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In this project, I will give you a basic introduction to 3D printing pens and how to use them.
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A 3D printing pen is like a handheld 3D printer. It uses the same type of heating element and extruder that you would find on a desktop 3D printer. But instead of being controlled by computer software and motors, you guide the printer head by hand.
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Like all 3D printing devices, a 3D printing pen works by heating a plastic filament to its melting point and forcing it through an extruder tip. This is very similar to how a hot glue gun works. Melted plastic is very soft and can be fused to any surface or worked into any shape you want. Once the molten plastic leaves the tip, it begins to cool quickly. After a few seconds, the plastic hardens and holds whatever shape you work it into.
These pens allow you to effectively touch the plastic. You can work plastic into almost any shape and apply it to most surfaces. You can use it to add decorative designs to everyday items. With practice, you can even do 3D drawing in empty space. These pens can also be used to modify and repair other 3D printed objects.
There are many types of 3D printing pens to choose from. Most of them follow the same basic design but they all differ slightly in their features. When choosing a pen you should consider things like “What filament can it use?”, “Are the temperature and speed settings adjustable?”, and “What accessories are available?” Here is a quick comparison of some of the most popular models.
Select a filament: Then select a filament that you want to print with. Make sure your pen is designed to print with this type of wire.
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Choose a temperature setting: If your pen is designed to work with different filaments, choose the appropriate temperature setting for the one you’re using. Wait a moment for the pen to warm up. Most models will have an indicator light to let you know when it’s hot enough to use.
Insert the filament: Slide the filament into the filament input port. If you are using a piece of flat that has already been used, cut the end with scissors so that it is flat. This helps prevent blockages. Once the filament is inserted all the way down the pen, press the eject button. You should feel the inner motor begin to pull on the filament.
Select the speed setting: Select the fast setting and press the ejection button until the molten filament begins to flow out of the pen tip. You can then adjust the speed setting based on what and how you are printing.
The easiest way to get started is to use your pen to make 2D drawings with plastic. It may sound like a strange application for a “3D pen” but these designs are so different that you can get them on paper when you’re done.
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First, choose a nice, clean surface to scratch. Paper works quite well for this. You can also use the printed design as a stencil. You can find many stencils online.
To start a sketch, draw a small plastic bead on the paper. This will be the first anchor point. Then draw a line by gently moving your pen across the paper while pulling out the plastic.
Hold the tip of the pen close to the paper so that the melted plastic is pressed onto the paper before it has a chance to cool. The hotter the plastic is when it comes into contact with the paper, the better. You want the entire line to be tight on the paper because many of the stars shrink as they cool and this can pull the plastic through the paper and distort the shape.
At the end of a line, stop the plastic extrusion, but do not move the pen. Wait a few seconds to allow the plastic to cool on the paper. Then take out the pen. This will leave a small dot of plastic where the pen tip was. You can soften them by gently rubbing them with the side of the tip. The tip will reshape the plastic chip and push it back into the line.
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When you want to connect two lines, stop at the point where the lines meet. This will allow the heat from the tip to partially replace the first line and make a stronger connection.
When your drawing is finished, gently remove it from the paper. Now you can use a knife or scissors and carefully cut any corners. After doing this, if you feel that the lines of your sketch are still a little hard, you can put it in the toaster oven for a few minutes. Set the temperature above the melting point for your filament (320°F/160°C for PLA, 225°F/106°C for ABS). This will partially replace the plastic and soften the edges.
The easiest way to create a three-dimensional object with a 3D printing pen is to assemble it from several two-dimensional drawings. For example, I am building a simple truss bridge.
Start by drawing each side. I used a stencil to help place the sides.
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Place the bottom piece in the middle of your work surface. Then place the first piece in front of it. Apply a small plastic bead to the point where the pieces meet. Bonding is easier with more exposed surface area. I attach them to the corner of each triangle. If you want a stronger connection, you can apply a new line to all corners where the two pieces meet. Do this for each side of the pattern. Finally, connect the top pieces in the same way.
Once the general shape assembles itself, you can go back and add plastic straps to reinforce any weak areas. To give the pattern a more complete look, go back and cut any stitches that stick out with scissors or wire cutters. I don’t recommend putting a three-dimensional shape into a grid like you can with a two-dimensional sketch because the shape will probably be distorted.
The ability to create sketches is perhaps the most popular feature of 3D printing pens. It is also very difficult. Drawing on empty space is very difficult. You will need a lot of practice before you can make beautiful shapes like you see in advertisements. So don’t get discouraged if your first attempts don’t go well.
To start a 3D sketch, you need to start with a solid cast point. Make a large plastic dot on the paper. Then slowly raise the pen in the air while slowly pulling it out. You need to move your hand at the same speed as the extruder pushes the plastic.
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To make a straight line, line up the body of the pen with the plastic and draw on it very slowly. A small amount of tension will keep the plastic line straight as it cools. When you reach the point where you want the line to end, stop the plastic outlet and hold the pen still for a few seconds. The plastic needs to cool and solidify before it can support its own weight. You can help cool the plastic faster by lightly tapping on it or pointing a small fan at your work area. Once the plastic hardens, pull the pen. Plastic that melts in the mouth can leave a small dot or wire trail from the pen. You can just cut it with scissors or wire cutters.
Make a curved line more difficult. Again, start making a twisted bead on the paper to use as an anchor point. Lift the pen from the paper while pulling out on the slow speed setting. Move the pen in the direction you want the plastic to initially move as if you were drawing a straight line. Once you are out about an inch of plastic, stop. As the plastic starts to cool you need to transfer it to the proper shape. You can speed up the cooling process by simply blowing on the plastic or pointing a small fan at your work area. Once the first piece of plastic has been worked into the proper shape, remove another inch and make this part. Continue this process until you have completed a large section.
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