October 22nd was my birthday. And of the many gifts I received, one of my favourites was this one from my boyfriend Tom.
It’s a 3D printing pen, and it came with all kinds of goodies, including a whole bunch of filament (there was actually more than this, I took the picture after I’d been playing with it a bit already), some templates, an instruction manual, an opportunity to get more filament, a stand and two finger guards. As well as a plug and a power cable. It also came with a sheet of clear plastic, but that’s impossible to photograph.
It took a while to comprehend the instructions and figure out how the pen works, but now that I know, it’s relatively straight forward. When you plug it in, you can select what filament you’re using. This pen works with both PLA and ABS filament – the filament that it came with it is PLA.
Once you’ve selected that you can select one of three speeds – which you can change at any point…
..and then when you confirm those settings it starts to heat up. You can see the temperature as it rises, which is pretty cool. When the green light comes on…
…you can insert the filament in the end.
It will take a few seconds for the filament to reach the nozzle – depending on your speed of course. Once it reaches the nozzle, and the heat, it starts to extrude from the nib. You’ll have a few seconds of the wrong colour while it works out the remainder of whatever colour you use before.
And then you can get drawing. The first thing I drew was three squarish panels that I attempted to stick together. Before I took those pictures above, obviously.
I also used a nail polish bottle as a mold to make a messy little cup thing.
Once I’d got to grips with handling the tool I had a go at actually making something, and ended up with a rather wonky looking birthday cupcake.
Then I decided that the bat on the template sheet was a little too cute to resist much longer. I taped the sheet to my cutting mat and taped the plastic sheet on top.
I approached it the way I’ve seen people do pancake art. Back to front. With the eyes and details first, then filling in the main colour. The plastic sheet I suspect is designed so that the melted filament doesn’t stick to the template, but it doesn’t stick even a little bit. If you nudge a piece, it moves completely. Which is why my little bat ended up with no mouth.
The plastic sheet does give the front a nice flat shiny look though. The “colouring” is very scribbly. I’m sure there are techniques for doing all this stuff properly, but for this I just wanted to play.
Over the next few days though I did do a bunch of research. I found a whole bunch of tutorials and templates on the 3Doodler website. The 3Doodler was the original 3D printing pen, and a great source for ideas and help. And I found a pdf tutorial for making a 3D bat.
It begins with drawing a template, and taping it down.
I did the two half circles easily, and was super impressed with how I did the wing. I did it in segments, with nice straight back and forth lines to fill – just like my research showed me.
It wasn’t until after I’d done the second wing that I realised I should have flipped it. The flat shiny sides were going to be in different locations on the bat.
I tried holding the two pieces of the body in place to stick them together, but had trouble keeping the bottom piece in place, so I ended up securing it on a kneadable eraser.
Securing the wings was a bit simpler.
I started to give the bat a bit more body, and add texture to the shiny sides of the wings….
..when I ran out of black filament. I might finish it off when I get more, but it looks pretty awesome for now.
I had found two more stencils that I wanted to try. One was actually a stencil, and one was a photo of a necklace that I wanted to mimic. I shrank the photo to the size I wanted, printed it, and taped it under the plastic sheet.
And I had four attempts in a gold filament. My first attempt – top left – was a little messy. My second attempt – top right – tried to get the filigree detail, but either my skill isn’t good enough or my nib was too thick, maybe both. My third attempt – bottom left – was done with a consistent circular motion. My fourth attempt – bottom right – was done with straight lines. Of the four, I think the last two have the cleanest looking backs. But then, with a pendant you don’t really need to have a particularly clean back.
The other stencil was a bigger bat, with the same sort of filigree detail. The plastic sheet was kinda giving up the ghost at this point. I’ll have to find an alternative.
For this piece I wanted to try an experiment. When the filament shrinks below the end of the pen, the pen stops. You can eject the remaining filament – and there’s about this much left…
There’s plenty there to work with, but the pen won’t work unless there’s filament sticking out of the end. So you can connect more of the same colour if you have it, or any other colour. The problem with adding other colours is that you get that little blended bit before the colour change. Which is what I wanted to take advantage of.
I cut a bunch of short, random strips of a sort of rainbow. There wasn’t a green in the set that came with the pen, just the little dayglo yellow that I did my initial test with.
I ended up with a really nice effect. Probably a bit too much red. Maybe I should do an experiment and test how much line length I can get with a certain amount of filament.
I should have stopped there. But I didn’t. I started to fill in the spaces with grey. I started nice and neatly on the left, but got tired and more messy by the end.
For some completely unknown reason I decided to thicken the piece by adding a layer of grey, and then ran out of the grey before the end.
As I said, I should have stopped at the rainbow. Maybe if the grey had been tidier and more consistent. When I get more filament I think I’ll definitely try this rainbow blend method again though.
I am really happy with this new toy, and I will be doing research and many many more projects.