3Doodler caused quite a stir at the IFA trade show in Berlin last weekend, and it's easy to see why -- who doesn't want to draw in 3D?
It's a genius and simple idea reminding me of a glue gun, but a tad more sophisticated. It uses molten plastic coming out of a heated tip, (can reach up to 240 degrees C -- not a toy for kids, then) that is nearly instantly cooled by a jet of cool air from an internal fan, solidifying the plastic. This opens up a variety of operations: drawing straight into the air to create intricate 3D pieces of art, drawing on a surface to make a textured drawing you can stand up, using the templates 3Doodle provide on their site, heck -- you can even make small repairs with the thing.The Kickstarter video is at the top of this post, with a few demonstrations of its utilisation.
The pen itself is 18cm by 2.4cm, weighs less than 200 grams, and uses two different types of plastic as the pen's pseudo "ink" -- incidentally the same plastics used in the higher end 3D printers, ABS and PLA. Each with its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the surface you're drawing on, speed of solidification etc. The drawback of the pen is that it has to be plugged in as there's no battery operation (yet), so it's not really as mobile as you'd like, but considering this is version one I think we can let it slide.
Back in March this year, the creators of 3Doodler, WobbleWorks, first exploded onto the scene by managing to raise over $2.3 million (£1.46 million) on Kickstarter, smashing their original target of $30,000 (£19,000).
While 3Doodler isn't available quite yet, the Kickstarter backers will get their pens next month, and it will become commercially available in the first quarter of 2014. You can pre-order from the 3Doodler site for $99 (about £63) with an as-of-yet undetermined shipping amount. This comes with 50 strands of plastic to use in a variety of colours. The refills cost $9.99 (£6.35) for both ABS and PLA.
All in all, it's a tool for drawing, I can see the fun in that. But for the potential practical uses, it's probably worth the £65. And really, who wouldn't want to be able to hand draw a two-foot 3D model of the Eiffel Tower in their living room?