HomeBlog 3D pen tutorial #3 – Advanced techniques for using a 3D printing pen

3D pen tutorial #3 – Advanced techniques for using a 3D printing pen


Here is the final part of my 3D pen tutorial series! This article will explore advanced techniques that you can use to take your 3D penning to a whole new level.

If you haven’t mastered the basics yet, I recommend checking out Part 1 and Part 2 of my tutorial series before trying to tackle anything shown here.

The tutorial videos show many visual examples and little details that are difficult to capture in text, so watching them is highly recommended.

Finally, be careful and take the proper precautions when using any equipment that this tutorial requires.

I am always working on new 3D pen tutorial videos and making my own 3D pen creations, so check out my YouTube channel for my latest videos.

Advanced 3D pen technique #1: Point-to-point filling

This technique builds off of creating Simple Structures, which I talk about in Part 2 of my Basic Techniques tutorial. Point-to-point filling allows you to create much more intricate shapes.

Say we want to create one of the main branches of a tree. We start by sketching out the side profile (“2D”) and then penning that out.

We can then build up structural “ribs” along the way, gradually tapering them down as we work our way out to the end of the branch. Once we have all the ribs in place, we can use point-to-point filling to create the outer structure.

Point-to-point filling advanced 3D pen technique

The way this works is we quickly add lines of plastic from one rib to the next, bouncing back and forth, until we fill in half of the branch. Then we flip it over and do the other side.

Finally, to add strength in the other direction, we apply some lines perpendicular to the original set of lines. This allows us to build up the structure of the branch, which we can then apply a finishing layer to.

Advanced 3D pen technique #2: Heating

With this technique, adding some tools to your 3D pen toolbox can help immensely. We are going to take advantage of the fact that we can reheat what we pen, move it around, and mold it.

So first, let’s talk about the tools. Basically anything that can heat the plastic significantly can work. This can be a simple lighter or gas lighter. I went for a slightly more expensive handheld torch. The reason for that is you get a much better level of control with the handheld torch.

This control is important, because you can easily overheat the plastic and cause it to either burn or melt too much. Having good control over the placement, strength and duration of the flame is very helpful and the handheld torch does all of that!

Heating advanced 3D pen technique

Heating can be used in the following manner: we can pen out flat objects and then heat them up to be able to mold and contour them as we like. This heating also melts the plastic a little, allowing it to stick nicely to the main body.

If we don’t get it exactly right the first time, we can gently reheat it and get the molding just right. So now we have been able to take these flat parts and give them a great shape and form.

Advanced 3D pen technique #3: Continuous surface finish

Let’s now talk about adding a nice looking surface finish to any object. I call this a continuous surface finish. The goal here is to have long, continuous lines of filament that produces a nice-looking result.

Having a smooth surface to pen over is key. Since you are trying to create long, unbroken lines that look uniform, any blob, edge, or hole that your pen gets caught on will disrupt this.

That’s why I recommend doing the following prep work before laying down the final surface:

  • Fill in any gaps, holes, or big changes in the surface with your pen.
  • Use your flush cutters to trim off any blobs.
  • Sand down the surface with some 150 grit flexible sandpaper, to get a decently smooth surface. You don’t have to go crazy with sanding– if you can run your finger over a smooth continuous surface, you’re good to go.

3D pen technique for advanced users continuous surface finish

Making your unbroken lines long will help reduce the number of seams on your surface. However there is usually a limit to how long you can make them, based on the specific object you are creating. Try to blend the seams into the geometry of the object.

Cleaning up these seams takes us right into our final tool and technique.

Advanced 3D pen technique #4: Fine details and finishing

Having a tool that can precisely sculpt and shape the plastic that you have penned is very valuable, for improving the detail and polish of your 3D pen creations. There are two types of tools that can serve this purpose.

The first is the common soldering iron, that is used with electronics. You can switch different tip types in and out, and they are common and relatively inexpensive.

The second type of tool is called a wood burning or engraving tool. For 3D penning, this tool has some big advantages when compared to a soldering iron:

  • Control – Soldering irons typically seem to be longer than wood burning tools. This length makes it hard to sculpt fine and precise features in your object. The wood burning tool is nice and short and gives you great control.
  • Tips – Wood burning tools come with a ton of great tips and attachments that are useful for 3D penning. A soldering iron only has a few tip types, all geared towards electronics tasks.

Wood burning tool vs soldering iron

So what are some ways you can use this with 3D penning? One way is to smooth out those unsightly blobs of plastic at any seams.

Another way is to use a fine-pointed tip to fix the surface finish of the area you just smoothed.

You can also use the fine pointed tip to carve out delicate features in your objects.

Finally, if you have a hot knife attachment, you can accurately trim thicker sections of plastic. There are so many possibilities with this tool– I highly recommend using one!

Advanced 3D penning with heating tools and accessories

I hope these tips and suggestions help you to make some fantastic 3D pen creations! If you have used these tutorials to make anything with a 3D pen, send me a picture on Twitter to show what you have created. I look forward to seeing what you make!

About this author

Ali a.k.a. Potent Printables

Ali runs the YouTube channel Potent Printables, which focuses on 3D Pen and 3D Printing content.