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What is the difference between a 3D pen and a normal pen?

Nov 30,2023 | 3D4Create

e3D pens are gaining popularity as futuristic tools that allow users to draw in three-dimensional space. But how exactly do they work, and what sets them apart from ordinary pens?

In this guide, we’ll break down the key differences between 3D pens and classic writing instruments. You’ll learn about the technology inside 3D pens, what normal pens can do, unique capabilities of 3D pens, getting started tips, and proper usage.

I. How 3D Pens Work

3D pens function completely differently from traditional pens that simply deposit ink onto paper. Inside these futuristic devices is FDM or Fused Deposition Modeling technology.

FDM 3D pens precisely melt and extrude plastic filament through a nozzle tip. By guiding the pen smoothly, the liquid plastic can be “drawn” in midair to create freestanding 3D objects as each layer solidifies.

The user controls the pen to trace shapes while the melted filament is deposited precisely using gravity and surface tension. Complex shapes are built up layer by layer thanks to the ability of the cooling plastic to harden quickly.

This ingenious technology allows users to literally sketch 3D models, jewelry, sculptures, and other objects using a handheld pen!

II. Capabilities of Normal Pens

Standard pens used for writing and drawing operate by depositing ink, gel, or other pigmented liquid onto paper. The key functions include:

  • Ink-Based Writing: Ballpoint, rollerball, and fountain pens allow users to write words cleanly.
  • 2D Drawing: Markers, brush pens, and gel pens apply colorful inks for artistic creations on paper.
  • Variety of Types: Pens come in many forms like fine tip, bold tip, erasable, disposable, and refillable options.

But all conventional pens share one thing in common – they are limited to creating marks on flat, 2D surfaces. 3D pens break through that barrier using advanced technology.

Types of Pens: How to Pick a Pen with the Right Ink | JetPens

III. Key Differences Between 3D Pens and Normal Pens

While pens are simple writing tools, 3D pens offer something revolutionary. Here are the main differences:

  • 3D Drawing vs 2D: 3D pens allow drawing of free-standing 3D objects while regular pens only mark flat surfaces.
  • Plastic Filament vs Ink: 3D pens melt and extrude plastic to form objects. Normal pens flow ink onto paper.
  • Fused Layers vs Markings: 3D pen drawings are made of fused plastic layers. Regular pens leave flat pigmented markings.
  • Digital Designs: 3D pens bring digital 3D modeling into the physical world. Normal pens rely fully on human input.

The advanced tech of 3D pens enables designers to bring their creative visions to life in 3D in a way that basic pens simply cannot.

IV. Unique Benefits of 3D Pens

With their futuristic capabilities, 3D pens unlock exciting new possibilities:

  • Create Freestanding 3D Objects – Draw sculptures, models, decorations, jewelry and more in thin air. The extrusions fuse into durable, detailed 3D forms.
  • Endless Design Potential – Unleash your imagination to create anything you can dream up. The possibilities are truly endless with a 3D pen.
  • Promotes Spatial Thinking Skills - Building 3D objects improves understanding of perspective, dimension, and spatial relationships.
  • Bring Digital Ideas to Reality – Transfer 3D modeling files or drawings into real-world physical objects with ease.

For designers, engineers, artists, hobbyists, and kids, 3D pens are creativity powerhouses!

V. Getting Started with 3D Pens

Interested in unlocking the magic of 3D drawing yourself? Here are some tips:

  • Choose the Right Model – Consider cords vs cordless and fused filament types like PLA ABS or PCL. Kids’ pens have safety features.
  • Learn Basic Techniques – Master controlling speed, pressure, and angle. Practice with simple sketches first before complex models.
  • Troubleshoot Issues – From clogs to temperature errors, common problems are fixed with filament changes, nozzle cleaning, or resetting the device. Patience and persistence pay off.
  • Take Inspiration from Others – Joining 3D pen communities gives you ideas, tips, and inspiration for your upcoming artistic creations.

With a quality 3D pen, some determination, and your creative vision the possibilities become limitless. It’s time to take drawing and designing into the third dimension!

pla 3d pen


VI. Safety Considerations for 3D Pens

While exciting, 3D pens pose risks like other devices if not used responsibly. Keep these safety guidelines in mind:

  • Avoid Touching Nozzle – Unlike PCL pens that operate at around 60°C, higher-temperature 3D pens using PLA (180°C - 220°C) and ABS (230°C - 250°C) filaments can reach nozzle temps high enough to cause skin burns if touched. So allow the nozzle to fully cool before changing filament to avoid accidental contact.
  • Use as Directed – Carefully read the enclosed instructions to understand proper use and care for your particular 3D pen model.
  • Properly Store When Not in Use – Turn the pen off, unplug, and store safely out of reach of unsupervised children when not in active use.

By following all safety recommendations, 3D pens can be enjoyed creatively by artists of any age under proper adult guidance.

3d pen kit

VI. Conclusion

While normal pens are limited to 2D ink writing/drawing, 3D pens allow users to draw stunning 3D objects using melted plastic filament. With knowledge of their advanced fused deposition technology and proper safety practices, 3D pens open the door to limitless artistic innovation and creativity. Any doodle or sketch can now become a freestanding 3D masterpiece!



1. What is the point of a 3D pen?

The point of a 3D pen is to allow users to draw and create three-dimensional objects in mid-air by depositing melted plastic filament. This provides an artistic and engineering tool unlike any traditional pen.

2. What are the disadvantages of a 3D pen?

Potential disadvantages include the required learning curve to master control, higher price than normal pens, possible jamming/clogging issues, and safety risks like burns if used incorrectly.

3. Does a 3D pen require ink?

No, 3D pens do not use ink. Instead, they rely on plastic filament, typically ABS or PCL, which is melted and precisely extruded through the pen nozzle to draw 3D objects.

4. Do 3D pens run out of filament?

Yes, like printers 3D pens will run out of filament when the loaded spool has been fully used. The pen will then need to be refilled with new filament to continue drawing 3D objects.

See Also:

5 Key Things You Should Look For When Buying a 3D Pen

The 5 Best 3D Pens for 2023 - Reviews by 3D4Create

What age is appropriate for a 3D pen?