This pen 3D-prints as you draw

With this pen, your drawings can really pop. (Courtesy of Creopop)

Doodlers, this may be your chance to take your creations up a notch. Meet CreoPop, a pen that lets you make 3-D drawings -- really, little sculptures -- completely from scratch.

The pen works its magic by using a special kind of polymer that cures immediately on contact with light. As you draw in the air and squeeze the toothpaste-like ink out of the pen, it hardens to form your small sculptures.

It's a little hard to explain, so here's some video of it in action:

In one week, CreoPop's maker has outstripped the $40,000 goal it set for a month-long campaign, raising over $67,000 so far. Backers can buy pen sets, which start at $79 and come with five ink cartridges.

One might be tempted to loop the pen's early success into the excitement over 3-D printing and at-home manufacturing and to think of it as a sort of handheld 3-D printer. But CreoPop marketing leader Andreas Birnik hesitated to make that comparison himself. 3-D printers, he noted, rely on some sort of model or blueprint. This pen is more like an art brush.

"With CreoPop, you can create anything, but there is no model,"  he said. "You need to create it, slowly, step by step and assemble it bit by bit."

It differs, too, from other versions of sculpting pens that use super-heated plastic to create the mini-sculptures. Think of something more along the lines of a hot glue gun: 3Doodler, a similar pen that raised over $2 million on Kickstarter last year, uses that model. Because CreoPop ink is cool, Birnik said, doodlers are able to pick up their creations as they build on them without the risk of burning themselves.

The novel ink, Birnik said, is really the main focus for the company, which has received funding and development grants from the Singaporean government to research other applications for the quick-curing, plastic-like ink.  The company has developed inks that change color depending on their temperature, and it's looking into edible ink, in response to customer requests.

It's  easy to imagine the pen being used by people who need to make very quick models or prototypes of small objects, such as artists or engineers. But the crowd-funding campaign, which has reached consumers in more than 50 countries, also shows that there's a broad appeal to adults and kids who just want to goof around with the thing.

Birnik said that the fun aspect is certainly what makes the pen popular at his own home.

"CreoPop is the only thing I've done that my daughter thinks is cool," Birnik said.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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Brian Fung · June 24, 2014