12
Feb

3D Pen Mini’s

As the world of tabletop roleplaying games evolves into what feels like the future, I discern a desperate, mid-life-crisis-ish urge to stay abreast of the cool new tech that came out several years ago (I’m slow to adapt).  3D printing is one such cutting-edge contrivance… but I’m not willing to risk a large investment (read: I’m cheap) in a desktop 3D printer to make miniatures.  Not yet, anyway.  Instead, I bought a 3D Pen to see if I could wield divine power upon the (small-scale) realm of plastic!

CYBER-CALLIGRAPHY!

This is what I ordered.  It’s a “Mynt3D Professional Printing 3D Pen” and it cost me about $45 U.S.  It came with the pen, a USB charging cord and power-plug brick, little tools to do minor repairs, a user manual, 3 spools of colored ABS plastic thread, and a very nice box.

To use it, you plug it in and an LED display lights up.  You can set the target temperature (this model can do both ABS and PLA types of plastic) and click a button to start heating it up.  And it should be noted that the tips of these things get up in the 210° C or 410° F range, so be extremely cautious, especially if kids are helping.

Put the plastic thread in the little hole and press the feed button to move it forward.  When it starts melting and oozing out the front, you’re ready to draw.  You should be working on a heat-resistant surface because grazing it with the pen-tip will do damage.

I can’t speak for all makes and models, but my first impressions were happy ones.  The pen is neither noisy nor are there hardly any fumes or smells, but good ventilation is always recommended, especially if you’re going to be working on projects that take a while.  The feed-speed is adjustable and can be set to a continuous flow, which gives you plenty of control options for whatever style of 3D drawing you like to do.  I had no trouble with clogs or malfunctions.

This is what I was trying to make — an Eidolon — a ghostly shadow-creature in a dog-like form.  I intend to give him to my friend who plays a Summoner in our weekly Pathfinder game.

 

For a first attempt, I call this one a win.  I was not going for a great deal of detail or refinement, partly because I’m brand new at 3D drawing, and partly because the creature itself doesn’t have a fully material form.

 

TIPS AND TRICKS
  • Start by drawing a 2D object on a flat surface, then build up from there.
  • When drawing “up,” hold the line of plastic in the shape and location you want for about 5 seconds before pulling away.
  • The smaller the piece, the more brittle it will be.  They can snap off.

  • If a small piece snaps off, you can try to weld it back together with a glob of fresh, hot plastic, but you will have to be very fast.  It is often better to just recreate the part.
  • You will get “wisps” that hang off end-points.  You can yank these off when the plastic cools, trim them with a blade or scissors, or melt them off with the tip of the pen (this may gunk up the nib, though).
  • You can re-melt and smooth some surfaces with the pen tip or with another tool like a temperature-controlled soldering iron, but be aware that this plastic deforms quickly and can burn if the temperature is too hot.  Tools covered in melting/burning plastic can create fumes, flames, and can damage the tool.
  • Work in shorter increments of time.  Running a very hot device for a long period is going to lower its lifespan considerably.  These are not industrial-grade tools.
  • Don’t build your whole model out of plastic if you don’t have to.  Cut items (like swords or guns) out of cardstock, cardboard, or other rigid materials and glue them to the plastic later.

My little starter kit has enough plastic to probably make a half-dozen simple miniatures or tiny terrain pieces, so I’ll have to buy more plastic thread to practice.  But that is really the key with a 3D pen — you will have to practice at it.  So, start with shadow-creatures, aberrations, oozes, and things that don’t have to have a lot of smooth details or straight lines, because you probably aren’t going to get them, first try.  I didn’t.  But making my own mini’s is very satisfying.

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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