Getting started Archives - Pen and Plastic

Category Archives for Getting started

Are 3D Printers safe for kids?

In this article, we will look at various facets of the safety of 3D printing for children including the materials used, items produced as well as the 3D printing process itself.

Children are naturally drawn to 3D printing. Brightly colored, reasonably inexpensive objects which may be made to their specification are fascinating to kids. We looked at some interesting 3D printed ideas for kids and help you decide what is safe.

So, is using a 3D printer safe for kids?

The brief answer is 3D printed items may be safe for children, but there are plenty of issues to take into account. Parents and educators will have to take into account many variables before deciding, and everyone's idea of reasonable safety or risk may vary.

This is merely an informational guide,  to help you work out what you will need to be worried about. Please be sure you think the issues related to your specific circumstances.

Before We Start...Stay Away From Kickstarter 3D Printers

So you wish to save money with a Kickstarter printer? This used to be a great idea. Back in 2015-16, an affordable Kickstarter 3D printer was an exciting thing. Now, not a week passes without a new 3D printer appearing on Kickstarter.

But the majority of these inexpensive 3D printers found on Kickstarter are as kits, which need to be assembled. Secondly , Kickstarter 3D printers are prototype versions. They have not been through the trials and tribulations of thousands of hours of user tests. You'll surely encounter problems that you must solve by yourself.

And the third downside: Most Kickstarter 3D printers take a long time to deliver – which kid  (or adult) has the patience to wait months before they get started, right?


Physical Dangers

The most important rule: Never leave young children alone with a 3D printer! By all means, 3D printers are not any toys and must be handled with caution. As a guideline, treat them with respect you would deal with all of your workshop tools.

Safety First!  They do not call it “the hot-end” for nothing. Do not ever touch it when it is hot.

The majority of the physical risks come from the heated components and the motors. Their extruders heat up to around 260 deg. Celsius. If this scares you then right off the bat I would recommend you consider buying a 3D pen instead. There are some wonderful 3D pens for children currently on the market, most of which retail between $50-$100.

If touched, a hot-end can cause severe skin burns! Additionally, the heated beds, on which 3D printers extrude their models, may heat up to around 100 deg. Celsius -- also way too hot for kids. Last, the fast-moving metal components out of a stepper motor can be harmful to tiny fingers.

Another consideration is fumes. For materials like ABS and Nylon, this is definitely an issue. This study (from a filament seller ) concludes that the substances are safe during 3D printing. But many consider it a sensible precaution to just 3D print with such substances in a well-ventilated space.

So notify your child about the probable dangers; do not abandon them unwatched, and use precautions (gloves, glasses, etc.) when handling a 3D printer.

thingmaker 3D printing with children

There are numerous cool Programs, tools, and curriculums designed to get children involved with the area of 3D printing. You find an interesting list of 3D printing tools for kids there.

Choosing the right materials and objects

There are plenty of different materials which may be utilised in 3D printers. There are even 3D printer extruders that can print with play dough, Plasticine and modeling clay.

These substances have their age recommendations - the PlayDoh brand that we have at the moment says from age group 2+.

And people are also printing with edible materials like chocolate, fondant and cookie dough. These substances themselves are safe but present new food hygiene requirements.

But more typically home 3D printing will be done with vinyl - either ABS or PLA. ABS is the plastic that LEGO bricks are made from. PLA is a bioplastic; it is non-toxic. Both are considered safe for kids when published.

When heated, plastic filament emits particles. That is not the stuff you need to let your children breathe. However, the difference between ABS and PLA is filament is stark, ABS filament comprises oil, and the fumes can also be poisonous, whereas most PLA is completely safe and non-toxic, even if your child happens to ingest it.

Not every filament is edible, which is important especially for smaller children -- you do not want to intoxicate them by choosing the incorrect stuff to 3D print, stick to PLA at the start.

Here's more info on the best way best to select non-toxic filament.

You also should take into account the printed objects themselves that could be dangerous. It is possible to publish really dangerous objects with a 3D printer if this is the intention. Objects that are not meant to be harmful can still pose a risk such as choking, pinching or cutting so the design of items needs to be carefully considered.

"Some printed components may present a CHOKING HAZARD or might be SHARP" Cubify

Objects printed using common 3D printing methods are not acceptable for a child who might place objects in their mouth. Cubify targets children with its 3D print-on-demand providers and includes a warning for kids under 3.


On the other hand, the internet 3D print-on-demand store Shapeways says that 3D printed items aren't toys in its terms and conditions. They also provide material safety data sheets for all the materials. They're not targeting kids at this time.

Industrial 3D printed toys could be certified as safe for children. The Makie doll is a customized 3D printed doll that's made to order and has been obtained through the certification procedure.

To attain this certificate the Makie doll has been through extensive testing.

3D Printers as well as the Printing Process

At this point, plenty of 3D printers are homemade, often from kits of parts. The 3D printing process typically involves high temperatures as ordinary materials like plastic need to be melted to extrude them. Our home constructed 3D printer is certainly not safe for children to use and they get to see it in action under close supervision.

3D Printing with materials like modeling clay, play dough, and Plasticine doesn't need high temperatures - the material is extruded through a syringe type device. The Robo 3D printer can even be controlled from your mobile phone! Although it is not exactly a printer for kids, I wouldn't be surprised if we see this type of system that's targeted at young kids in the future. My kids would love it, that is for sure.

Let the Kids Choose Their 3D Printing Project

Yes! 3D Printers help children unleash their creativity.

That's something you need to get used to as a parent: The kids lead the way, and you are only here to help. Therefore, even if the 3D print job is not the one you prefer -- clench your teeth and begin printing. That does not mean most children are not open to suggestions. If you would like to get deeper into that subject, please read Michael Eisenberg's 3D printing for kids: What to build next?

In Conclusion

Fundamentally, 3D printed items can be safe for children over 3, depending upon the materials used and the construction of this item. The process of 3D printing has plenty of possible dangers, but one product in particular, that the Cube from 3DSystems, is acceptable for children over age 8 and has got safety certification.

Later on, it is certainly possible that we will see 3D printers for younger children using materials which may be extruded without needing elevated temperatures.

If you are ready to dive into the deep end, we encourage you to take a look at our review of 4 best 3D printers for kids. Thanks for reading!

Continue reading

The Best 3D Printers for Kids

Why buy a 3D Printer for a child?

3D Printing is no longer a complicated hobby! Anyone can get started.

It’s a very relevant technology, as just about all present industries, from automobiles to smartphones, from jewelry to handicap aids, 3D printing has been used daily.

This is the reason it's an excellent idea to introduce your children to the technology today.

Let’s take a look at why you should encourage your children to take up this hobby…

3D Printing Encourages Creativity

The significant advantage of 3D printing is that the immediacy of having a finished product in your hands within hours. What this does is to accelerate the traditional design cycle of:

  • Invent  
  • Plan
  • Create
  • Optimize
  • Improve

To a Child dipping their feet into the world of Engineering, this is an enormous benefit as it gives them hands-on expertise of how all products are designed and fabricated. This is what we Engineers live for!

Seeing the design that has been in their mind a couple of hours back being turned into a real physical thing which they can hold in their hands and use in the way they envisioned is exciting! It is the best way to show your children how fun engineering could be.

And Why would not you want your children to be Engineers?! The current starting salary for Engineering graduates in 2018 is $65000 (which is the very high compared to other fields) climbing to a career average of about $100,000, and they'll contribute to society with a fulfilling career!

3D Printing is the Future of Manufacturing

Schools are slow to adapt to new technology. It is not their fault, they are normally dependent upon insufficient funding and need to adhere to program guidelines set by the government. This is the reason your children are still taught similar courses to those you and I were, decades ago.

At Junior through to high school, if you are lucky your kids learn metalwork and woodwork, they have a go at vacuum forming some plastic, they may get to try out some injection molding or how to operate a CNC lathe, but they are very unlikely to get their hands on a 3D printer.

If they do go to an excellent school which has access to a 3D printer, it's unlikely to be a recent version. 3D printing has evolved a lot in the last ten decades! They might well be left frustrated when the finished part takes hours to build and resembles one of my Great British Bake-off efforts as opposed to the exact replication they were anticipating.

In this guide, I've chosen and reviewed the 3D printers that I think are an ideal option for your kids and categorized my reviews depending on the age group they are acceptable for.

To help you decide which 3D Printer you ought to buy, I have looked at all of the models available in 2018 which are designed primarily for kids or are acceptable for children and teens according to my own experiences.

Best 3D Printers for Kids - 2018

In the table below I rated the four printers which I will be advocating in this article:




Age Group

Where to Buy

da vinci minimaker

XYZ's DaVinci Minimaker 

4.5 out of 5

The most kid-friendly 3D printer of 2018

Younger kids

flashforge finder

Flashforge Finder

4 out of 5

Great for kids and beginners, has WiFi and an LED screen

Younger kids

 Monoprice Mini V2

4 out of 5

Better suited for older kids, budget option

Older kids

sindoh 3d printer opened

Sindoh 3DWOX DP200 3D Printer

3 out of 5

Too expensive, not suitable for small kids

Older kids

For each printer you will see an overall score out of 5, with a few pros and cons for good measure.

And now without further ado, let’s take a look at Pen and Plastic’s round-up of best 3D printers for kids currently on the market.

1: XYZPrinting Da Vinci MiniMaker

As you can see from the photographs, it's a very kindergarden look that I think is terrific for younger children.

This makes them see it more as a toy than a dull educational tool while children approaching their teens won't tihnk its too uncool! 

There's a similar version called only the Da Vinci Mini that is a more subdued orange color but costs about $30 more because it comes with WiFi. 

I would recommend it if you think your children may be put off by the childish colors but I would not pay the extra just for WiFi.

da vinci minimaker

Pen and Plastic Rating

"Best budget option for small kids"


I Do not think I've ever managed to prepare a 3D printer faster than I could with the Da Vinci miniMaker!

You plug in certain USB and power cables just like you have to with any computer hardware, snap at the printhead, feed the filament tube to the printhead and... that's it!

The filament auto-feeds, and there's no calibration required.

The directions that came in the box were kind of lo-fi black and white printouts that seemed like the final minute'oops we forgot to include instructions let's throw something in the box' choice, but they do the job as the installation is so easy you do not need anything fancier.

I suggest looking at these movies on XYZ's site before trying to set this up with the printouts alone.


The miniMaker does not use the industry standard G-code, and thus your only alternative is to use the provided XYZware program.

This beginner package is a significant limitation for inquisitive young minds that learn fast, but is exactly what makes it such a "guaranteed to work out of the box" success.

The bundled XYZware is relatively simple to use, but it just lacks a little bit of feedback, so you're left wondering whether you want to click again or proceed to another step.

Useful Information is displayed such as how much filament your version will use and how long it will take to construct.

All of us know how impatient little ones could be, so it is great to have the ability to give them an estimate of how long they might need to wait.

minimaker dimensions


There Are some versions included with the XYZ applications which function well as test pieces, but I suggest heading over to Thingiverse to download some more intriguing pieces.

I printed two figurines and had great results. The parts ended up extremely well detailed. The quality impressed me for such a cheap machine.

During printing, the miniMaker is especially silent for an open-sided machine, you wouldn't want to place it in your bedroom overnight though!

What I didn't like

There's one big negative using the miniMaker, and that is the fact you can use XYZ branded filament. This is bad since the branded filament is more expensive than other makes and there might be times when you need to print a color that's not in the XYZ range.

I can See why the producer has done this. As an entry printer, it completely avoids the chance of someone attempting to use the wrong sort of filament and messing up the machine. It just feels a little bit too 'Big Brother' for my liking.

The machine keeps checks on the filament type used by integrating a processor in the filament reel which records how much filament has been used, so in case you refill with another brand, the machine will report there isn't any filament and will not work.

There Are not any ways around this without some rather intricate replacement of the primary circuit board so that you should bear this in mind when purchasing the miniMaker.

Please do not let it put you off as much as you'll shortly see it takes a while to empty one of those filament reels, a worth while sacrifica considering the MiniMaker only costs $300.

Technical Specifications

100-400 microns
5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches
Age Group: 14+ (8+ with adult supervision) 


  • Best for small kids
  • Prints ​eco-friendly PLA
  • Big print size
  • Easy to use software
  • Cheapest in review


  • Only one extruder
  • No heated bed, does not print ABS


The XYZ miniMaker is great 3D Printer for younger children and non-tech educated parents. It pretty much prints out of the box with very little fuss.

The disadvantage to this simplicity is your children could grow out of it fairly quickly especially if they're in their teens when more complex models and fine-tuning of installation aren't possible.

2: Flashforge Finder

Of all of the 3D printers in this review, this is the one which seems almost like it was designed for everyday home users. 

Its chunky red plastic frame gives it a satisfyingly sturdy feel, the motors and drivetrain are largely hidden away and while it appears quite futuristic. 

It also just does not look out of place sat in my desk beside the everyday tech of now, if it were not for the sound I would not mind having this sat in my living room.

The front of the machine is a gorgeous clear color touchscreen, complete the Flashforge Finder looks decidedly unintimidating, perfect for less tech-savvy folks. 


Pen and Plastic Rating

"Best hassle-free  option for non-tech-savvy folks.."


A User Manual is included on the USB stick that comes with the printer. But on first use, the touch screen conveniently walks you through the initial setup of leveling the printing bed by telling one to twist the adjustment nuts completely down and then one by one as it steps each corner it lets you raise each nut till a beep informs you the appropriate height was reached.

This is a very smart but simple system that turns what could be a frustrating process to a complete doddle.

Loading The filament was somewhat trickier just because quite a great deal of force must pull the filament through the extruder and the manual explicitly states to not use too much pressure! Getting this right on the first go is improbable but as soon as you understand how it should feel it is no problem.

flashforge finder printing


The Finder includes its FlashPrint applications for preparing (slicing) versions. I think it's very good, the fully automated cutting edge and support generator operate nicely, and manual options like temperature and printing rate are available for when your children want to proceed to the next level of part design.

Standard features like substance usage quotes are included. Using the manual settings, FlashPrint is a lot more advanced than the XZYware which accompanies the DaVinci miniMaker. This should give most teens enough freedom to make before they pick that 3D printing is their dream career and begin begging you to purchase a BCN3D Sigma...

FlashPrint Also has a couple of gimmicks like'2D into 3D' that permits you to create an approximate 3D model from a 2D picture, by way of instance, you can turn a photograph of your face to a model, while this is not likely to work flawlessly it's a fun enough exercise.


This is a hassle-free 3D Printer. Using the default settings, my initial build completed in a little under an hour. This is the only 3D printer I have had to check on to see if it is working as it is so quiet! Heat up time is fast, being able to take out the plate to employ blue tape is a fantasy.

One of the simplest yet most useful features of this printer is the removable build plate! It is crazy to think that this is not a feature available on most of the consumer-oriented 3D printers.

Being able to remove your components from the build plate whenever it's sat safely on your desk is so much easier than reaching in the machine.

 It just feels like a better way for children to see their assembles removed from the printer using a gentle slide it generates a 'wow' moment as opposed to 15 minutes of frustration as you cope with scraping bits of tape in a restricted space.

The failure rate of builds with this printer is also fantastic, very near zero for me after a few weeks of use that's extremely impressive.

What I didn't like

Although the FlashForge Finder is pleased to take additional Manufacturers of PLA filament the on-board filament holder is a bit smaller than standard.

If you Do choose another brand you'll have to keep the spool holder from the machine for example on a shelf to the side or over it, in actuality, there are a few cool spool holder designs on the Thingiverse so that you can create your own!

Technical Specifications

100 microns
6″ x 6″ x 6″
4 inch LED screen
PLA only
13 or 8 under adult supervision


  • Easy to use
  • WiFi Connectivity
  • Closed printer
  • Clever LCD screen
  • Excellent customer support and product reputation


  • Can only print PLA
  • Single Extruder


The FlashForge Finder is the sort of 3D printer which in a couple of years time you will be picking up from Target and Staples without another thought just like you do now use a 2D printer.

It pretty much plugs and plays and combined with excellent support from the manufacturer it is the perfect choice if you would like to give your family a hassle-free entrance to the world of 3D printing.

Additionally, it has enough flexibility it is going to be a fantastic few years ahead of your adolescent's skills grow beyond its abilities.

I Also wish to add that lots of owners have reported that the customer support at FlashForge to be outstanding with very prompt and helpful answers to client inquiries usually obtained within only a couple hours.

This is particularly important as you begin to experiment with new filaments and more innovative slicing things can fail, so it is reassuring to know real help is an email away.

We also reviewed the Flashforge Finder in our best 3d printers under $500 review, spoiler alert: it also stacks up favorably against the competition in that price bracket.

3: Monoprice Select Mini V2

In a word..sturdy! The Monoprice Select Mini is mainly sheet steel structure, it is basic, but in a satisfyingly industrial manner with no effort made to conceal bolt heads.

However, The significant moving parts are nicely covered to prevent damage or injury. It seems like it belongs in a laboratory with a white coated tech operating it. I like this, and I am pretty certain science loving teenagers will also! 

The full-color screen is extremely impressive and by far the clearest I've seen on any sub $1000 printer, it is not touch screen but it does have a nice tactile clicky wheel near it all mounted onto a fancy brushed steel plate.

Pen and Plastic Rating

"Best budget option foradolescents and tech-savvy parents."

Be aware this printer does not include any filament; some shops state that it includes a sample filament, but this is not enough to create any model with so you will want to factor in an additional $25ish for a 1kg reel of PLA filament. ​

The fantastic thing about this printer is you are free to use any brand of filament so that you can shop around for the best value; I suggest taking a look at our filament guide to make the right choice.


No Instructions were included in the box so I needed to obtain a pdf on the Monoprice site (for reference you can find them here).

The Manual states it comes pre-calibrated but user reports suggest you need to do some tweaking to the constructed table to get it level, this is not a tough process it's only a little tedious and is something which will have to be carried out by a cautious older adult or teen. Feeding the filament is small fiddly (similar to this sentence!) Itis not difficult it is simply not easy to tell as soon as you've completed it successfully. Some users have reported cutting the end of the filament with an angle might help.


Monoprice Recommends using Cura, Repetier, Replicator-G or Simplify3D applications, which is astonishing compatibility. All are highly regarded, and a person used to computers will have no problem navigating their way around a number of these with some practice.

I'd Urge Cura since it can prepare components for you or provide you total manual control and everything in between. Having the ability to use third-party applications is one of the huge advantages of this Select Mini since it opens up a whole world of innovative configurations and CAD model preparation that's no different to what's done in industry.


This 3D printer is fairly loud; I would say you'll have to have the ability to keep it in a room which you could walk out of and shut the door on. It will have an SD card slot, and I would advise that you move files to it this way. Then you can keep your computer or notebook separate from it builds away; the large color LCD makes this a doddle.

The test part printed quickly, and without any issues, the quality is excellent, and with a few tweaks to the build, it could easily be improved. The construct speed is a bit on the slow side, but this is because the Z-resolution is rather high so is the price you pay high quality.

You have a ton of freedom with the minimaker! Fiddle with the settings to reach a compromise between speed and quality.

This 3D printer is fairly loud; I would say you'll have to have the ability to keep it in a room which you could walk out of and shut the door on. It will have an SD card slot, and I would advise that you move files to it this way. Then you can keep your computer or notebook separate from it builds away; the large color LCD makes this a doddle.

The test part printed quickly, and without any issues, the quality is excellent, and with a few tweaks to the build, it could easily be improved. The construct speed is a bit on the slow side, but this is because the Z-resolution is rather high so is the price you pay high quality.

What I didn't like

Although Monoprice state it is possible to construct using ABS filament, I need to state my test pieces weren't that effective and I think it's because the heated bed doesn't get hot enough.

The specs state a maximum bed temperature of 140°F, but ABS wants something closer to 220°F. If you think you will need to print ABS components, then I'd suggest looking at another machine.

However, this fact shouldn't undermine the quality of the printer when using PLA material, I'd suggest thinking of this as a PLA just printer, and therefore, it's still a bargain.

Technical Specifications

4.7" x 4.7" x 4.7"
3.7inch LED
+13 years
Yes (not hot enough for ABS)


  • Easy to use
  • WiFi Connectivity
  • Closed printer
  • Clever LCD screen
  • Excellent customer support and product reputation


  • Can only print PLA
  • Single Extruder


If You're looking to purchase a first 3D Printer to get a teenager, do not look any farther than the Monoprice Select Mini. It's excellent value for money at about $200. This printer has its quirks but nothing that would make you regret purchasing it. If your children have shown any interest in technology and you have only the smallest amount of practical capability to repair the odd thing which may go wrong then this printer is a winner.

Engineering Is about solving problems, and this 3D printer is a tool which gives you the power and freedom to do that, and I am confident it will turn just about any curious young mind in an Engineer. Bargain of the year!

4: Sindoh 3DWOX DP 200

Unlike Most 3D printers, you will see the DP200 appears more like a home appliance than a piece of laboratory equipment.

The Large translucent front opening makes it seem something like a toaster!

All The mechanics and filament spool are included inside the printer, so from the outside, it is clear that this is a 3D printer developed for using instead of tinkering with.

The Plastic panels that hide the inner systems feel quite solid and give you a great sense that this is a well-tested item.

sindoh 3d printer opened

Pen and Plastic Rating

"Too complicated for small kids, and not as good as the competition in the higher price range"

The filament is contained inside the printer body, it is somewhat bigger than a few of its rivals. But its uniform block shape makes it a lot easier to keep on a desk beside you than more open designs which need space for one to get filaments and removable covers.

The Bigger footprint thankfully means the DP200 also has a very generous build volume. In 8.3″ x 7.9″ x 7.3″, it is one of the greatest for a house spec 3D printer. Therefore, if you have some large models in mind, the DP201 will deal well.


The DP200 comes fully assembled, so the initial steps are plugging it in, including the filament and calibrating the mattress.

Like The FlashForge Finder, the color display guides you through the calibration procedure. This makes it a super simple job.

One Of the important advantages of the 3DWOX DP200 is the filament comes in a cartridge which you slip into your 3d printer, much like a traditional paper printer.

This Filament cartridge system massively simplifies one of the major manual processes which other 3D printers have problems with. This means you're not as likely to suffer from problems due to the improperly loaded filament in addition to making the process only have a matter of seconds.

Thanks To each of these innovations built into the DP200, moving from unboxing to your initial 3D print should not take more than about 20 minutes!


The DP200 includes Sindoh's own 3DWOX Desktop slicing software. It has two modes, simple and innovative, which give you as much control over your document preparation as you desire.

The simple mode is well-designed and will provide you with dependable, quality prints in many circumstances.

As you get more information, you can proceed to advanced mode and begin playing with the settings to know more about 3D print preparation and also further enhance the quality of your prints.

You can also use the free and highly regarded Cura software with the DP200 with its built-in profile which will provide you with optimum settings for your printer.


Once you have sent your 3D print document to your printer, there is not any more to do other than press launch.

You can even watch the progress of your 3D print remotely, due to a built-in webcam within the printer!

Although It sounds like a small gimmick, it is quite a handy feature which lets you do your life while just periodically assessing your prints advancement.

The DP200 is a silent 3D printer, at approximately 50 dB, the completely enclosed workings sound like a normal office printer.

Once Your prints are done, eliminating them is extremely easy due to a removable and flexible print bed. You must bend the mattress, and the prints will peel off.

When using the standard high-quality settings, the printing quality is wonderful. Little details are rendered perfectly with only a hint of coating lines.

At Maximum quality, a coating thickness of 0.05mm is achievable which leads to stunning part quality that you're unlikely to be able to fault.


The DP200 is only going to work with Sindoh's filaments. This means that you are limited to the colors and materials they choose to make available. This is done to make sure you use filaments that will work reliably on your printer.

Fortunately, The Sindoh filaments are of top quality and will lead to the most dependable prints. Unlike some other proprietary filaments, they're also very competitively priced, and you do not need to get a whole cartridge every time.

You can purchase a refill spool which you insert inside your current cartridge.

The DP200 can print with ABS; you want to consider venting, as the fumes given off are somewhat toxic. As a result of this, you need to keep it in a living room which has good ventilation or invest in an air purifier. See my post on ventilating your 3D printer.

Technical Specifications

100 microns
~7.9" x 7.9" x 7.3"
5 inch color screen
Older kids


  • Great for kids
  • The most affordable printer in this review
  • Safe, uses a closed printing build


  • Can only print with PLA
  • Print quality not comparable with the Robo 3D R1 for example
  • times-circle-o
    No heated bed or auto-leveling feature 


If You do not mind splashing the cash, then you can not go wrong purchasing the Sindoh 3DWOX DP200. Although it is a very capable, close professional grade machine, the competition in the sub $1000 bracket simply out competes it.

This printer is also not suitable for small children. However, if your teenaged son or daughter has some 3D printing expertise,  then this is an excellent gift for them.

The DP200 is also a superb choice for parents who wish to treat themselves! Find out how to use it yourself and then teach your children what you know. 


3D Printing is a really rewarding hobby that tens of thousands of adults are taking up, but don't just let your children have all of the fun! 

Buying a 3D printer is a great excuse to spend some money on yourself while being the hero dad / mom that got his or her kid a fancy new toy!

Continue reading

How to 3D print your own figurines

No, you don’t need super advanced 3D modeling skills to make your figurines. I am going to teach you the three easy steps you need to create your first 3D printed Yoda, Batman, or even of a model of yourself!

As a 3D artist, I am in love with 3D scanning, and I have used it a ton in the past for figurines and models I’ve needed for various projects. Recently I've started applying it by creating three-dimensional scans for 3D printing, and in this article, I am going to show you how to make your own 3D printed action figures.

What do you need to print your own figurines

Whether you have 3d modeling skills or not, to make your action figure there are three basic things that you need to have access to:

  • 3D Scanning Software
  • An Xbox Kinect
  • A 3D Printer

The first tool you need to add to your arsenal is a copy of either Reconstruct Me or Skanect. This will be the software you use to construct and edit your 3D scanned model.

reconstuct me

The second piece of equipment you need is an Xbox Kinect (check current lowest price) make sure it is one with a normal USB port, purchasable on Amazon, and not a proprietary Xbox port; this is crucial for getting it to work with your PC.

Xbox Kinect
xbox USB connector

Finally, you will have to buy a 3D printer of your own. If you want to go on the cheap here, check out our post for printers under $500. 

robo 3d printer

The 3D printer shown above is the Robo 3D R1+, it is what we use and one of the best currently on the market. It's currently selling on Amazon for under $400.

Owning a 3D printer is cheaper than ever, and it will enable you to print anything from the larger action figures to very small miniatures, which can be used for various role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.

We will also show you what to do for both after you've gotten all your gear together.

Scanning with the Kinect

you'll want to open your scanning application if you're a beginner without 3d modeling skills.

And you’re going to want to use the Xbox’s Kinect. The Kinect allows you to go from scanning to cleaning up the model to printing the model very easily.

No other skills are required. However, if you are versed in 3d modeling, I highly recommend using Reconstruct Me.

Reconstruct me gives you a little bit more detail to work with. However, more cleanup work is required before you start scanning.

Here are a couple of things to consider:

The Kinect has two cameras on it one is an infrared camera that scans depth and 3d space the other one is a normal camera that captures color but to use these properly you need a certain amount of space.

About a 10 to 15foot radius generally around your subject and do not wear anything that's reflective because the bouncing light from the reflective clothing might be wearing will confuse the camera and confuse the depth. This will screw up your 3d model.

Natural sunlight has a lot of infrared frequencies in it, and since the infrared camera on the Kinect uses these frequencies to gauge the depth of the object, that will also start throwing off your scanning program.

You want to make sure that you've set your scanning area (your scanning box) to be as close to that person as possible to maximize the resolution of the scan.

I find it helpful to turn the monitor around so I can see it while I'm scanning, consider purchasing a USB extension so you can have the freedom to walk around the room.

Scanning with the Xbox Kinect

Pictures in this article sourced from Sam and Niko's DIY 3D printed action figurines video

When you’ve set a good scan area, as shown in the picture above, you want to start scanning. 

You have to explore every nook and cranny of your object, to capture all the details. This part take some practice, you also have to make sure you scan the form a top-down angle to properly scan some of the upward facing details. 

This technique works really when when trying to create a 3D printed figurine of yourself!

3D Software Modelling

So, here is our first scan of the model, there is still a few small errors in our model, but that's okay since Skanect can clean that up.

Skanect modelling

I'm going to fill some holes and colorize it, in case we want to print this in color.

Now, this is going to go back through and take all the color data from the camera and make that into a texture.

Skanect coloring

That looks pretty cool, the last thing we want to do before printing this is to crop out the ground plane. As you can see, there is a lot of terrain in the model, and you'd want to crop that out. In Skanect it is very easy, just orbit around the model and select what you don’t want and crop it using the “Move and Crop” feature.

So now that we've modeled, we're going to show you the reconstruct me version.

This technique is slightly more highly detailed and much better when you're trying to make a figurine which is small with tiny details.

Now, to showcase what Reconstruct Me can do, we are going to show you how to add a 3D modeled sword to your model.

When you're scanning it's hard to hold perfectly still for 30 seconds and when holding high detail objects such as a sword, there's natural wobble and shake to these objects.

3D figurine with modeled sword

It's very difficult for the scanner to model that properly. In this case, our sword is very reflective - bad idea for scanners and that one is super solid actually, and just with the tiny bit of cleanup, there were good to go.

As you'll see with your first import into your 3D program of choice that we have similar issues.

I will go into the vertices of the model shown in the picture below, and you can quickly select them all and delete the ground plane. It's good to select all your elements and then deselect the piece you want to keep and hit delete.

filling holes in your model before 3D printing

As you can see from the screenshot above, there is no color and no texture.

But this time, we don't need that.

Because of the detail level that we're going to be printing at, we're going to paint these on our own.

The last step you want to do is use a modifier that will fill the holes up. You want to use a modifier in 3D Studio Max called “cap holes.”

If you're not using 3D Studio Max, then I'm sure there is an equivalent feature in whatever program you are using. The last step is to scale it to the size you want to print it.

If you're making a miniature for Dungeons and Dragons, about an 1.5 inches in height is good. If you're making a miniature just for yourself, it can be any size, but just be aware bigger gets the more expensive it gets, not to mention the printing time can get exceptionally long

Thereafter, just hook up our 3D printer (here's a list of good cheap options if you do not own one yet) to your computer, follow the instructions on the printer, and make your model come to life!

I hope you have learned something from this small introduction into the world of 3D scanning and 3D printing if you guys want to try this out I highly recommend trying out either Skanect or Reconstruct Me depending on your skill level. 

To check out our other resources on 3D printing, head back to our 3D printing page or read one of the related posts below. As always, feel free to share your comments and ideas for figurines you would like to see printed! 

Continue reading

3D printing problems and solutions

This article was translated and modified, the original text Russian text can be found here.

We continue the series of articles started with part 1, which was devoted to polymers. 

This part will be devoted to the theory and practice of 3D printing, and I will try to answer questions and provide you not only with theoretical knowledge but also some practical solutions.

For starters, let's take a quick look at the well-known technology that is FDM printing. 

What could be simpler? You have a plastic rod that goes into the "magic hot melting pot," otherwise known as the extrusion head, and as the filament melts, it is gradually extruded like toothpaste. As this process continues, your printout grows

Simple right, but hold on a second.

FDM extrusion

As soon as the plastic filament rod starts heating in the channel, it begins to expand. 

At the end of the article called "3D Printing with Polymers", I discussed this issue and gave the following general advice: do not heat the plastic above the necessary temperature. 

If you follow this advice, you will achieve good adhesion between your 3D print's layers, because you would be paying heed to the shrinkage characteristics of heated plastics discussed in the previously.

For each of the plastics used in 3D printing, this temperature is, of course, unique and is indicated in the temperature range which was experimentally established by the manufacturer. This temperature range is typically written on the package. 

Why does the manufacturer give a range, and not a specific temperature?

Well, the uses of 3D printer filament vary from the typical to the very bizarre! For some prints, you need the highest detail when printing small objects, and someone prints require the final product to be large, and you need to up the printing speed.

Sometimes you need only a model or a non-functional prototype, and sometimes it is important for the print to have the maximum mechanical strength.

general rule of thumb: the lower the print temperature of a particular plastic, the higher the detail that can be obtained, but the less the mechanical strength of the printout

How to increase the print strength without increasing printing temperature? 

To get an answer to this question, you can venture into the mathematical jungle, and try to remember your high school physics lessons about Van Der Waal's forces ... but instead here is an illustrative real-life example:

Have you ever tried to separate two flat sheets of glass lying on top of each other? The larger their area and the more level they are, the greater the contact surface area and the more difficult it is to separate them. 

The same goes for 3D print layers. The larger the contact surface of the subsequent print layer with the previous one, the better the adhesion between them. 

So, what affects the size of this area, except the area of the printout layer itself? 

The largest impact on the area of contact between the layers is the size of the nozzle and the temperature of the print. The higher the temperature, the less viscous plastic comes out of the hot-rod, so it better "wets" the surface of the previous layer.

What is interesting is that theoretically, the rougher the surface of the previous printout layer, the better its adhesion to the subsequent layer, at the proper printing temperature! 

layer adhesion

The illustration shows three versions of layer sections: 

  1. is a typical result of a too low printing temperature
  2. an ideal variant, when the plastic flowability is sufficient to fill the unevenness of the previous layer
  3. an imaginary super ideal variant of the increased area of the gluing due to the uneven surface of the previous layer.

Something that's very visible in no.1 above, especially if you printed with transparent plastic, is that the printout begins to shine all over the thickness as if everything is permeated with thin silvery threads. In fact, these silvery threads are the air left between the layers.

Most of the air remains at the junctions of the perimeter of the layer, as the plastic extruded is not rectangular, but a rectangle with rounded edges. The rounded edges leave spaces which are filled with air. This reduces the strength of the printout. 

Another pro tip: The number of joints can be reduced by reducing the number of elements forming the joint! Thereby indirectly increasing the strength of your print.

Of course, the perfect plastic filament would have properties that are entirely homogeneous.  But we are talking about 3D printing here, and perfection is simply not achievable.

Therefore, to obtain the most robust printout, you need to maximize nozzle diameter and layer thickness, thus reducing the number of elements!

The thickness of the layers can not be increased too much, nor can the diameter of the nozzle. There are also advantages to having a smaller nozzle diameter, as it allows for more accurate detailing.

Thus the question is how much should you increase the nozzle diameter by

Slicer Settings

Slic3r is a tool which translates digital 3D models into instructions that are understood by a 3D printer.

It slices the model into horizontal layers and generates suitable paths to fill them.. So how do nozzle diameter and layer height affect slicer settings

Slicer does not detect what kind of nozzle your printer has. And it will not be able to tell if you've entered the wrong settings for nozzle diameter! 

And that's why, for the printer management program, as well as for the slicer which generates the code for the control program, the nozzle diameter and layer height are the two variables which are used for calculating the amount of plastic filament which must be pushed through the hot end. 

However, if you are confident in your abilities as a 3D printing artist, you can experiment with setting the nozzle diameter bigger or smaller what it actually is. But here, as elsewhere, there are limits. 

Be careful not to overdo this, as the software reduction of the nozzle diameter can give instability to the plastic flow and its breakdown from the nozzle. This is especially noticeable in the filling. So if you are constantly tearing the filling grid - just increase the nozzle diameter.

nozzle diameter effect on printing

The photo shows the results of prints made with a 1.2mm nozzle. In the parameters of the slicer, nozzles 2, 1.5, 1.3, 1, 0.8, 0.5 mm are shown in series. 

It is not necessary to use the same nozzle diameter for all 3D prints! If you want to know how to change these settings, take a look the screenshot from Slider below.

slicer screenshot

It is possible to set the software nozzle diameter to 2mm, and leave 1mm for perimeters and solid filling. Or vice versa. 

3d printing examples

The photo shows the results of these two options. 

The correct ratio of the diameter of the nozzle to the thickness of the layer. 

It should be clear that if the layer thickness is equal to the nozzle diameter, then the printout will be nothing more than a bundle of loosely glued bars of equal diameter nozzle! This  can be seen from the illustration in the upper right corner.

The diagram shows a table of the most suitable ratios for nozzle diameter and layer height.. In general, the smaller the layer height, the less adjust the nozzle diameter while still achieving good print quality. The golden ratio for nozzle diameter vs layer height is about 2-4 to 1. 

So, what is the disadvantage of setting the layer height much lower than the nozzle diameter? Up to some limit, the layer height can be reduced, but not ad-infinitum, as errors begin to accumulate over time and artifacts are formed on the surface (external perimeter) of the printout. This happens  because the flow of plastic is forced to spread over the not perfectly flat surface of the previous layer, thus increasing the error from layer to layer or repeating it with a slight offset. 

If we increase layer height, these errors are concealed and become less noticeable with each new layer.

print example 1
print example 1

*These printouts were made with a nozzle dameter of 1.2mm (with slicer nozzle diameter set at 2mm) and with a layer height of 0.4, 0.3, 0.2, 0.15, 0.1 mm. It is easy to see that on the printout with a layer of 0.1mm, artifacts of the surface appeared. See the closeup shot in the second picture above.

Based on the points raised above, we can conclude that the correct ratio of nozzle diameter to layer height should be observed in order to obtain the best quality printouts. 

What about printing speed?

Simply put,  printing speed primarily affects the volume of plastic, which must be heated and pressed through a nozzle of a certain diameter. 

The most significant limitations of printing speed are the following two parameters: 

  1. the thermal power of the hot-rod (it is required to melt the plastic) 
  2. the nozzle diameter ( molten plastic must pass through it)

Do you remember this calculation from high school algebra: Can you calculate how much you need to increase the diameter of a pipe so that the water flows through it twice as fast?

It turns out that if we have a specific printer at home or at work, then we can increase it's printing speed only by increasing the temperature of the melt (increasing the power supplied to the hot-end) and increasing the nozzle diameter. 

And back to the algebra question... in order to double printing speed, you only have to increase nozzle diameter by about 1.4 times, but I am sure you remembered that from high school :=)


So, we increased the printing speed by 2 or even 3 times. Great job! But here's the catch: according to the law of conservation of energy, if we start to heat the plastic 2-3 times faster, then it must cool just as fast.

Otherwise, completely unplanned malfunctions caused by plastic shedding are possible, especially if you print with plastics with a low glass transition temperature (simply - for a long time, solidifying). These plastics include PLA and its mixtures,  most impact and frost-resistant plastics, as well as thermoplastic elastomers.

defects in a 3d print

 3D printing tips and tricks

  • You should, if your printer allows it, experiment with all available materials on the market - this will help to understand the range of possibilities available to you. 
  • Use nozzles for the same size purposes; it is necessary to have several of them from 0.2 to 1.2mm 
  • Do not hesitate to use the software nozzle diameter adjustment, use different extrusion widths for different types of filling 
  • Select the height of the layer according to the nozzle diameter 
  • Choose the printing temperature according to the size of the printout and the diameter of the nozzle 
  • It is mandatory to use cooling when increasing the speed of printing and printing complex objects 
  • Select the blowing power according to the printing speed


We have now come to the end of our 2 part series on the subtleties of 3D printing. I hope that you learnt something from these articles, and be sure to check out all of our other 3D printing resources and reviews.

Good luck and may the 3D printing gods smile upon your prints!

Continue reading

3D Pen Templates and Stencils – Get Your Free Downloads Inside

3D Pens are becoming more and more popular nowadays. This inexpensive, unusual and cool device turns a simple drawing into an exciting and interesting activity for the whole family. Moreover, buying a 3D pen for your child is a great idea.

If you haven't bought a one yet, or are looking to buy one for your kids, then check out our 3D pen buyers guide.

This will help you select the best pen, with some great recommendations for kids. As an additional word of encouragement, getting a 3D pen for a child will allow him or her to develop creativity, assiduity, accuracy, and improve motor skills.

All the while serving as a permanent distraction from the computer, smartphone or tablet.

A 3D pen has a hot tip that melts the plastic filament, and therefore is not suitable for very small children. Even the most child friendly beginner 3D pens such as the 3Doodler Start recommends ages 8 and above. We suggest adult supervision during the learning phase, you don't want little fingers touching the hot nozzle.

What makes 3D art Special?

That’s a difficult question to answer without the use of an old cliche: Because the possibilities are endless! As you may know, 3D pens use plastic filament, and these come in a variety of colors.

Therefore, you are able to  draw on any surface, from plain paper to glass and ceramics. With a little experience, diligence and patience, you or your child will learn to draw amazing, bright drawings and objects.

Let's take a look at some of the advantages of using a 3D pen more traditional art forms.

Firstly, drawings made with pencils, pens, or paints remain in albums, or in the best case scenario can be mounted in a frame and be hanged on the wall. Art drawn with a 3D pen is a completely different story.

Secondly, you have the option of creating something in 2D, but the possibilities go much further than that.

It also allows you to make voluminous and vivid drawings that can be used as interior decorations, toys, fashion accessories and perhaps even something functional. You can take a look at my 3D art portfolio for some inspiration.

Why should you use 3D Pen Stencils?

As you may have noticed, 3D drawing is something which adults and children find equally fascinating. After all, it's so interesting to create drawings that "come alive" before our eyes. Moreover, even the lack of the ability to draw is not a problem.

With the help of 3D pen stencils and templates it is easy to make not only a simple toy, but also make an operating model of a car or build a model of a whole city.

The use of templates in 3D art is not the same as the use of stencils in 2D drawings, it can be used for professional purposes. The video below is form my YouTube channel and here I explain the process of using a stencil to create 3D art.

How and where do I start?

We recommend to begin from making 2D drawings. Practicing on usual children's coloring pages. You also need to be mindful of choosing the correct filament. We recommend you stick to ​PLA  or ABS to start off with.

After a couple of practice drawings you try something different, perhaps even wood or metal filament!

If you didn't know these 3D printing materials existed, please read our post about 3D filaments, you will be surprised to see what's possible. To start off with, you can print any picture you like from the Internet or draw it yourself. But even if you are an experienced artist, it is better to start with a simple image which does not contain many details.

You will need paper and tracing paper so that the plastic does not stick to the stencil. If you can't think of anything to draw then take a look at some free examples provided by us!

If you want, draw the picture yourself and turn it into a voluminous decoration of the room and interior and start circling the drawing in the same way as with a conventional pen.

But if this seems too easy for you, then we offer several stencils created by professionals.

Here are some free stencils which you can download from us for free:

Show me my free stencils (click on a stencil and right click save as)

Bonus for December 2017: A Christmas gift from me!


Holidays are coming. If you are looking for cool Christmas gifts for your children then look no further. What can be a better than developing the artist inside your kid by buying them a 3D pen this Christmas. I have some recommendations for you, depending on your budget and the age of your child. Read more here.

I also painted a few snowflake stencils for festive decorations or to use as ornaments for your Christmas tree. Hope you guys have fun painting these and happy Christmas holidays from Pen and Plastic.

Show me my bonus Christmas stencils (click on a stencil and right click save as)

Enough with the 2D, it is time to start working with 3D! 

When you've mastered 2D images and drawings  and you can confidently control the speed and temperature settings of the 3D pen, the next step is to create three-dimensional objects. Here are some examples of 3D pen templates you can purchase from Amazon:

On their 3D simo's web-site they also offer some free stencils which can help you to create some amazing 3D things like Easter eggs and pots etc. Just click on this link and go to Templates.

With the help of stencils and templates for 3D-pens, you can create a lot of interesting 3D art. Remember that the plastic used in 3D pens are available in a huge palette

Putting it all together, literally!

Using stencils, you can create parts of the model. Make a framework, draw a contour and fill it with layer-by-layer application of plastic threads. When you are finished with the details you can use your 3D pen as a glue-gun!

Connect the pieces together in the order shown in the template instructions. In this way you can make, for example, your own the Eiffel Tower, glasses, a bicycle, a butterfly or many other interesting things.

When you buy a beginner 3d pen, you probably have some stencils to experiment with already, just check the box!  Should you need something more specific, then buy a specialized template. On Amazon you can find whole sets of thematic templates and full three-dimensional paintings. Start small, then work you're way up.

Hopefully you will learn to master the art of 3D drawing so that you will eventually create objects through free-hand drawing and don't even need to use a stencil or template.

If you liked this post or have something to share please drop us a comment and we will answer as soon as possible. If you would like to share this then click on one of the handy social sharing icons below!  

Continue reading

3D printing with polymers

This article was translated and modified, the original text can be found in Russian at

Welcome to the subtleties of 3D printing.

This series of articles will address many of the issues facing those who print with FDM 3D printers and will offer a comprehensive resource to all of their questions.

In the 3D printing community as a whole, and even more so on the topic of plastics  in particular, there is a huge amount of information available.

But in spite of this wealth of information, time and time again beginners and even proffesionals have the same questions when setting up their printer, changing the plastic, nozzle or struggle with planning the size of a printed model.

Even seemingly well-developed plans and approaches fail, and to many beginners, it feels as if 3D printing is a kind of witchcraft, shamanism, and there is no hope other than shaking tambourines and delivering patronage to higher powers.

And, as paradoxical as it may seem, many of the 3D printing resources you will find are right, in a broad sense at least. Yes, everyone is right!

But why the recurring questions, always on the same topics? And how do you explain why there are numerous ways of solving the same problems?

3d printing meme

With this in mind, the author has taken it upon himself to take the time and responsibility to light the way for everyone.

Having traveled this road once, you will gain an understanding, not in the ways to solve different issues, but rather in the methods and principles of finding solutions for non-standard tasks.

That is, this series of articles can be considered as educational, filled only with proven knowledge, as opposed to a host of entrenched “pigeon superstitions.”

American psychologist Skinner conducted this experiment. He planted a pigeon in a cage and, through equal intervals of time, poured food into the cage. What did the pigeons do? Surprisingly, they decided that it depended on their behavior whether they get food or not. And they began to do exactly what they were doing just before the appearance of food. For example, if the pigeon hid his head under the wing, and then the food appeared, that pigeon then began constantly hiding his head under its wing – in the hope that there would be food.

After that little anecdote, the preface is concluded. Now we will move on to the basics, which, without mastering, it is impossible to understand and assimilate the information contained in this series thoroughly.


What are polymers? I struggled for a long time with the temptation to quote an article from Wikipedia, but somehow I didn’t succumb, and throughout this series, I will try, wherever possible and justified, to write in my own words.

The distinctive property of a polymer is the size of the molecules from which they consist – macromolecules. In many respects, this determines the material’s mechanical properties. Each polymer molecule consists of a chain of monomer units linked together. The more these links in the molecule, the larger it’s molecular weight. Thus the higher the degree of polymerization.

Types of polymers

Polymers can be divided into two broad groups: thermoplastics (about which we will talk further later) and thermosetting plastics.

I will spare you a science lesson about Van der Waals forces, which unite the molecules of thermoplastics, unlike the chemical bonds found in thermosets.  In short, the main difference between the two plastics can be defined as the possibility or impossibility of softening and processing the polymer.
All familiar epoxy and polyester resins, for example, belong to the thermoset group. These dissolve or melt, but cannot be reworked.

Thermoplastics, on the other hand, are polymers that can repeatedly be processed and molded without significant structural changes and deterioration of their mechanical characteristics.

Here it is worth noting that most thermoplastics you would purchase for 3D printing has already been softened and molded, possibly more than once. The manufacturers also most likely added a dye to these plastics to color them.

The most important thing that must be learned is that the molecular mass (from now on MM) of the polymer has a significant, and in many ways, determining the value of the material’s fluidity, impact resistance and overall strength of the final product.

Also in this chapter, it is worth mentioning that there are two main groups of thermoplastics, distinguished by the type of construction of the macromolecule:

  1. Homopolymers (consist of identical repeating monomeric units)
    Homopolymers include a homopolymer of styrene-polystyrene (PS) or a homopolymer of propylene-polypropylene (PP ).
  2. Copolymers (chains of molecules of which consist of two or more different structural links).
    This group includes, for example, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS).

Among the copolymers, a further distinction can be made, called block copolymers (macromolecules of which consist of regularly or statistically alternating homopolymer blocks differing in composition or structure.)
Block copolymers include thermoplastic elastomers whose macromolecules consist of thermoplastic blocks (polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene) and flexible elastomer blocks (polybutadiene, polyisoprene, random copolymers of butadiene with styrene (PBS) (SBS) (SBR) or ethylene with propylene ( EPDM)).
Simply put, these are various synthetic rubber thermoplastic elastomers (TEPs).

You need to be aware of these when choosing your 3D printer filament.

Types of thermoplastics

Thermoplastics, which are the only polymer used in 3d printers, can be divided into 2 main groups: amorphous and partially crystallized.

Amorphous thermoplastics include polystyrene (PS), impact-resistant polystyrene (HIPS) and thermoplastic elastomers (TEP). Amorphous thermoplastics in their unpainted state are transparent, like glass.

Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) has a unique amorphous and partially crystallized structure.

Partially crystallizable polymers include polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyamides (PA 6, PA 66 – nylon ), polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

The most important difference from a 3D printing perspective between these two groups is their shrinkage!

Crystallized materials have a high shrinkage and shrinkage anisotropy, suggesting that the products printed from these plastics will crack and crumble most severely. This is especially noticeable in the example of polyamide (nylon) – shrinkage 1.5-2.5%, polypropylene (PP) – shrinkage 1.8-2.5% or polyethylene (PE) – shrinkage 2.0-5.0%!

The shrinkage of ABS varies from 0.4 to 2.0% depending on the brand. Polystyrene shrinkage (PS) varies from 0.4 to 0.8%. The shrinkage of styrene-butadiene rubbers and HIPS largely depends on the content of styrene in their composition and the polymerization, shrinkage here is typically 0.3-2% depending on the grade.

Finally, we have the most popular 3D printing plastic, PLA (polylactide lactic acid). This strange substance, unlike all the above, is obtained from the polymerization of lactide, which in turn is obtained by polycondensation of lactic acid. Despite being made from the same compound as dairy products, this product has little to do with cottage cheese and cows. And much like yogurt, not all polylactides are equally useful!

There are several varieties of PLA with a wide variety of properties and very different physical and mechanical characteristics.

Hygroscopicity of polymers


Water boils when heated, and when boiling it turns into steam – making a phase transition. This transition is accompanied by a significant expansion. When this transition takes place in a bathhouse or in Kamchatka’s geysers – the first is useful, and the second is beautiful – but when this process begins in the 3D printer extruder, this is bad news. Your printer starts making strange clicking sounds, accompanied by extrusion passes and holes in the perimeters, uneven extrusion, foaming and other non-aesthetic processes delivering many headaches to users.

A lot has been said and written on how to store and dry the filament, but the trouble is – if during the bar production an important technological stage of granulate drying (of course with the aim of reducing the cost of production) was missed, which takes 4 to 6 hours for ABS with hot air at 80C, or this stage is shortened, then a filament is produced, which contains bubbles containing water vapor formed by the expanding moisture. To mitigate this you can attempt to dry it in the oven, but even this is extremely difficult …

There will be gaps in the extrusion since the air doesn’t expand like the moisture when exposed to the extruders hot tip.

So think for yourself, is it worth it to buy cheap plastic then having to dry it yourself in the oven, or are you more interested in just 3d printing? Or maybe you even want to hang a tambourine on the wall and forget about drying and proper storage of filaments? To solve for you, I only indicate opportunities.

Which type of thermoplastic is the most hydroscopic?

First place for the title of becoming Sponge Bob Squarepants is awarded to PLA (polylactide, PLA)! Depending on the brand, temperature, and humidity, it is able to absorb from 1% to 4% of its own weight as moisture.

The second place is confidently occupied by PA-66 (polyamide, it’s also nylon) with a result of 0.4% of its own weight as moisture.

The third place is occupied by ABS with an average result of 0.2%.

This brief overview of the polymers suitable for 3D printing using FDM can be considered complete.

If you are a boring chemist, then this might be very disappointing, but it was not my intention to write a thesis on the topic, but only to acquaint the readers with a general picture written in broad strokes. I hope that you’ve read up to this point, since from here onwards this article will become more cheerful with pictures! :)

So, let’s move on to the next chapter:

What is MFI?

And where does the molecular weight of the polymer (MM) come from and how is this all connected with shrinkage during printing?

Many of you might have, while wandering through the expanses of the Internet in search of an answer to why life is so plastic, stumbled upon this mysterious three letter acronym: MFI.

MFI (Melt Flow Index, measured in grams), is in simple terms, how many grams of polymer, heated to a certain temperature, can flow out under a certain pressure through a hole of a certain size in 10 minutes.

Unfortunately knowing the MFI of a plastic is not very helpful as different types of plastic and plastic manufacturers use different pressures, hole sizes and temperatures to perform this measurement.

Melt Flow Index

This is especially evident in the MFI of ABS plastic, where 3 different methods can be used to measure the same polymer (You can use a 5 kg weight at 200 ° C, a weight of 3.8 kg at 230 ° C or load 10 kg at 220 ° C.) which will give 3 different results. So much for exact science in the 3D printing industry.

However, you, dear 3D printers, need not delve into this too deeply. All this is the headache of rod producers! The only reason I mention this is so that you know when comparing MFI measurements you are comparing apples to apples.

Let me simplify, if the MFI is lower it means that the polymer is thicker. And the polymer is thicker, the harder it is to press through a small hole in the nozzle of the 3D printer extruder.

Before you say: “Hooray, now I understand everything!” – I warn you not to jump to conclusions! The thing is that indirectly, a low MFI index correlates with a greater molecular weight of the polymer. As I wrote above, it is the molecular mass of a polymer that largely determines its mechanical properties. In particular, strength and impact resistance. And here everything is exactly the opposite – the lower the MFI, the better.

Flow index

As it often happens in life, there are no ideal solutions – there are only compromises. The graph shows the choices of thermoplastic characteristics and indicates the zone of possible compromise between strength and printing speed, shown as the zone where the blue and pink curves intersect.

The blue area reflects the relationship between the possible print speed ( Vp ) and the polymer melt flow ( MFI ). The pink area reflects the relationship between the MFI and the molecular weight ( MW) .

Since polymers are not Newtonian fluids, fortunately for us their fluidity increases with increasing flow velocity, which partly compensates for the decrease in printing speed with increasing molecular weight, expanding the range of applicability of various polymers for 3D printing.
* The graph is given for clarity, exact values should not be looked for here!

It would seem that everything depends on this graph, but don’t forget about shrinkage!

When you start 3D printing you will soon encounter a problem all of us have faced, the manufacturer of the plastic has requested a ridiculously high printing temperature. Why is this, what is the reason for these rising printing temperatures?

The thing is that, as the attentive reader has probably noticed, the MFI is very relative, and this indicator also depends on the melting temperature used. The higher the melting temperature, the higher the fluidity, and the easier it is for the extruder motor to push the molten plastic through the nozzle opening.

Before you have another “Hooray, now I have understood everything!”  moment, wait one second – because sure you can buy a plastic with a high MM and low MFI and print it at 260 C.

But despite its seemingly high strength, expected due to it’s high MM, your printout will break up into layers! And this will happen because while interlayer adhesion (not to mention adhesion to the printer’s printing table) has its final values, the thermal expansion of amorphous polymers does not cease with increasing temperature until it starts to thermally destruct.

For ABS plastics it starts at around 260 C. Namely, thermal destruction in most cases leads to a phenomenon called “clogged nozzle”.

Here is a good rule of thumb: The greater the thermal expansion of the plastic, the more it will shrink after cooling.


This figure graphically shows the growth of adhesion with increasing temperature ( t ) and the graph of thermal expansion / subsequent shrinkage ( Ms – molding shrinkage). The zone with the best ratio of these two parameters can be considered as a flattening of the adhesion growth curve ( Adg ).
* The graph is shown for informational purposes only!

In summary, I do not advise that you print at temperatures greater than the minimum needed for good adhesion between layers.

With that being said, we conclude part one… But do you seriously think that I have told you everything?: D

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for part 2, which deals with common 3D printer problems and solutions.
It will deal with printing defects, and how to eliminate them. We will refer to some of what you just learned from this article, as well as the quality of the filament and how and why it affects printing. There will be a lot of math and boring formulas … just kidding : D

Thanks to those who read this text from start to finish! If you would like to read more about buying a 3D printer, then be sure to check out our budget 3D printer review, as well as our mid-range 3D printer review.

Continue reading

3D Pen Art – My own Ideas and Creations

3D Printing or drawing with a 3D pen can help you to produce many interesting creations. I have been experimenting with various ideas and materials for the last 2 years and in this article I would like to share my experience.

The development of 3D technologies has given rise to many opportunities for creating 3-dimensional art objects and some very innovative, functional art. For me, as for artist it is always interesting to try new art techniques, materials and tools.

My personal experience with 3D pens

When I tried to use my first 3D pen, it wasn't a great experience. Unfortunately, the pen came to me broken, or "dead on arrival" and that is how I have learned my first lesson: "Purchase a 3D pen with a warranty".

 Luckily, Amazon managed to exchange it free of charge, and after that it has become my favorite painting tool. It is extremely easy to fall in love with this technology and it is even easier to create cool 3D prints with this magical little wand.

Me wearing my 3D painted jacket

 You don't need to be an artist, you even don't need any specific knowledge to use this tool. All you need is the desire to create and the time to practice. From my personal experience, I can say that if you want to do something, all you need just to start and do not give up.

In my portfolio page you can see my works, but this is not the full collection of 3d prints which I have created.

When you start using 3D pen, it may take some time to be able to produce good quality 3D creations. 

As most of you, I have started with just stencils and some simple 3d models like flowers and butterflies. It took me at least a few months of practicing to be able to draw my very first bowl and half a year to start with corsets, head wears and bags.

Simple 3D printed decoration for a bowl
More advanced 3d printed bag

More difficult to paint handbag

During this time I broke many pens, trying to found new, more flexible plastic filament materials which I can use with 3d pen.

When I started it was still a new tool and not so many people had experimented with 3d pens and plastics. And of course I had to go through all this my self, from painting on different surfaces to trying different brands and types of plastic .

From very beginning, it wasn't easy for me, BUT it will be much easier for you. Cause all information you need, I am sharing with you, so you can find on this website.

During the last few years a large quantity of good 3D Pens (and poor quality pens) were launched around the world. And I am sure that this is just a beginning.

My very own 3D Pen Ideas

Starting as a kid's toy, the 3d pen evolved into a tool for professional artists and designers. A big variety of pens makes choosing the right one your individual needs more difficult, but it just gives a bigger opportunity for you to realise your 3d ideas and creations.

In this article I will take a look at some of the objects I created and explain to you how to do it. You can be the judge and tell me what you think in the comment section. Let's start with some of the objects I have painted with the 3d pen.

The most of things I will talk about were made with a Flexible plastic which makes it wearable and (in the case of bags) functional. There were many discussion about using flexible plastic with 3D pen. Unfortunately, some pens I experimented with got broken, which made me thing few time before buying more of those. Luckily, the pen from 7TECH  worked great with semi-flexible plastic and it gave me and opportunity to make flexible sheets, which I use as a 'fabric' to create my designs.

Kseniia painting with a 3D pen

Me and my 3D Pen

During the last few years much bigger amount good and not really good quality pens were lounged around the world. And I am sure it is just the beginning. Starting as a kid's toy, the  3d pen soon became a tool from professional artist and designers.

A big variety of pens makes a choice of pen for your self more difficult, but it just gives bigger opportunities for your creations.

After browsing some of the 3d prints from my Portfolio,  don't forget to come back to this page and read about how the creative process behind the individual pieces of art. In this article I will take a look at some of the objects I created and explain the process behind the work.

You can be the judge and tell me what you think in the comment section. Let's start with some of the objects I have painted with the 3d pen.

Most of the objects I want to discuss were made with a flexible plastic which makes it wearable and (in the case of the bags) functional. Whether you can or can't use flexible plastic with a 3D pen is debatable, and I would not advice this plastic for beginners... Rather stick with PLA or ABS .

Decoration for 3D printed objects

Before I started work with more fashionable things and wearable art, I was experimenting with a usual materials for 3d pen - ABS and PLA. This vase was my first real step in 3D art word.

I made it in the beginning of the "Future traditions" project (a collaboration between Norwegian and Hungarian students). As a Norwegian student I decided to take something from Norwegian Folk Art and I chose Rosemaling for my inspiration. Rosemaling is a style of paining flowers to decorate objects such as beds, chairs, walls. It has interesting dynamics of composition and looks quite unique.

3D printed Vase

Decorated Vase

For this shape of pattern, I painted a simplified version on a piece of paper and, as you do with stencils, painted these shapes separately.

Of course I needed more than one shape of patterns. When I had the pieces of puzzle ready, using a usual coffee cup, I painted a circle with a pencil on a paper. That formed the shape for the bottom section. The objects you are making must be stable and it will be great if they can stand by them self. That is why, I don't recommend that you paint on both sides of the bottom part and make it as thick as possible.

At the end of the day you just need to  be able to connect all the parts together. It is more logical to connect them all one by one to the base and then when you finished, connect them together.

You must remember that it is not really possible to make a SUPER PERFECT symmetrical object with a 3d pen. It is an imperfect tool for home use, not a 3D printer which has a precise model to print from. The advantage of this is that every line and object you paint is completely unique. So do not struggle with making it perfect, but try to be neat, because some mistakes are impossible to correct.

Sculpting your 3D drawn objects

Sculpting is one of the ways to make 3d objects. This technique gives you the opportunity of making stiff and unusual sculptures. Of course you will need more plastic, but if you start with a flat shape and then give it volume, you can leave the sculpture empty inside. This trick can make the sculpture lighter and will save you a few hours of work and material costs.

To see how to make sculptures with 3d pen, watch my Youtube tutorial on 'Sculpturing' (Coming Soon ).

Corset and Bra

Some sexy underwear, made of plastic. These two pieces were also made during the "Future Traditions" project.

For those I used lace technique as an inspiration. The idea has been to create "new textiles" inspired by traditional lace techniques. I was trying to retain the artistic expression you can wee in a handmade piece of difficult lace technique. This is the reason why  these two works are extremely detailed and neat. They both consist of pieces made on a flat surface, connected in the same way you would connect clothes. However for the black beast cup I used one more trick. I uesd a bowl to make 3d shape.

An important point to note about flexible plastic is that it is not possible to paint 'in the air' with it. You always need a base.

Handbag and Purse

3d painted purse

During the summer-autumn of 2016 I have made a small collection of bags, using flexible plastic and a 3d pen. The collection includes one backpack, 3 white bags , one black, one purse and two wallets. All of those you can see in my Portfolio.

It has all stared with my mum asked me to paint a case for her iPad mini. I was working already with a flexible plastic, but was more concentrated on making corsets. Unfortunately, experiment with a case for tablet didn't work, but it gave an idea to make a bag. The principle is the same as with corsets: first you paint a 'fabric', then you connect it with 'stitches'.

I liked how I made an imitation of lace for corsets, so with bags I continued this 'crochet' style, but made it more simple and recognizable.

Painting on a canvas

Painting on a canvas is one of my favourite hobbies. Before I started my work with the 3d pen, I was just an ordinary painter =). Painting on canvas with oil, tempera and acrylic was more than my hobby, it was my profession and passion.

For some weird reason however, it took me some time to try to paint with a 3d pen on canvas.

Once I mustered the courage to attempt this, I tried to use PLA and ABS, but these materials do not stick to a normal canvas.

Luckily, flexible plastic does. So in the picture below you can see a painting made on canvas. It is one more great way to use  a 3d pen, but works mostly for graphic art.

For more interesting 3D pen ideas, you can check out my Pinterest album. Let me know if you like a specific piece of art discussed here in the comment section below, and feel free to share my work on Social Media with your friends.

Continue reading

How to Use a 3D Pen

I don't mean to scare you, but the first four 3D pens I bought broke within a very short time. Yes, all of them. 

Want to know why?
Because 3D Pens are very sensitive to overheating, wrong types of plastic filament and extruder clogging. 

Fortunately I haven't had a 3D pen break in quite some time. I have learnt a couple of tricks over the years and I'm happy to share with the best ways to use a 3D Pen.

Let's start with the introductions:
A 3D printing pen is best described as a handheld 3D printer. It uses the same kind of heating element which you would find on a standard 3-dimensional printer, but instead of being controlled by computer software and motors, you guide the pen's extrusion head with your hand.

At this point you should probably have purchased your first pen and some filament (that's the plastic material which you use with your 3D pen to paint objects) , if you have not check out our post on starter 3D pens and which materials they work with.

How does a 3D Pen Work?

A 3D pen works by heating a plastic filament to its melting point and forcing it through the tip of an extruder, how a glue gun works. Once the melted plastic leaves the tip it is very malleable and can be painted onto any surface or molded into any shape.

After leaving the tip the plastic begins to quickly cool down and after a few seconds, the plastic hardens and is molded into whatever shape you have created. In the video below I go over the basics of setting up your pen.

In this video I go over the basics of using a 3D pen.

Choosing the correct 3D pen and filament

Creating plastic art with a 3D pen is fortunately a very affordable hobby. It is possible to get a decent pen and a couple of colours of plastic filament for under $100. If you are able to spend a little bit more then we recommend the 3D Simo Mini, it's great for beginners and pros alike and retails for around $140.

When it comes to buying plastic filament, please check out the post Long story short is that ABS filament is slightly more expensive, but more durable and flexible, therefore for beginners I recommend  PLA filament. To be completely honest I use many kinds of plastic for my 3D projects, but PLA is the best to start with.

How to prepare your 3D Pen for painting

There are a few things to remember when preparing your 3D pen for printing. Firstly, take your 3D pen out of the box and plug it in :). Secondly, set the temperature of the 3D Pen to the temperature appropriate for the type of plastic you are using. IF you are unsure about this, please read our in depth article discussing this.

The picture below gives you the names of the various parts of a 3D pen which I will be referring to throughout this article.

3d pen instructions

Insert the plastic into the pen and wait for the temperature to get hot enough, this should take around 30-60 seconds. Once you're plastic is ready for printing, you can press the wire feeding button as shown in the picture above. The molten plastic will then come out of the pen and will harden in roughly 5 seconds.

What can you create with a 3D Pen?

These pens give you the ability to create 3D objects out of plastic. You can use it to add raised decorative designs to everyday and 3D printed objects, like I did with the vase I printed. You can see more of my 3D ideas and creations here

If this article did not give you any inspiration, you can also cheat a little and use a stencil. I have a whole post where I explain how to use stencils, and even provide you with some free samples to get started. 

3D Printed Flowerpot

These pens can also be used to modify and repair other 3-dimensional printed objects. For more examples please look at my portfolio. Many of the objects in my portfolio are created by using a frame or shape as a basis and then drawing around that.

Ideas for 3D Pen Art

Creating 3D Art from 2D Sketches

By far the easiest way to create 3D "painting" is through the use of 2D sketch and then using the 3D pen to extrude a plastic painting over it. This is a simple process which does not require much explanation but if you want to watch a short tutorial you can take a look at this guide I created. The video is in Russian, but it illustrates the concept well enough.

Creating decorations with an object as your base

One of my favorite past time activities is creating decor for objects which we have in the home. 3D painting works exceptionally well for this purpose. You can simply buy some bland and boring bowl or vase from your local department store, and use it as a "mold" for your print. As usual a picture tells a thousand words, especially when it comes to 3D art, so I have included an example of decor I created for a simple bowl which I bought from interior design store. This kind of plastic decoration is surprisingly durable and will not break during handling or washing.

Create an object from a mold

This can be as little tricky as you have to have a fair amount of experience with a 3D pen to simply freehand draw an object, for example the cat-rabbit-fish hybrid creation shown at the top of this article. Something like this will typically require you to create the shape beforehand, either with paper-mache, cardboard, or whatever material you can mold into your desired shape. Thereafter you extrude the melted plastic onto the shape and once you are roughly 90% completed, you remove the inner contents and you are left with your shape. Thereafter you can add additional layers (possibly in different colors). In the beginning this technique can be quite difficult to execute but once you become more practiced at the art of 3D painting then you will find yourself to use this method more than any other 3D painting technique. Most of the items in my portfolio were created using either this technique, or simply by free-hand 3D painting.


Hopefully this post has helped you to get started with your first adventure in the world of 3-dimensional art. Just remember to keep at it.As with anything in life, becoming proficient with a 3D pen takes practice, and practice, and start today!

If you enjoyed this post please feel free to give feedback in the comment section below. We really appreciate any feedback, and if you have some experience regarding how to use a 3D pen which you would like to share I would love to hear your comments.

Continue reading