.

So when asked about the possibility to integrate motion-caption MEMS into the pen so as to record the sketch directly into a CAD software, choosing from freehand or orthogonal constraints to better reflect the tentative 3D sketch, Cho doesn’t discard the option.

“Yes, it is conceivable to integrate motion-capture MEMS into the pen. In fact, MIT is doing research in this area right now. Once advances in material sciences and innovations will have made their way into lower-cost robust technologies to enable all this to be commercialized, it’s going to change the 3D Printing game as we know it. Imagine just scribbling in mid-air, but a pristine, to-scale architectural blueprint or prototype of some product emerges from those chaotic movements. Which is why, we are living in very exciting times and we’d love to see it come to fruition and be a part of that”.

“With the advent of 3D pens, it would be interesting to see what the market demand determines, which product prevails, as it’s a novel industry. This is an experimental phase for us as well, seeking market validation. We want to enter the market for crayons and markers with kids as well as the designers who use CAD software to come up with designs, and that is our initial market” Cho continued.

“Users will be able to purchase custom orders for cartridges and choose the amount and different types of inks according to preference, providing more flexibility than with ABS, as you have to buy according to weight, which can leave customers with extra unwanted ink”.

“With our R&D, we are planning on also providing more versatility with the inks themselves to improve the user experience — for example, the ability to mix inks and create glow-in-the-dark and scented for even more dynamics to people’s creations. Very much like how with 3D printers, you can buy resin with the whole bottle, we will enable users to buy inks by the bottle and refill their cartridges, thus providing more cost-savings, as they won’t have to buy cartridges all the time.

So what sort of feedback did Future Make Technology get from its backers?

Number one: more options for the inks, such as conductive inks for those who want to make LED art of some sort.

Number two: a thinner and smaller pen design (but there is a compromise to reach for ink capacity, combining portability and a sleeker design).

Number three: blue inks and transparent inks for the blue LED lights, which the company currently cannot do, as its base resin is orange from which it gets different colours.

Polyes Q1 is in the footsteps of the Creopop 3D printing pen crowdfunded through Indiegogo last August, using a photopolymer cured through built-in UV lights.

Visit Future Make technology at

Visit Lix at

Visit Creopop at

Visit the 3Doodler page from WobbleWorks

Related articles:

A copyright mess in 3D

3D printer-ready CAD files: a marketing plus

If you enjoyed this article, you will like the following ones: don't miss them by subscribing to :    eeNews on Google News


Linked Articles