User Guide: How to Use a 3D Pen

With so much hype going around about 3D pen, one would easily assume that everyone understands how a 3D pen works. However, there are people who have only heard about the pen, and what they heard thrills them so much that they wish to own one, but they have no idea how it works. This article covers:

  • What is a 3D Pen?
  • The difference between an ordinary pen and a 3D pen.
  • Factors to consider when choosing a 3D pen.
  • Difference between ABS and PLA plastic filaments for 3D pens.
  • How to load a 3D pen
  • Different uses of a 3D pen.
  • How to use a 3D pen to make art pieces.
  • Good maintenance for 3D pens.
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of 3D pens.
  • Fun facts about 3D pens

What is a 3D pen?

A 3D pen is a unique handheld drawing gadget that functions in the same way as a traditional pen or pencil. However, unlike normal pens that use ink or lead, a 3D pen uses PLA or ABS plastic. The pen is designed with an inlet for feeding in the plastic material, an electric heater thatís powered and heats up the plastic material to melting point, and a nozzle from where the liquefied material extrudes. Once the plastic material is melted, it is forced out through the extrusion nozzle as warm thermoplastic material but hardens after a few seconds in air.

The pen has a heating mechanism for heating the plastic filaments used as drawing medium. The metal extruder tip from where the molten plastic is ejected can heat up to even 270 degrees as a result. Most 3D pens have arrow like speed regulators on the body.

A 3D pen can be used to draw 3 dimensional shapes on air. One does not need to have any technical know-how or to install any special software or program to effectively use the 3D pen. All it requires is your hand, patience and practice to learn the skills.

The Difference Between an ordinary pen and a 3D pen

A 3D pen is very similar in shape to the ordinary pen except for a few features that include:

  • The 3D pen uses plastic filaments in place of ink or lead.
  • The 3D pen has an electric plug and an in-built fan. The fans function is to keep the pen from overheating.
  • The 3D pen has a power switch (not an on-and-off button but a plastic selector) for controlling it. The button is in the middle position when the pen switches off.
  • One side of the 3D pen has 3Dís mount while the other has speed controllers.
  • The nozzle tip of the 3D pen is the most essential part of the pen. So important it is that it has a removable rubber protector.


Factors to Consider When Choosing A 3D Pen

Manufacturers have now flooded the 3D pen market making it more challenging to select the right 3D pen to purchase. Although most of the pens have a striking resemblance in the physical design, they have different features. The basic considerations to make when selecting the appropriate pen to purchase include:

  1. The kind of filament that the pen uses. Can it use ABS or PLA or both?
  2. The cost of the 3D pen. People are often fooled by the price of the pen and think that the more expensive the pen, the better it is; which not the case is.
  3. Is it possible to adjust the temperature and speed settings on your pen?
  4. How readily available are the accessories for the 3D pen?


Difference between ABS and PLA Plastic Filaments for 3D Pens.

Knowledge about the difference between an ABS and a PLA filament in regards to 3D pens is important especially when you are weighing your options of which 3D pen you should buy.

  • ABS filaments are oil based plastics. They are extremely strong and resistant to chemicals. They also have a small transition temperature.
  • PLA filaments are made from starch and therefore are environmentally friendly. In comparison to ABS filaments, they have a lower melting point but a bigger transition temperature.
  • PLA filaments are gummier and therefore stick to things better. They are also biodegradable.
  • PLA filaments are much cheaper than ABS filaments.

How to Load Filaments into A 3D Pen

Loading the filaments into the 3D pen is much simpler than most people imagine. Follow these simple steps to efficiently load your pen.

  1. The back part of the pen has a filament inlet where you place the solid filaments.
  2. Press the main button to start or stop the filament flow.
  • Pressing on the main button also help in reversing the plastic up so that you can angle the pen at 45 degrees.
  1. If you need to change color just add the new color in the main button and repeat the process.
  2. If you are crazy about colors and find fun in mixing them then simply doodle out all remaining plastic of the previous color before pressing the main button to start the flow of the new color.


The Different Uses of 3D Pens

Although 3D pen are marketed as artistic tools, they have a variety of other uses. 3D pens, in unison with 3D printers, can be used for decorative or repair purposes. Smaller designs made by 3D pens can be combined together to produce larger models. Other creative opportunities for 3D pens are making:

  • Mini Eiffel Towers
  • 3Doodles can be shaped as flat forms or peeled off pieces of paper.
  • Fridge magnets and decorative art.
  • Personalization of items like iPhone cases, laptops and pens.
  • Hanging ornaments, pendants and jewelry.

How To Use A 3D Pen In Making Art Pieces.

Drawing with a 3D pen is not as simple as drawing with a pen or pencil on paper. However, itís also not as complicated as some people make it look. Here are simple steps to help you with your first doodles.

  1. Plug in your 3D pen and allow it to warm (heat) up for a few seconds.
  2. Insert your PLA or ABS filament into the back end of the pen.
  3. Use the arrow buttons to regulate the speed that youíre comfortable with and allow the plastic to flow out of the pen from the extruder nozzle.
  4. Use the flowing plastic to draw.
  5. When you need to change colors, push both buttons and the plastic will eject from the back giving you a chance to put in your desired color. To allow the colors to blend, continue to extrude for a few seconds for the old color to be completely extruded out.


How Do You Determine The Filament Extrusion Speed in 3D Pens?

The speed of the 3D pen determines the speed of the plastic flows and consequently how delicate or intricate your art pieces will be. The speed can be either slow or fast. The 3D pen always have arrow like doodle buttons on the body from where you can press down to alternate between speeds.


Maintaining A 3D Pen

Although most 3D pens are power generated, maintaining them is not very complicated.

  • Whenever you are removing the metal bar, put downward pressure on the maintenance cover.
  • Ensure there is no filament plastic inside the pen when you are putting back the maintenance cover and re-insert the metal bar the correct way up.
  • If there is difficulty in the plastic coming out of the pen, wait for the pen to cool down and then rub it with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol.
  • Use the nozzle remover tool to help unscrew the nozzle. This should be done carefully in an anti-clockwise manner.
  • Avoid forcing anything into place to avoid the risk of breaking your pen.


Advantages of 3D Pens

  1. They donít require any special computer program or software.
  2. Allows instant vertical drawings.
  • Give freedom for freehand 3D objects creation.
  1. Some have auto-standby mode.
  2. They are small and light and hence very portable.
  3. They allow you to write or draw in the air.
  • They have a unique cooling system that ensures the heated plastic is cooled relatively fast
  • It is easy to switch between ABS and PLA filaments in pens that allow for both.


Negative Attributes of 3D Pens.

  1. You need to continuously tweak them to extrude temperature.
  2. Tightening the hot end tip too much could result into breakage.
  • The pen, especially the metallic tip can get to extremely hot temperature making it a safety risk.
  1. The pens physical body can sometimes get overheated which compromises durability.


Fun Facts about 3D Pens

  • A 3D pen is not a toy.
  • A 3D pen can be used for numerous other things apart from artistic creations.
  • There is no special knowledge required to efficiently use 3D pens.
  • 3D pens are eco-friendly.
  • 3D Pens are fast.

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