Feature: Air Play

By / May 8th, 2014 / No comments

It’s time to raise your doodle game: the paperless pen has arrived.

With 3D printers and optical computers now commercially available for the twenty-first century technophile, the latest innovation wanting to take a ‘byte’ into the consumer mega-market is something that not even The Jetsons foresaw. The 3D printing pen, by London-based designers LIX, enables you to doodle in thin air. Plastic replaces lead as the medium of choice for this creative gadget, enabling freehand renderings to be lifted off a surface to shape freestanding structures. As with 3D printers, colourful plastic filament is fed through the stylus – powered simply via USB port – melting and cooling as soon as the plastic is dispensed from the 1.75mm nib outlet. While LIX are not the first studio to release a 3D printing pen, they are the first to design the smallest stylus to date that is both pen-like and elegant in appearance. The sustainable aluminium body wouldn’t look out of place amongst architectural pens or technical instruments and its weight and portability provide new scope for alternative draftsmanship.

Touchpad technology may dominate everyday devices that cater to our labour-saving needs, however the parallel resurgence of craft and the handmade across many commercial markets is an interesting reflection on society’s relationship with the fast pace of technological advancement. The LIX 3D printing pen astutely places itself between craft and applied science. In the brand’s promotional Kickstarter video, a high-tech pitch is forsaken in favour of more imaginative possibilities to create, “accessories, decoration pieces, art and crafts, artistic jewellery”. Fashion prototyping is used as a visual example where a 3D-penned design has been embellished onto a garment. Where 3D printing showcased utilitarian replication, the LIX 3D printing pen returns to a more whimsical state of mind, providing its creative customers technology at their fingertips, minus the programmed software system.

The product returns artistic control to the user and will appeal to architects, illustrators and product designers wanting to explore three-dimensional modelling at a touch of a button with immediate results. A steady hand is required and any diehard perfectionists may want to stick with the precision of computerised 3D printing.

Drawing in slow motion to allow the flow of the plastic to shape and set may test a user’s skill and patience if so inclined. In the not to distant future doodling may never involve pen and paper again – The Jetsons would be proud.

For more information about the LIX 3D printing pen visit lixpen.com. Image courtesy of LIX PEN LTD.

Jonathan Velardi is an arts, culture and lifestyle writer and one of the latest Ohh Deer bloggers. His background as a conceptual visual artist forms the basis of his editorial interest around global creative activity – visit jonathanvelardi.com/writing for a selection of his published work.

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