3D Pen vs 3D Printer

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Updated January 16, 2023

The best printers are no longer limited to paper. The best 3D printers have come a long way throughout the past decade. Where once they were mysterious devices only exhibited at tech conventions, they now are available for consumers to introduce into their everyday lives. However, 3D printers aren’t the only devices vying for the public’s admiration. Below, we’ll discuss the differences between 3D pens and 3D printers and help you understand which is right for your experience level.


  • 3D pens are great for beginners who want to try out 3D printing for simple projects.
  • 3D printers are more expensive but use computer software to create more complex and high-quality projects.
  • Choosing a 3D creative device depends on your level of experience and desired project you want to make.

For more of our 3D printer-related content, check out our slew of comparison articles. For example, we have to compare SLA vs FDM 3D printers. Or you can read up on direct drive vs Bowden 3D printers.

Insider Tip

To keep a 3D pen in good condition, clean the tip often with rubbing alcohol.

Differences Between 3D Printer vs 3D Pen

Before pitting the two against each other, we’ll briefly overview each device. There’s a wide range of 3D printers, but they all use designs within computer software to form a 3-dimensional object with layers of plastic filament. On the other hand, 3D pens are free-form, wielded by users without the help of a computer program.

So which is better? That depends entirely on what you need. Below we’ll run through the strengths and weaknesses of each to help you get closer to which is right for you.

If you finish this and want to read more about the world of 3D printing, we have another article comparing 100-micron vs 200-micron 3D printers.

Design Quality

The precision and quality of a 3D printer far outweigh that of 3D pens. A printer is extraordinarily accurate because of its use of computer software; it also adds many more layers than users can get with a pen.

Pens are usually just used for making small, simple objects and crafts.


The tip of a 3D pen is hot because it needs to melt the filament. Therefore, always keep an eye on temperature settings and avoid touching the tip of the pen on any part of the body.

Ease of Use

The learning curve for 3D printers is extensive, making them difficult to use. On the other hand, 3D printing pens are easy to pick up and require no setup process or computer program. For this, pens are excellent no matter your knowledge level.


3D pens are generally inexpensive, ranging from $20 to $150. The average 3D printer costs more. For hobbyists, start at around $200 and reach upwards of $10,000. However, the most expensive 3D printers can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

STAT: The first-ever 3D printer was invented in 1983. (source)

3D Pen vs 3D Printer FAQs

What types of materials does a 3D pen use?

3D pens — like printers — use a special plastic, also known as a resin. The most common types that 3D pens use are PLA, ABS, or UV.

Is a 3D pen or printer better for beginners?

A pen might be an excellent first step if you’re just starting in the world of 3D printing, as they re far more affordable and easy to use. Overall, they are great for getting the feel of 3D printing and building basic skills/habits.

What is an FDM 3D printer?

FDM stands for “Fused Deposit Modeling.” They are the most popular model for hobbyists and work by layering on a melted filament material tier by tier to a fixed model. This type of 3D printer is unique because it implies a fixed pattern to the layering.
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