Even from their earliest moments of Kickstarter success, one thing was clear to the team at 3D printing pen startup 3Doodler: they'd have to build a version just for kids. Now, after releasing a streamlined upgrade to the original and pushing to get these things into classrooms, they've finally done just that. Meet the 3Doodler Start, a curvier, cuter version of the pen meant for a new generation of pint-sized makers.
In case you haven't been keeping up with the movers and shakers in the maker space, 3Doodler's formula is dead-simple. Each pen comes with a starter pack of plastic strands — stick one in the pen, turn it on, and extrude that plastic into fanciful figures or faithful reconstructions. In a way, you yourself become a 3D printer, except your brain is the software that gives form and substance to your ideas. The new pen will set parents and school boards back $50 a pop (or $40 if you're the type who pre-orders), making it half the price of the 3Doodler 2.0 the team released around this time last year. And before you ask, yes, that means the team had to make some notable compromises.
For one, there's only one extruding speed, and it seemed pretty slow while playing with a very early model at our CES stage. There's also only a single temperature setting too, but that helps keep the 3Doodler Start's plastic extrusion tip from getting hot enough to burn anything (or anyone for that matter). Seriously. This is easily the most impressive thing about the Start -- while playing with the pen, co-founder Daniel Cowen encouraged me to doodle on my skin, a move that would've meant a bit of yelping and lots of cold water splashing around just last year. The hardware team can't take all the credit for this kid-friendly plastic extrusion though; 3Doodler has also developed a new kind of biodegradable plastic filament that melts at lower temperatures. Oh, and the pièce de résistance? The Start thankfully uses a standard MicroUSB port for charging — that's one less chunky, specific wallwart to keep track of.
Interest piqued? It would've nice to get these before the holidays so as to keep teeming hordes of kids occupied, but the Start should make for a hell of a summer distraction — the first units are expected to ship this May.