Lix 3D-printing pen allows users to create solid drawings in the air
A team of London-based designers claim to have created the world's smallest 3D-printing pen – an anodised aluminium device called Lix that allows users to "doodle in the air" (+ movie).
Described by its creators as "a 3D printing pen or manual micro 3D printer", the 16.4-centimetre-long Lix looks similar to an ordinary pen with a slim aluminium body and fine nib. At its widest the Lix is 1.4 centimetres thick, and weighs 40 grams.
Update: read how 3D drawing tools like Lix will "give the world a new way to communicate"
It can be charged via a power cable that plugs into any USB port and can melt two types of plastic filament – ABS and PLA – to create a liquid plastic "ink" that cools and solidifies rapidly to give rigidity to a line as it is drawn.
Buttons near the nib allow the user to control the output of the melted plastic and the thickness of the drawn line.
The pen launched on crowd funding site Kickstarter earlier this week and has already raised more than ten times its target funding of £30,000.
Its designers say it will have unlimited applications in both the creative industries and further afield. It has already been backed by fashion designers, architects, stylists and even lawyers, they told Dezeen.
"One lawyer stated she needed the pen for 'Possible use during trials of Med-Mal cases to provide 3D images of various body part(s) lost due to negligence'," said Delphine Eloise Wood, co-founder of the newly established Lix Pen Ltd, the company behind the project.
"You do not need any sheets of paper or pencil trying to make your sketch more expressive and understandable, or giving your drawing more realistic and detailed fill," she added.
The team identified USBs as a common power source that they say will make the pen "more portable and universal in use to everyone".
"The most difficult problem for us was to reduce the size of the mechanical parts, reposition them and let them work together," said the Lix team in its Kickstarter statement.
"We are using a micro planetary gear motor, special innovative material with a very low thermal conductivity and many other things such as another gear box for the filament supply system," they said.
"When the patented mechanism was created and perfectly adapted into a 12-millimetre diameter tube, our second task was to create a slick design based on user experience and visual side."
The company could not confirm who will manufacture the pen, but the designers expect to finalise the production prototype by the end of June with a view to shipping the first batch to Kickstarter backers by September.
A chunkier 3D pen called the 3Doodler was successfully funded on Kickstarter last year, with U.S. company WobbleWorks raising almost $500,000 in one day.