August 12, 2016
Recently, we published a post on the Mindsight Blog about 3D printers. We covered how they work and the kinds of projects people are using them for, but we did not discuss the kinds of technology they have inspired. From the 3D printing technology has come another emerging field of gadgetry, the 3D pen.
Opening the Door to a New Medium of Art
A 3D pen is exactly what it sounds like. It is a handheld device in the shape of a pen that allows the artist to doodle in the air. Of course, the “ink” can’t fly, so it must still be supported and grounded to a desk or paper. Regardless, it enables artists to pull their drawings and ideas from the page and create physical, tangible designs.
How Does It Work?
The technology functions very similarly to a 3D printer. The main difference is that rather than uploading a digital schematic for your 3D object, the designs and plans are all in your mind. Instead of a mechanical arm layering material down, the artist must rely on their hands, arms, and eyes to create their final piece.
Like a 3D printer, 3D pens kind of work like a glue gun. A thin, solid cylinder of plastic is inserted in the back end of the pen. Then as the plastic is fed through the pen, it is melted and dispensed out the tip. This special plastic will dry almost instantly allowing an artist to draw vertically. The plastic will become rapidly rigid and maintain it’s shape.
A Few Cool 3D Pens on the Market Today
- 3Dsimo: The 3Dsimo and Simomini are a few tools in one. It is a 3D pen, soldering iron, wood burner, and foam cutter in one tool. It’s designed to work as an all-in-one 3D artist’s tool. It changes between these distinct functions by swapping headpieces. It also comes with an app that includes some tips and tricks, instructional videos, and pre-made templates.
- Polyes Q1: The distinguishing feature of the Polyes Q1 is that it doesn’t use heat. It uses ultraviolet light to dry the “ink.” This allows artists the safest experience possible when using a 3D pen. They no longer need to draw with hot plastic in order to make their creations.
- Lix: Lix functions like your standard 3D pen, without any additional features of ultraviolet options. However, the Lix is the smallest 3D printing pen on the market. Other 3D pens look more like wands. They can be bulky, though not unwieldy. The Lix actually looks like a pen and will feel that way as you draw.
Circuit Pens: The CircuitScribe
Elsewhere on the forefront of pen technology are circuit pens, such as the CircuitScribe. These pens use a special conductive ink the can carry an electric current. Using these pens, you could draw a circuit on a simple piece of paper, add a battery, add a bulb, and voilà—a complete, working circuit. CircuitScribe has also developed magnetic batteries, bulbs, and switches, so the only tools you’ll need to draw your own circuits are the pen and paper.
Electoninks, the developers of the CircuitScribe, cite the educational power of this tool. It brings electricity out of the text book and into their hands. They hope the project will inspire and encourage more young people to pursue STEM fields.
New Mediums of Expression
For all our advances in technology, it’s interesting to see some that are (mostly) independent of our phones, laptops, and computers. The educational and artistic potential of these gadgets are endless, and it will be exciting to see this technology refine and improve. As it stands, 3D pens are only on their second generation and already, they are progressing in great leaps.
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