Drawing in the air

If you’re a designer, you know how hard it can be to get your brainwave from the page into reality. So why not print, or draw, it straight into full 3D?

That must have been the thinking, more or less, for recent 3D print-pen developers Lix. It’s an intriguing idea. While there are similar devices around that promise this 3D doodling, the Lix is the first to offer that creativity from a pen that needs only to be plugged into a usb-port for power.

So how does it work? The ‘pen’ can be seen like a soldering iron: power is used to melt (or soften) the soldering material, so that it can be shaped as desired. In essence, it’s that simple. In this design-pen, the material is plastic. This is either ABS, which is amorphous and therefore requires very little energy to be shaped, or PLA, a common bio-plastic.

PLA (Polylactic acid) is slightly more stable, as it won’t warp, but it does become more liquidy when hot, so it could be hard to ‘draw’ with. Meanwhile, ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is stronger and more flexible. Then again, PLA is more customisable, as it is available in a range of colours, transparencies, and so on.

There is some question as to how well the pen works. Currently in development, its inventors have a video that shows the pen drawing power from a laptop. It’s unclear whether that would be enough energy to heat the plastic and extrude it.

Still, assuming the Lix pen will work as stated, it looks like being a pretty powerful tool for designers! The creations already shaped by the first users are impressive, and we can’t wait to see what else will come out of 3D pens in the future.

Info and images via Lixpen.