Kickstarter 3Doodler 3D Printing Pen Nothing of the Sort – But Somehow Raises $2 Million

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Five days after launch on Kickstarter, the 3Doodler 3D printing pen boasted over 21,000 backers and $1.9 million in pledges. Their goal was $30,000! What’s so special about the 3Doodler? If nothing else, it rivals the lofty infomercial marketing heights of Slap Chop or ShamWow. But let’s get something straight—3Doodler is a crafting “pen” not a handheld 3D printing pen (whatever that even means).

100% of what makes a 3D printer a 3D printer is that it’s guided by a computer, not a human hand. Calling 3Doodler a 3D printing pen is like calling a ballpoint an inkjet printing pen. But 3D printing is hot—why not make some bucks while you can? And in their own words, “Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects.” Good and bad, deserving or not—let the funders decide. And they have, to the tune of almost $2 million.

So what is this multi-million dollar idea? 3Doodler is a crafting tool, the unholy union of a hot glue gun and a particularly shapely marker. The doodler uses 3D printing plastics (yes, there’s your link to 3D printing) to draw plastic shapes on paper, stand them up and even combine them to form structures. The plastic sets up fast enough to draw squiggles in the air, and they’ll maintain their shape.

Even if 3Doodler isn’t exactly what it says it is—might it be fun? Sure. In the hands of an artist or crafter it might make something intriguing. 3Doodler's creator, WobbleWorks, hired wire artists to make stencils and models for their campaign. And if wire art is your thing—here’s a way to make a plastic version.

3Doodler might add a little weight to arguments that crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter will become a hot-bed of fraud. But I’m not sure I’d go that far. 3Doodler is perfectly capable of providing their “3D printing pens” as promised. (As this guy shows, it’s not exactly rocket science.) And while anyone thinking this is some brilliant new use of 3D printing tech will be bitterly disappointed—I don’t think anyone actually does think that. (Please, tell me nobody thinks that.)

It would appear, Kickstarter sometimes attracts “investors” with a little too much time and money on their hands. This is the same market late night infomercials and home shopping television have long exploited.

For example, while the mid-level $50, $75, or $100 pledges probably aren’t terribly overpriced—a decent glue gun runs from $50 to $100—what about the $1,000 level that buys you (buys you!) the privilege of becoming a beta tester? And what does the lone $10,000 backer get? Stock? A cut of the profits? No. A hand-engraved 3Doodler. Lunch with the creators. Membership in an exclusive beta testing mailing list. Yikes.

3Doodler appears to be “an exercise in creative semantics,” and it’s a little stunning anyone would contribute more than the value of the item itself. But the numbers don’t lie—clearly there are more than a few folks itching to get their hands on one.

Jason Dorrier

Jason is managing editor of Singularity Hub. He cut his teeth doing research and writing about finance and economics before moving on to science, technology, and the future. He is curious about pretty much everything, and sad he'll only ever know a tiny fraction of it all.

Discussion — 20 Responses

  • Fernando Stockton February 27, 2013 on 7:56 am “1. A person or thing that prints, especially a person whose occupation is printing.”

    And thus, I would argue that what makes a 3D printer a 3D printer is NOT that it’s automated. (some things like a silk screen printing wouldn’t qualify as ‘printing’ then because it can be human controlled) This pen is 3D, in that you can make lines come out of the page, not just on it. And this pen is a printer in that the ink is automatically fed through, warmed up and applied out of the tip at the user’s request via a button. No where does this Kickstarter state that it’s computer controlled.

    As for the reward levels, they are what people wanted or people wouldn’t have bought them. I don’t see the point of the $10k reward personally, but that’s why I wouldn’t buy one. (Not that I bought any of them for this project actually)

  • Alex Bochkovsky February 27, 2013 on 12:59 pm

    You can participate in the development and get another type of 3D Printing here!

    • booogyman Alex Bochkovsky February 27, 2013 on 11:47 pm

      The knockoff here is doomed to failure… their drawing clearly shows a lack of understanding that a KEY ELEMENT of the 3Doodler is the cooling fan that instantly sets the plastic as it comes out. It’s a shame that indiegogo lets true scams like that one on its site.

      • Ph DiFranco booogyman March 15, 2013 on 8:11 am

        my favorite is you get less for donating $50 than if you donate $25

  • VisIxR February 27, 2013 on 3:22 pm

    this is exactly what I said when I saw it “thats just a bulky pen shaped glue gun!”

  • anthrobotic February 27, 2013 on 6:05 pm

    Calling this a “3D Printing Pen” is like calling a hot glue gun a “3D Printing Pen that doesn’t work worth crap because it’s a cheap Chinese knockoff that overheats the stuff and just makes a big sticky, melty mess… Pen.”

    This is a clever piece of marketing that works well with those who have a hard time understanding what the “3” or the “D” actually mean.

    But one agrees with Mr. Dorrier – this is nothing more than super-durable Cheez-Whiz.

    -Reno at

    • booogyman anthrobotic February 27, 2013 on 11:49 pm

      “This is a clever piece of marketing that works well with those who have a hard time understanding what the “3″ or the “D” actually mean.”

      Ummm… do YOU know what 3 and D mean? It mean three-dimensional. As in, more than two dimensions. And with this pen, you draw in THREE DIMENSIONS. It seems that YOU don’t really know what “3″ or the “D” actually mean… do you?

  • Rob Riedel February 27, 2013 on 8:33 pm

    This article is stupid. First your analogy doesn’t make any sense. A ball point and inkjet are two different technologies. This pen works the same way as a 3D printer. In fact you could attach it to a computer controlled arm and it would make the same objects as a “real” 3D printer.

    Not sure what anthrobotic’s definition of 3D is cuz if you look at the pictures it’s making objects with length width and height. Last time I checked that is the definition of 3D.

    Finally ppl complaining this is just a hot glue gun (it’s not). Some of the biggest innovations are taking something familiar and tweaking it to make something new. If its so easy to do as some ppl are pointing out then why aren’t they the one making $2 million+ with this idea. Sure part of it is marketing but that’s part of having business. If you think technology is supposed to sell itself then ur obviously just a tech nerd instead of a successful business man.

    • anthrobotic Rob Riedel February 27, 2013 on 8:48 pm

      But come on dude, they’re only 3D after they’re squirted out on a flat surface and assembled. That can be done with a number of contemporarily available technologies (arc welder, whipped cream dispenser).

      And yeah, it’s marketing – which is awesome – well done for them. It’s a great time to exploit the term “3D-Printing,” I agree. But people are reacting to it because it’s clearly a bit disingenuous to call this a 3D-printer.

      Could this device, or a pair or 3 or 4, be linked together and be, per the parameters set by a computer, made to squeeze out a specific pattern of something three-dimensional? Sure. But so can Cheeze-Whiz or, yes, I’ll say it, a hot glue gun set on “flaccid.”

      This is a cool idea, sure – but 3D-printing it ain’t.

      -Reno at

      • Rob Riedel anthrobotic February 28, 2013 on 6:14 pm

        Dude. Seriously? Did u even watch the video?? They make things in 3D without assembling them…

        You think they’re exploiting the term 3D printing. Or they’re just using term that people are familiar with so they understand what they’re looking at immediately. the technology is the same whether its in pen form or like a traditional printer.

        Wow. sure cheese whiz can do this. Go make all those objects out of cheeze whiz. Until then you’re just talking out of the wrong side of your alimentary canal

        • anthrobotic Rob Riedel March 1, 2013 on 7:51 am

          Clever, sir – but not clever enough! I totally watched the video, and I actually do dig on the technology, but it’s just kinda misleading – dorks like you and I can appreciate that it’s 3D-printing-ish, but practically speaking it’s not any kind of leap in technology. Yeah, I CAN do the same things with Cheez-Wiz – the only difference is… what, durability of the end product? That don’t change the process. Do I win now?

  • Rob Riedel February 27, 2013 on 8:34 pm

    PS if ur complaining about the way ppl choose to spend their money sounds like you’re just bitter that you can’t spend that amount of money the way you want yourself.

    • booogyman Rob Riedel February 27, 2013 on 11:50 pm

      I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s a simple idea that will make them rich. People are just bitter they didn’t come up with it first.

      • Ph DiFranco booogyman March 15, 2013 on 8:13 am

        i think its more a disgust in marketing techniques than how someone spends their money

  • Jeff Jarvis March 10, 2013 on 9:01 am

    Oh, come on. It is indeed a 3D pen. I’ve seen it in action and I’ve seen people react when they pull the pen up off the paper and continue to draw shapes. It is ooh-worthy. I saw that reaction at a symposium with a few hundred entrepreneurs who couldn’t wait to try it themselves. They, unlike you, were open and curious. Sniff if you will but this guy invented a product and people are buying it. You’re the one who is trying too hard.

  • oneofmetwo March 12, 2013 on 12:20 pm

    Sure, they raised a lot of money, but this is an editorial, not a news story. It’s a pen that draws in 3D, that’s cool. “Unholy union of a hot glue gun and a particularly shapely marker.” Really? They obviously set their goal low and THE AUDIENCE gave them the millions of dollars. Maybe they can make a better looking product that performs better than their prototype with that money. I say good for them!

  • Joseph Talbot March 18, 2013 on 11:12 am

    I saw their video. I was not mislead by it. It’s a very cool arts and crafts tool that could never have been manufactured without kick starter. I want one.