Get Creative: How Do 3D Pens Work?

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3D printing technology has revolutionized the way we create objects, allowing us to produce complex designs with ease. But what if you could take that technology and put it in the palm of your hand? That’s where 3D pens come in. These handheld devices allow you to create 3D objects by drawing them in thin air.

So, how do 3D pens work? The basic principle is quite simple. The pen heats up plastic filament, which is then extruded through a nozzle at the end of the pen. As the filament cools, it hardens, allowing you to draw in three dimensions. By controlling the speed and direction of the extruded filament, you can create intricate designs and structures. But there’s more to it than just heating up plastic. Let’s take a closer look at how 3D pens work.

What is a 3D Pen?

A 3D pen is a handheld device that allows you to create three-dimensional objects by extruding plastic filament in a controlled manner. It works by melting the plastic filament and then allowing it to cool and harden in place, allowing you to build up layers and create complex shapes.

3D pens are relatively new and not everyone has them yet, but they are gaining popularity among artists, designers, and hobbyists. With a 3D pen, you don’t need any software, files to transfer, or difficult tech to master. Whatever you imagine, you can draw. It goes from your brain, to your hand, right there.

To make it easier to understand, think of your ordinary glue gun – with colored glue sticks and a smaller tip. A 3D pen works in a similar way, but instead of glue, it uses plastic filament that is melted and extruded through the pen’s nozzle. The user controls the speed at which the filament is extruded, which decides how thin or thick each layer of the object will be.

There are different types of 3D pens with varying features such as temperature control, speed control, and filament types. Some 3D pens come with an LCD screen that displays the temperature and speed settings, while others have a simple button for speed control. The filament used also varies, with ABS and PLA being the most common types. ABS is a strong and durable plastic, while PLA is biodegradable and eco-friendly.

Overall, a 3D pen is a fun and creative tool that allows you to bring your ideas to life in three dimensions. It’s easy to use and doesn’t require any special skills or software. With a bit of practice, you can create amazing sculptures, jewelry, and other objects that you can be proud of.

Types of 3D Pens

3D pens are available in different types, each with its own unique features and capabilities. In this section, we will discuss the two most common types of 3D pens: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Pens and Stereolithography (SLA) 3D Pens.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Pens

FDM 3D pens are the most widely used type of 3D pens. They work by melting plastic filament and extruding it through a nozzle to create a 3D object. The melted plastic is deposited layer by layer, building up the final product. FDM 3D pens are easy to use and affordable, making them a popular choice for beginners.

FDM 3D pens are compatible with a wide range of materials, including ABS, PLA, and PETG. Each material has its own unique properties, such as flexibility, strength, and durability. Some FDM 3D pens also allow you to adjust the temperature and speed of the extrusion, giving you more control over the final product.

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D Pens

SLA 3D pens work by using a laser or UV light to cure a liquid resin into a solid object. Unlike FDM 3D pens, SLA 3D pens do not use plastic filament. Instead, they use a liquid resin that is cured by a light source. SLA 3D pens are capable of producing highly detailed and precise objects, making them popular among professionals and artists.

SLA 3D pens are also compatible with a variety of materials, including resin, silicone, and ceramic. However, they are more expensive and complex to use than FDM 3D pens. SLA 3D pens require more maintenance and care, as they involve working with liquid resin and UV light.

In summary, FDM 3D pens are affordable, easy to use, and compatible with a wide range of materials, making them a popular choice for beginners. On the other hand, SLA 3D pens are more expensive and complex to use, but they offer higher precision and detail for professionals and artists.

How Does a 3D Pen Work?

A 3D pen is a handheld device that allows you to draw three-dimensional objects by extruding melted plastic through a nozzle. The process of how a 3D pen works can be broken down into three main mechanisms: filament heating, extrusion, and cooling.

Filament Heating Mechanism

The filament heating mechanism is responsible for melting the plastic filament that will be used to draw the 3D object. The filament is typically made of either PLA or ABS plastic and is fed into the 3D pen through a small opening. Once inside, the filament is heated to its melting point using a heating element. The temperature required to melt the filament varies depending on the type of plastic used.

Extrusion Mechanism

Once the filament has been melted, it is pushed through a nozzle at the end of the 3D pen. The nozzle is typically very small, allowing for precise control over the extruded plastic. The flow rate of the plastic can be adjusted using a button or dial on the 3D pen, allowing for greater control over the thickness of the lines being drawn.

Cooling Mechanism

As the plastic is extruded from the nozzle, it begins to cool and harden. The cooling mechanism is responsible for ensuring that the plastic cools quickly enough to maintain the shape of the object being drawn. This is typically achieved using a fan or other cooling mechanism built into the 3D pen.

In summary, a 3D pen works by melting plastic filament and extruding it through a small nozzle to create three-dimensional objects. The filament heating mechanism melts the plastic, the extrusion mechanism controls the flow of plastic, and the cooling mechanism ensures that the plastic cools quickly enough to maintain the shape of the object being drawn.

Tips for Using a 3D Pen

Choose the Right Filament

One of the most important things to consider when using a 3D pen is the type of filament you use. There are many different types of filaments available, each with its own unique properties. Some filaments are more flexible, while others are more rigid. Some are more heat-resistant, while others are more lightweight.

Before you start using your 3D pen, it’s important to choose the right filament for your project. Take into account the strength, flexibility, and temperature requirements of your design. You can consult the manufacturer’s instructions or do some research on the different types of filaments available.

Practice on a Flat Surface

When you first start using a 3D pen, it’s a good idea to practice on a flat surface. This will help you get used to the way the pen works and the different techniques you can use. It will also help you develop your skills and confidence before you start working on more complex designs.

Start by drawing simple shapes and lines, and gradually work your way up to more complex designs. You can also experiment with different techniques, such as layering and shading, to create more intricate designs.

Keep the Nozzle Clean

Another important tip for using a 3D pen is to keep the nozzle clean. Over time, the nozzle can become clogged with filament residue, which can affect the quality of your designs. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to clean the nozzle regularly.

You can use a small brush or a piece of cloth to remove any debris from the nozzle. Some 3D pens also come with cleaning tools that can help you remove any filament residue more easily.

By following these tips, you can get the most out of your 3D pen and create amazing designs with ease. Remember to choose the right filament, practice on a flat surface, and keep the nozzle clean to achieve the best results.


In conclusion, 3D pens are a fun and innovative tool that can bring your imagination to life. They work by melting plastic filament and extruding it through a nozzle to create 3D objects.

Although they are similar to 3D printers, they are much simpler and more affordable. They are also more versatile since they can be used to create free-form designs and sculptures.

When choosing a 3D pen, it’s important to consider the type of filament it uses, the temperature settings, and the speed control. PLA and ABS are the most common filaments, but there are also more exotic options such as wood, metal, and glow-in-the-dark filaments.

It’s also important to consider the safety features of the 3D pen, such as automatic shut-off and finger guards. Some 3D pens also come with additional accessories such as stencils and templates to help you get started.

Overall, 3D pens are a great way to explore your creativity and bring your ideas to life. Whether you’re a professional artist or just starting out, a 3D pen can be a fun and rewarding tool to add to your arsenal.