ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Thursday, June 27, 2013

3D Printing in the Palm of Your Hand? Yes you can!

3D printing has long been the dream of…well, pretty much everyone. Who wouldn’t like to manufacture their own plastic-anything with a little creativity and a couple hours of waiting time? While initially restricted to high-profile production studios and universities because of 10-30K price tags, over the last couple of years significant efforts have been made to reduce the cost and complexity of 3D printing to bring the technology into the hands of anyone who might want it. And in the case of 3Doodler, that goal can be taken quite literally.

Ok, so it’s not exactly 3D printing, but 3D doodling comes pretty close. Unlike the recently kickstarted ultra-affordable Pirate3D ‘Buccaneer’ 3D printer, 3Doodler isn’t trying to make it possible for everyone to design things on a computer and then see their creations in the real world. Instead it goes one step further and enables creators to make objects on the spot using their own hand and a very affordable tool coupled with common ABS or PLA Plastic–the exact same stuff most 3D printers use by default.

While you may not want to attempt to create your own Lego mini-figures with 3Doodler, don’t get the idea that this 3D printing pen is strictly limited to making wire cubes. The folks behind the project have themselves made a few pretty impressive creations (such as the scale model Eiffel Tower and self portraits seen in the above video) and they’ve even enlisted the help of some popular designers from around the internet to help show off what 3Doodler can do. And as you can imagine, they’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. What’s so great about 3D printing–whatever form it comes in–is how limitless the possibilities with it are. 3Doodler obviously will lack the precision and detail of proper 3D printers, but that is in no way a bad thing. It just means that 3Doodler is creating a new category of 3D printing which, honestly, a regular printer couldn’t handle if it tried.

As you may have noticed in the video above, 3Doodler’s inventors turned to the popular website Kickstarter to get their project funded for mass production. The Kickstarter page is here if you’re interested, but don’t bother clicking to become a backer–the 34 day backing period has already ended, and what started as a $30,000 venture was received so well that in the end over $2,000,000 were raised instead. Now that’s putting money where your mouth is…or in this case, 26,000+ mouths! And certainly the audience for 3Doodler will only grow with time, seeing as this is the sort of gadget that could become standard fare for a variety of uses in the future.

Consider yourself intrigued? 3Doodler is available for preorder now at One pen plus 50 strands of plastic will run you $99 and will be waiting on your doorstep come February 2014.