One of the most unique machines on display in CES's 3D printing tech zone isn't a lightning-fast printer with little calibration needed, a printer that creates 3D objects out of regular paper, or the latest in resin-based printing.
Instead, it's the 3Doodler that stands out from the pack: It's a handheld 3D printer that functions like a pen, letting you scribble free-form designs without any complicated object files.
To use the 3Doodler, you insert a short stick of filament into the top of the pen, and then press one of the speed buttons to feed filament to the extruder and expel it. The way the filament is inserted and extruded is reminiscent of a hot glue gun, though not in looks or aesthetics. You can scribble or doodle on any flat surface to print 2D designs, or use the pen to build freeform vertical objects.
When looking at what others have made with the 3Doodler--a 5-foot tall Eiffel Tower replica and a moving Ferris wheel, for example--it seems as if the pen would be difficult to use.
It isn't: Though it's much larger than a standard pen or marker, the 3Doodler is still simple to maneuver with one hand. Making your designs look neat and even, however, requires either practice or artistic ability (neither of which I had when I tested it out, but it was still fun to use).
The 3Doodler itself isn't brand-spanking new for CES: It is a fully funded Kickstarter project that reached its goal in mid 2013. However, the pen now has some accessories to make it even more versatile, including interchangeable extruder tips that produce different filament shapes, rubber stencils, and a stand to help draw smoother lines.
The 3Doodler is available for pre-order now and will ship in March after all original Kickstarter orders are filled. It costs $99, and ships with 50 strands of filament to get you started. You may choose between ABS or PLA plastic filaments, which both come in a wide variety of colors.