News: a new generation of 3D printing pens will "improve the creativity of everybody" and "give the world a new way to communicate," according to the designer of the Lix pen, which launched on Kickstarter this week and has already raised over £400,000 (+ interview).
"We believe it's a new world," said Wood, 22, in an interview with Dezeen. "Lix pen is not only a drawing tool; it's a communication tool. What we give the world is a new way to communicate in 3D. If we sell our products to students in universities, they will grow a better understanding of drawing and imagination."
She added: "This is quite ground-breaking because sometimes when you draw on paper it's very hard to explain your ideas in three dimensions. So it's very hard to produce prototypes from your drawings. What we wanted to do is allow people to explain their ideas with just one simple tool."
Lix pen is like a tiny, hand-held 3D printer that extrudes a thin trail of molten plastic filament that hardens as soon as it is produced. By drawing lines in the air, the user can build up physical 3D sketches that resemble wireframe models.
3D drawing is emerging as an important new technology, promising to revolutionise the creative process with an impact similar to 3D printing, which is transforming manufacturing.
At the start of last year the 3Doodler pen attracted over $500,000 in backing on Kickstarter in one day while at the end of the year Australian medical researchers announced they had developed a way of "drawing" with stem cells to repair damaged bone and cartilage.
Last month a group of London-based students demonstrated Gravity Sketch, a device that creates virtual 3D drawings that can be viewed and manipulated using a virtual reality headset.
However Wood said that devices like Lix were more useful to designers than virtual drawing tools as they allow them to prototype their ideas instantly as physical objects, without using the computer as an intermediary.
"We see manual drawing as being more important than virtual drawing," she said. "When you draw manually you can directly from the prototype make the final product. You can actually see how the prototype will turn out. But when it's on the computer, it's a longer process. "
Wood, who is studying shoe design at the London College of Fashion, said she came up with the idea of Lix Pen because of her frustration with drawing in programmes such as Illustrator.
"I always have this problem when I draw in Illustrator that I don't actually know if it will work out in real life," she said. "Lix pen gives you this ability to do your prototype directly in 3D. You can directly see where you need to improve because you have a much better view of your product."
Lix has been developed by Wood together with industrial designer Anton Suvorov, 27, and marketing director Ismail Baran, 28. It was launched on crowdfunding website Kickstarter earlier this week and met its funding target within just two hours.
Here's an edited transcript of the interview with Wood:
Marcus Fairs: How much have you raised on Kickstarter?
Delphine Wood: Oh my God! We started three days ago. We got our target in two hours. We started at 3pm London time and we managed to get £30,000 in less than two hours. And right now we have £412,000.
Marcus Fairs: What will happen next?
Delphine Wood: We have nearly 5,000 backers on Kickstarter, which means 5,000 pens. So we'll produce 5,000 pens after the Kickstarter campaign is over. The money which is pledged will stay in the company. If the campaign grows even more we will add accessories to the pen, such as a dock holder and other things. We are full of ideas and we are really serious about this project. Our goal is to make Lix Pen available to the entire world.
Marcus Fairs: This isn't the first 3D drawing pen. What's different about yours?
Delphine Wood: It's true it's not the first one but it is the smallest one. What we thought about the existing ones was that with such an amazing product, it is so difficult to travel with it and it was really uncomfortable. We decided to have a USB plug rather than a regular wall plug and we wanted it to be in the shape of a regular pen, to make it much more comfortable and professional to draw. The other pens look like toys. We wanted to have an accent on the design of the pen.
Marcus Fairs: How much can products like Lix change the way designers work?
Delphine Wood: In the long run we believe that Lix pen will change the way brains draw. It will improve the creativity of everybody. If we sell our products to students in universities, they will grow a better understanding of drawing and imagination.
Marcus Fairs: So it changes the whole nature of drawing?
Delphine Wood: We believe it's a new world. Lix pen is not only a drawing tool; it's a communication tool. What we give the world is a new way to communicate in 3D. This is quite ground-breaking because sometimes when you draw on paper it's very hard to explain your ideas in three dimensions. So it's very hard to produce prototypes from your drawings. So what we wanted to do is allow people to explain their ideas with just one simple tool.
Marcus Fairs: How does Lix pen compare to tools that allow you to draw in 3D using virtual reality?
Delphine Wood: We see it as a different thing. Drawing virtually and manually are different ways of communicating, different ways of using your brain. We see manual drawing as being more important than virtual drawing. When you draw manually you can directly from the prototype make the final product. But when it's on the computer, it's a longer process. You can't actually see how the prototype will turn out.
I'm a shoe designer at the London College of Fashion so I know how to draw shoes using programmes such as Illustrator. But I always have this problem when I draw in Illustrator that I don't actually know if it will work out in real life. Lix Pen gives you this ability to do your prototype directly in 3D. You can directly see where you need to improve because you have a much better view of your product.
Marcus Fairs: So it's a combination between sketching and model making?
Delphine Wood: Yes. I totally agree.
Marcus Fairs: What if you want to digitise that 3D sketch? Do you need to scan the sketch, or does the Lix pen remember what it has drawn?
Delphine Wood: No there is no memory in the pen. The memory is yours. You can scan your drawings if you want to. The pen is just a pen.
Marcus Fairs: So you developed the pen because of this frustration you've experienced as a shoe designer?
Delphine Wood: Of course, yes. We were thinking for example, when I need to do my prototypes for my shoes, I always thought "I wish I could just draw it in 3D and be done with the prototyping." You have to learn CAD programmes which are very complicated, and spend days making my prototypes with materials such as leather and wood. With Lix Pen it is just so easy and simply to do my prototypes.
Marcus Fairs: So the pen works? You have a working prototype?
Delphine Wood: We do have a prototype and it works.
Marcus Fairs: How did you develop it?
Delphine Wood: Anton Suvorov, my partner, is a graphic designer and an industrial designer. He has the skills to do the engineering of the pen and I have the skills to design the pen. So we've collaborated together to do this pen. We are a very young company so everything we have done we have done alone.
Marcus Fairs: We published an interview with Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler yesterday. He believes that the site has transformed the way young designers can get their products to market. How do you feel about that now?
Delphine Wood: Kickstarter is an amazing website. We have been extremely lucky; we know there are not many projects that raise such a large amount of money. I'm only 22 years old and young people like me can express their ideas to the rest of the world with Kickstarter. It used to be really hard for young people with ideas to show them to people.
It was really hard for us at first; before we were on Kickstarter we contacted a lot of magazine and websites, asking them to write about us, and no-one replied to us. We sent lots of emails and no-one replied.