The current 3D printing craze is driven by the excitement of being able to magic something out of nothing. It allows you to dream up anything you like on a computer screen and have it manufactured (aside from a 20ft chocolate giraffe), but it does feel a little bit more like engineering than pure creativity. The 3Doodler, which has just hit version 2.0, could be the artistic solution. It spits out the very same molten plastic as a 3D printer, letting you construct objects, freehand.
Inside is a rod of plastic, which is heated — the 3Doodler requires mains power — so as to make it pliable. It comes out of the pen like icing, meaning that accuracy is elusive, but the fun is maximal. Once at room temperature, the plastic cools and becomes fairly rigid. While the creations you can make with it lack the clean-cut precision of machine-made models, they have their own handmade charm.
This was all possible with the original 3Doodler. It was a roughly built device, with a bulk similar to that of an electric razor, but nearly 130,000 early adopters bought one. In contrast, the new version is 75% slimmer and over 50% lighter, with an improved nozzle, and control over rate of flow. It also sports a new drive, and a quieter feeding system, while consuming much less power and maintaining heat more evenly.
Version 2.0 is currently raising money on Kickstarter, although at the time of writing, the project has already raised four times the original target with 19 days to go. Backers pledging $99 can get their hands on one of the first units, although the lower pledge tiers are selling out fast.