Today I have for you a whopper of a review! It’s 3 different 3Doodler products, and I’ve got details on them all. The specific items I’m looking at are the 3Doodler Create+ (Plus) Essentials 3D Printing Pen Set, the 3Doodler Start Essential Pen Set, and a bundle called the 3Doodler 3D Build & Play Activity Kit. I’ll discuss each of these 3Doodler kits in turn and summarize my overall thoughts at the end of the review.
But before we even get into it, you might want to take a few minutes to check out my brief video overview of the 3 3Doodler kits. In it I show what each product looks like and comes with, I show a bit of what it’s like to use them, and I completely humiliate myself by demonstrating my complete lack of artistic ability. It’s FUN.
3Dooder Create+ (Plus) essentials 3D printing pen set review
The first 3Doodler I have is the 3Doodler Create+ (Plus) Essentials 3D Printing Pen Set, which I believe is pretty much the classic 3Doodler kit. It comes with the 3Doodler pen and plug-in adapter, as well as 3 different packs of quick-hardening plastic rods (shown below). It also has a small wrench and a ram-rod type device for clearing any plastic blockages that the pen might suffer.
This particular model is recommended for users ages 14 and up, which I can only assume is due to how hot the tip of the pen (nozzle) gets.
Overall I found that this 3Doodler was probably the easiest one to use (at least for my purposes). Due to the extra heat generated inside the pen, you’ve probably got a couple extra seconds to get your “ink” doing what you want it to do before it re-solidifies to the point where you can no longer manipulate it—although it does solidify rather quickly. A few years ago I reviewed a version of the 3Doodler that was fairly close to this model, and that one kept getting blocked with half melted plastic the whole time I tried to use it. It was very frustrating, and overall I didn’t like the product at all back then. This time, things went a whole lot more smoothly, and I think that the 3Doodler folks have greatly improved this version of the product. While still somewhat frustrating to use due to how quickly the plastic re-hardens and how difficult it is to actually create a decent piece of art, at least users now have a fighting chance, and it can be a lot of fun to try—even if you ultimately fail.
3Doodler start essential pen set review
The second set I tested, called the 3Doodler Start Essential Pen Set, is designed for kids ages 8 and up. What I noticed right away about this set is that the pen (and even the tip where the plastic is dispensed) doesn’t get as hot as with the other 3Doodler pen. This is probably owing to two things: the pen itself is considerably bigger around, and the tip (or nozzle) end of the pen does not seem to be made of metal, but rather a harder plastic that itself won’t melt.
One potential issue with this model is that the pen may be too big around for some kids to hold comfortably, but it was no trouble at all for my larger hand, and I actually had a fair bit of fun using this model. One of the best things about it is that it comes with a fun booklet that has images you can trace/colour-in to create 2-dimensional art which can then be lifted off the page and conjoined (essentially soldered using the melted plastic) to turn the 2-D art into 3-D art. There are several different things kids can make, including a pair of glasses and a fun dinosaur skeleton.
As a more basic version of the 3Doodler pen than the 14+ model, this one only has one speed for dispensing its melted plastic. The other pen has buttons on the side for “fast” and “slow” dispensing, which does give you a greater level of control over what you’re doing.
Another thing worth noting about this particular 3Doodler is that it does not plug into the wall. Instead it has a built-in, rechargeable battery and a small USB cable with which to charge it up.
As a 3Doodler for kids in the 8+ range, I do think it’s worth a look if the child you’re buying for is artistically inclined and has enough patience to use the kit without getting frustrated. I kind of think that using one of these pens is similar to learning to play a musical instrument—it takes some real practice and patience to become truly proficient at it.
3Doodler build & play review
Finally, there’s the 3Doodler Build & Play Activity Kit. This set is quite different from the other two—primarily in that the melted plastic dispenser is not a pen, but rather something more akin to a water pump. The pump takes 3 x AA batteries (note that all 3 3Doodlers are powered by different means) and has a yellow handle that can be installed on either side of the unit—so it’s easy for both left and right-handed users to operate. This particular model is meant for kids as young as 4 to use, and no part of it that I noticed ever got really hot.
The way it works is that you insert one of the plastic rods in the back of the pump, turn its power switch on, wait 30 seconds for the plastic to get soft, then start cranking the lever. Unfortunately, it takes some serious cranking to get the melted plastic flowing, and it never really flows very fast. It also tends to re-harden fairly quickly, so you really need to be on the ball with this one. I would strongly suggest parental involvement when any child is trying to play with this kit.
Possibly the coolest inclusion with this set is a plastic mold that has animals, a car, and other cool shapes in it. You pump the warm plastic into the mold, close it up, give it a little squeeze, and with luck (and practice) you may end up with a piece of art that actually resembles something (other than a plastic blob, which is my own speciality).
While this 3Doodler pump device probably worked the least well overall, I really enjoyed using its included mold, and actually used it with the other pens. With some adult help and supervision, I do think that younger kids could really get a kick out of this. And the plastic really doesn’t get very hot either, so my mind would be absolutely blown if anyone claimed to get any kind of a serious burn from this kit.
Once before I tested a 3Doodler. On that occasion I wasn’t very happy with it. I found it difficult and frustrating to use, and I didn’t find that it did what it was supposed to do. This time around, I’m a whole lot happier with the entire 3Doodler concept. While it still has the potential to be an exercise in frustration, I now also see a real potential for fun. Recommended, but only for the right kind of child—one with a love for creating art and enough patience to endure the ups and downs of the process.
You can find 3Doodlers and more at Best Buy Canada’s toy store!