For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, my sister came up with the idea of getting me a 3D pen.* (I think she Googled “birthday gift ideas for crafty people who have everything.”) I was surprised and excited when I opened it, since I always love trying something new.
A 3D pen prints in three dimensions, so it’s almost like a 3D printer that you hold in your hand. Instead of ink, you load it with long coils of plastic called filaments. The pen melts the plastic and you’re able to write with it in any direction.
My pen came with filaments labeled PLA, which stands for polylactic acid. This kind of filament is made from renewable resources like corn, tapioca or sugarcane, so it’s sweet-smelling when it melts and it’s considered the more environmentally friendly 3D printing material.
(My 3D pen can also handle oil-based ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) filaments, but those supposedly produce strong fumes and aren’t as safe for home use. But that’s enough science talk!)
When I first experimented with the pen, I didn’t know how to stop the flow of plastic. It flew out of the pen in a steady stream and hardened into an ugly coil. I finally managed to switch it off, and I was holding a twisted piece of hard plastic that looked like a Barbie-sized candlestick.
On the advice of my handy husband, I watched a YouTube video and learned how the buttons worked.
Sure enough, I could stop and start the flow of plastic as needed. It also ran on three speeds, so I could work slowly around a difficult part and speed up when colouring in a larger area.
Then I actually started making some really cool stuff …