For the first 20 seconds, the video isn’t anything special. Honestly, the oddly bulbous pen filling in colorful blue letters in front of me looks like something Fisher Price would market to glitter-loving pre-teens.
But then something magical happens. The pen draws a simple square. Then it lifts its tip two inches off the paper, bringing the plastic-y ink skyward with it. In a few more seconds, this pen has drawn a three-dimensional cube.
This is the part of the movie where the narrator would pantomime his mind being blown. The “3Doodler: The World’s First Printing Pen” Kickstarter campaign went live just yesterday, and has already obliterated its original goal of $30,000. Currently, more than 8,750 backers have pledged a eyebrow-raising $800,000 and counting. There are more than a few minds being blown here.
The pen, which looks a bit like a beheaded electric tooth brush, works by extruding heated ABS plastic, which then rapidly cools, solidifying into a strong stable structure. Just plug it into a power outlet and see your ideas literally come off the page.
“We were hopeful but we never expected it to grow this quickly. We’re very happy about it,” Max Bogue, one of the 3Doodler’s co-creators, along with Pete Dilworth, told me. “The response has proven to us that we really do have a great item.”
The 3Doodler is a disruptive product in a burgeoning 3D printing industry dominated by elaborate and expensive software. The key to its success isn’t just mind-bending applications (like hand-drawing a 3D model of the Eiffel Tower), but that it’s easily accessible to everyone and extremely low cost, retailing for around $75.
“A big barrier to entry for most people is the software. A 3D printing machine, while wonderful, is not an everyday consumer item,” said Bogue. “The fact that you can just do it by hand makes a world of difference.”
Bogue owns Wobble Works, an innovative toy company founded in 2011, with Dilworth, who operates out of the Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville. This collective craft and work space, said Bogues, was “a huge, huge helper to this project.”
The 3Doodler was conceived just a year ago, but thanks to some professional work friends in China and elsewhere–not to mention an extensive background in engineering and design–Bogue and Dilworth have been able to get it to its current iteration quickly.
The target audience is artists and hobbyists. A partnership with Etsy will ensure the word gets out (though that seems to have happened already), but more so that the company can offer “an extensive stencil collection” on their community website–a fail-safe for those of us who can’t draw in two dimensions, let alone three.
The campaign still has 32 days to go on Kickstarter, a lot of time for a project that’s earned nearly 30x its original financial goal. In the 14 minutes that Bogue and I spoke on the phone, the 3Doodler notched more than $8,500.
Already, said Bogue, they’re learning about new and exciting possible applications for their technology. What was once conceived of for hobbyists is now being looked at as a repair tool for plastic items, a way to bedazzle iPhone cases and other items, and even a medium for molding sugars and caramels in spectacular epicurean fashion. The concept is so new, there’s no telling where it could go next.
More than once, Bogue referred to his creation as magical and special. “Artists can literally draw in the air,” he offered.
The beauty of the 3Doodler: Now everyone is an artist.