It's billed as the first "3D printing pen", and we believe it is indeed the first handheld 3D printer that you can purchase.
Wait, "handheld 3D printer"? That's precisely what it is. The device is held in your hand and slowly waved through 3D space. As it moves, it extrudes melted thermoplastic, just like an extruder. In a sense, YOU are the extrude mechanism.
The product has just been launched on Kickstarter with a very low price of USD$75. Other combos are available with additional plastic material. Anyone could afford this.
We've seen over the past few years many variations of extruders and plastic deposition approaches, but this one is truly unique: there is no mechanism. With that there are advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages include very low cost, due to the absence of mechanical bits, and a dramatically easy way for the public to 3D print. They simply pick up the device and start "3D drawing".
Disadvantages are several: as the extruder is human controlled, it will be massively inaccurate. There will be few industrial parts printed with the 3Doodler. Precise replication of an object is impossible - you can only "print" something once. We suspect thick objects with large amounts of infill will be infrequent as the pen operator would likely get bored or tired of repetitive fill patterns.
More than likely, most users of 3Doodler will simply draw 2D objects in a single line of filament. In fact, 3Doodler seems to focus on the concept of tracing, so they recognize this already. We think that's great, as it will introduce the concept of making to lots of people who might never have considered it.
But what's in this for someone who already has a 3D printer? We can think of one important use: Repairs!
Large, lengthy 3D prints that get broken are a pain. Do you really want to run that 27 hour print again to recover the broken spire on your castle? If not, perhaps you can fix it with your 3Doodler.