Test driving the new 3Doodler 3-D printing pen


After a lifetime of drawing in two dimensions, the ability to lift a pen off paper and watch the line follow straight up is wondrous.

So say teenagers who helped test drive the new $99 3Doodler, billed as the world’s first 3-D printing pen.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Lily Meyer Robins, 16. “Wow,” added her brother, Ruben, 13.

The fat, cigar-shaped tool extrudes hot plastic that quickly hardens in air, creating suspended 3-D shapes. With practice, you can draw the Eiffel Tower.


The basics: It takes one minute to heat 3Doodler’s nozzle to the required 518 degrees. Because of that heat, the pen is not recommended for younger children. Two buttons operate fast and slow extrusion speeds. Ten-inch plastic filaments are fed through the pen’s end.

3Doodler website videos detail crucial techniques, such as waiting a moment for vertical lines to harden before drawing the pen away.

Practice: Most people learn the drawing technique in about 20 minutes. I was proficient after 45 minutes. Lily and Ruben mastered it in 90 seconds. They loved the near-miraculous sensation of drawing in air.

Vexations: The plastic does not always flow evenly, and sometimes it stops while the pen reheats. The buttons can jam, causing the plastic to keep surging. A rubber cap meant to contain the heat seems a clumsy design element; it kept slipping off, so we drew without it.

Additional uses: Paper blueprints for objects such as a bicycle, a chair, a dragon, even Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmed Mosque, can be downloaded from the 3Doodler website. Pen over the shapes — a wheel, a seat, handlebars — to fill them in, and then weld the parts together with the 3Doodler to create 3-D objects.

The pen also can be used to weld other plastic objects, and some teenagers use the 3Doodler to personalize smartphone covers and other items (the hot plastic sticks best to plastic).


The addiction: After watching instructional videos and sketching basic shapes (a box, a coiled spring and a human figure), drawing freestyle was the biggest rush. Ruben spat out geometric shapes, mutant aliens and extravagant objects worthy of an art installation. After nearly two hours, he was still hooked.

The 3Doodler ships with 50 multicolor ABS or PLA plastic filaments. ABS plastic is good for building structures. The stickier, semi-transparent PLA is optimal for doodling on glass and metal.

The pen and filaments are available at the 3Doodler website,; the MoMA store,; ThinkGeek,; and Maker Shed