3D Printer v.s. 3D Pen: What’s The Big Idea?

    3D PrintersProducts3D Printer v.s. 3D Pen: What's The Big Idea?


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    • A 3D pen is basically a smaller, free-form version of a 3D printer
    • It’s useful in a variety of situations for both professionals and hobbyists
    • The primary difference between the two is that the 3D printer works off your computer (or your laptop) while the 3D pen is completely free form
    • 3D printer enthusiasts say that you’ll never get an output that’s anywhere comparable to even a low-quality 3d printer using a 3d pen- no matter how skilled you are (check out our favorite beginner 3D printers)
    • The printer is capable of much more robust and complicated outputs
    • 3D printer pens are classed as either: Hot Pens or Cold Pens- hot pens load filament and have it melted into a viscous goo
    • Cold pens use a chemical process, which solidifies the liquid resin as it leaves the pen
    • 3D printer enthusiasts say that you can absolutely repair or even create objects using a 3D printer pen, but like anything else, it’ll take skill and dedication to get good with it
    • Some people supplement use their 3D pens to touch up their 3D printer projects- for emergency supports, to fill in minor gaps, and to glue parts together
    • Check out this video to see side by side how the two devices work:

    The YouTuber repurposes discarded boom boxes to make a powered speaker box.

    The 3D printing industry has undoubtedly improved its technology innovation over the years for convenience and nonpareil work.

    Due to this, it has made the hobbyist and professional designers have fun with their work in designing high-quality 3D objects straightforward with high precision.

    Aside from the 3D printers, there is also the 3D printing pen which is a serious tool that offers much more usability for drawing a physical 3D image.

    Both the 3D printer and the 3d pen are unique from each other in terms of functionality and application. Therefore, it would be wise to note their difference to help you decide which one is the best for your needs and use cases.

    3D Printer Overview

    A 3D printer is an advanced machine that prints or makes 3-dimensional objects based on computer-aided design {CAD} drawings using either resin or plastic material.

    Currently, there are 6 types of 3D printers, but only two types are commonly used by the average person, hobbyists, and professional designers; SLA 3D printer and FDM 3D printer.

    These two types of 3D printers are can handle complex projects from scratch and accurately print CAD objects.

    However, both FDM and SLA printers have a difference that makes one more than the other when it comes to delivering amazing quality objects.

    Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Printer

    Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Printer

    This type of 3D printer features Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology that uses thermoplastic filaments to print objects. The FDM 3D printer can print objects using plastic material like ABS, PLA, or PETG as its main printing material.

    The basic components of the FDM 3D printer include; an extruder, stepper motor{s}, build platform, and a frame.

    During the printing process, the molten thermoplastic material is pushed through the extruder onto a build platform to cool down and solidify into shape.

    To achieve high quality and desirable fine shape, strength, and stiffness, the printing process is repeated layer by layer following a series of steps.

    Nonetheless, the FDM 3D printers are much faster but deliver a lower resolution.

    Stereolithography (SLA) 3D Printers

    Stereolithography (SLA) 3D Printers

    This type of printer features a Stereolithography apparatus incorporated with a UV laser and uses a liquid resin to print objects.

    The UV laser is used for curing the resin during the printing process. Unlike the FDM 3D printers, the basic components of the SLA 3D printers are unique, making them ideal for printing high-quality objects with higher resolution.

    The SLA 3D printer features a tank for storing resin, a laser beam that guides the printing process, a build platform, and a digital interface that allows you to control the printer.

    The downside of the SLA printer is that it prints slowly and requires more maintenance, but worth it when it comes to precision and high resolution.

    3D Pen Printer Overview

    A 3D pen printer is a small version of the 3D printer that prints 3D objects by oozing plastic filaments through the tip of its handheld pen. Due to this, it gives the user to apply their artistic ability in designing 3D models by freely moving their hands.

    Unlike, 3D printers, 3D pens are controlled neither by software nor computer making them not ideal for printing bigger models and projects.

    Instead, the user is completely guided by their imagination and creativity. In addition, they are powered by either by battery or USB cable running from a USB port. The 3D pen works depending on its type. They include;

    A Hot 3D Pen

    A hot 3D pen works similarly to an FDM printer because it incorporates filament inserted into the pen. Then the filament is heated to the melting point and extruded out of the hot end. While the filaments leave the pen, it gives you the ability to draw your print model in the air as it cools rapidly.

    A Cold 3D Pen

    A cold 3D pen works by converting a liquid resin to a solid through a UV chemical process.

    This is possible because the resin is photosensitive and once it leaves the end of the pen it solidifies or cures under UV light. Check out our article on resin toxicity.

    The printing process of a cold 3D pen is similar to the SLA 3D printer.

    Similarities between A 3D Printer and A 3D Pen

    • Both the 3D printer and 3D pen can be used for 3D printing and designing, prototyping, making arts and jewelry, and learning.
    • Despite having their own functions, both a 3D printer and 3D pen work in a similar mechanism depending on the type of the printer: A plastic filament or a liquid resin.
    •  You can create or build a product from scratch using either a 3D printer or a 3D pen.

    Difference between A 3D Printer and A 3D Pen

    • A 3D pen is a smaller version of a 3D printer. For this reason, a 3D pen is ideal for small-scale production and a 3D printer is convenient and versatile for handling complex/industrial products, and large-scale production.
    • Both printers can allow you to build a product from scratch, but a 3D pen cannot handle complex products like a 3D printer. Therefore, if you are a hobbyist or an enthusiast, a 3D printer will suit your needs.
    • A 3D pen cannot print CAD objects, while a 3D printer can accurately print CAD objects very fast with high resolution. Due to this, it makes a 3D printer exceptional in wide applications like medical, automotive, education, construction, and complex prototyping.
    • If you want to make repairs a 3D pen will effectively suit your needs than a 3D printer because it is smaller enough to provide high precision.
    • When it comes to set-up and working space, a 3D pen would be effective if you do not have much space. Contrastingly, a 3D printer takes up much space for setting up and keeping the accessories.
    • A 3D pen is ideal for learners and kids because it allows them to effectively practice their imagination. Nonetheless, a 3D pen doesn’t require a set up process making it safer and easier to handle than a 3D printer.

    Final Verdict

    Both the 3D printer and the 3D pen can print models at high precision, but for a specific purpose because of the following reasons;

    If you want to print small and simple models and projects opt for the 3D pen while for bigger and complex projects 3D printer is your best shot. Nonetheless, it is also faster and more straightforward as it eliminates troubleshooting that is prone to using the 3D pen.

    Using a 3D pen is very tough as it requires proficient skills, but it is ideal for beginners and kids in comparison with a 3D printer that requires more time to learn how to set up and use it.

    3D printers are expensive and require more space to set it up than a 3D pen.

    3D pen is fun and great for enhancing or improving your kid’s skills and creativity as it allows them to maximally practice their imagination.

    When you combine both a 3D pen and a 3D printer, they can work very well to repair 3D printed models when there is a minor defect{s}.

    Rush Chapman
    ( Founder )

    Hello, my name’s Rush Chapman. I’m a 3D printing enthusiast. I started this site to help people choose 3D printing projects and select the best 3D printer for your needs, whether you’re a hobbyist or a pro!