3D printing pen 3Doodler is the latest smash hit on Kickstarter, set to break the US$2 million barrier on the crowdfunding site with 25 days still on the clock. That's faster than the Pebble smartwatch managed.
Creator Max Bogue wants the 3D printing pen – which works by extruding and cooling heated plastic – to become as ubiquitous as the screwdriver. "We're offering 3Doodler as the 21st century's newest tool for your toolbox," he explains. "It has a lot of uses beyond just the artistic stuff – you can use it for plastic welding if you break something.
"A lot of people are talking about art, repairs, touching up 3D models," he adds. "So if your RepRap misses a few spots you can fill them in, if you print out a city using a 3D printer, you can then doodle a sky over it." It'll work with a variety of materials, too, Bogue explains. "It'll stick to anything porous - wood that isn't shellac'd, it'll work on metal if you sand the metal a little bit so it has something to stick to, PVC. I actually had someone say they wanted to decorate the PVC pipes in their basement."
The 3Doodler team has also partnered with wire artists from the Etsy community to show off the possibilities of the device. "They're going to produce some fantastic art with the 3Doodler," Bogue says. "The ostrich that's in the Kickstarter video – there's a wire artist who works in the hacker space where we work, and that was pretty much her first go on the 3Doodler. That's what an artist can do within a few seconds of playing around with it – so you can only imagine what someone spending a bit longer can do."
So how did the 3Doodler come to be? By cannibalising a 3D printer, it turns out. "We literally took the head, the extruder part, off one of our 3D printers, added a handle to it and we made something we called the Teacup, and it worked – horribly, but it worked. So we went through a bunch of revisions and we figured that cooling it, that's the magic – blowing cold air onto the plastic makes it set very quickly, and that's what allows you to build structures."
Following some refinements made at the Artisans Asylum hacker space ("I can't thank them enough, and I want to make sure they get some recognition for it."), 3Doodler hit Kickstarter – and the money is flooding in. "My girlfriend keeps saying, 'It's magic, you hit refresh and the number changes,'" says Bogue.
So what are they going to do with all that money? "Make 3Doodlers! We're definitely going to be refining the design. We're going to make it slightly more ergonomic as well. We're working on a removable snap-on cage that would go onto the tip to stop people getting burned – we're definitely concerned about the safety aspects. And we want to make it look cool. So you'll definitely see changes from what's on Kickstarter now."
The first lucky scribblers will receive their 3Doodlers in September 2013 – the earliest you'll be able to get your hands on one at time of writing is November. Head on over to Kickstarter for more details.
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