The pen that 3D prints as you draw

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20140624-AMX-3D-PEN24 The Washington Post CreoPop is a pen that makes 3D drawings and has already generated $67 000 in funding from people who might enjoy making little sculptures from scratch. Picture courtesy of Creopop

Washington - Doodlers, this may be your chance to take your creations up a notch. Meet CreoPop, a pen that lets you make 3D drawings — really, little sculptures — completely from scratch.

The pen works its magic by using a special kind of polymer that cures immediately on contact with light. As you draw in the air and squeeze the toothpaste-like ink out of the pen, it hardens to form your small sculptures.

In one week, CreoPop's maker has outstripped the $40 000 goal it set for a month-long campaign, raising over $67 000 so far. Backers can buy pen sets, which start at $79 (about R800) and come with five ink cartridges.

One might be tempted to loop the pen's early success into the excitement over 3D printing and at-home manufacturing and to think of it as a sort of handheld 3D printer. But CreoPop marketing leader Andreas Birnik hesitated to make that comparison himself. 3D printers, he noted, rely on some sort of model or blueprint. This pen is more like an art brush.

“With CreoPop, you can create anything, but there is no model,” he said. “You need to create it, slowly, step by step and assemble it bit by bit.”

It differs, too, from other versions of sculpting pens that use super-heated plastic to create the mini-sculptures. Think of something more along the lines of a hot glue gun: 3Doodler, a similar pen that raised over $2-million on Kickstarter last year, uses that model. Because CreoPop ink is cool, Birnik said, doodlers are able to pick up their creations as they build on them without the risk of burning themselves.

The novel ink, Birnik said, is really the main focus for the company, which has received funding and development grants from the Singapore government to research other applications for the quick-curing, plastic-like ink. The company has developed inks that change colour depending on their temperature, and it's looking into edible ink, in response to customer requests.

It's easy to imagine the pen being used by people who need to make very quick models or prototypes of small objects, such as artists or engineers. But the crowd-funding campaign, which has reached consumers in more than 50 countries, also shows that there's a broad appeal to adults and kids who just want to goof around with the thing.

Birnik said that the fun aspect is certainly what makes the pen popular at his own home.

“CreoPop is the only thing I've done that my daughter thinks is cool,” Birnik said. - The Washington Post

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