2D printing: it's cooler than it sounds


For a while now we’ve been tinkering around with the idea of a pen attachment for the printers. The idea is that it could give users a lot more choices of ink and paper for good old 2D printing, including any available pens/pencils/markers or even etch-resist pens for prototyping circuit boards.

After seeing Wolf Robotic’s awesome scara arm 2D marker printer at the mini maker fair this weekend, I made up this primitave pen mount that should fit any TAZ printer and any of the soon to be released mini printers. I’ve attached the stl and source files of the pen mount, you ought to be able to clamp it under the printhead using the m4 screw under the left side of the printhead, or use the freecad file to adapt it to whatever printer you like. The attached Cura configuration will let you print a 10 layer pen print, just load a high contrast jpeg into cura and set the total print height to 0.05mm, the 1st layer to 0.01 and the size to something that fits your printer. The mount is designed to hold a bic ballpoint pen, but should hold most other pens. It’s pretty great to watch :slight_smile:

plottr_arm_v0.2.FCStd (180 KB)
plottr_arm_v0.2.stl (56.9 KB)

mini_plotter_v0.1.ini (10.4 KB)
I’ll test the mount on a TAZ tomorrow to make sure it works. As always, the design is Creative Commons - Share Alike.


I think this is super cool bam! Any plan to support multiple “cool” ends? :wink:

Caleb Kraft over at Make: magazine did some great 2D prints and made his own modifications too, check it out :smiley: http://makezine.com/2014/10/16/turning-your-3d-printer-into-a-2d-printer/

You beat me here!

Yep, I loved this. Even though I’ve actually got a 32 inch plotter sitting a few feet a way, I wanted to do it with my printer! I made a quick snap-on holder because I thought I might want to try a few larger markers as well. It turned out ok!

If you’ve got any lulzbot printer, my part should fit right onto your stepper motor, no tools required. Thanks so much for figuring this out Bam!

I’d love to do this from Slic3r, so I could play with different infill patterns. I’m not seeing how to avoid the min temp error though.

Thanks! I’ve been thinking about it, bit it’s going to be tricky. You can get away with multiple hotends in the same plane with just a little ooze, but multiple pens will leave a weird double image.

Adding mechinics to push down one pen at a time might be an option, but dealing with x-y offsets is a pain. I think the best way to go would be to use a 4-color pen like this (http://www.marcopromotionalproducts.com/Product/Bic-4-Color-Ballpoint-Pen-WI-1360-71522.htm), and add a fixture to the frame that you could use to select to color through some tool change gcode.

I’ll keep thinking on it :slight_smile:


Awesome! Nice hack for the TAZ, I pretty quickly found out that the mount I made won’t hold the majority of pens very rigidly, so I’ll be mixing in some parts of your design for the next version :slight_smile:.

What do you mean about the min temp error? If a print head is still connected, you should be able to run the printer with only the extruder disabling itself since it’ll only run above 150C to prevent the extruder making a mess of cold filament. Otherwise you could probably just connect the print head off of the printer, a tool head with only a pen holder attachment would be LIGHT.

I had the same thought about slic3r! The infill that cura generates is only good for 3-5 shades, after that you can only see the perimeters. The infill options in slic3r could make some really cool looking prints. Another path might be to add commands to change the extrusion width between layers, although I’m not sure how to do that.

We’ve been playing around with printing documents as well, but the gcode generation that works for 3d printing objects is really pretty bad at handling standard text. Even so, we were able to print out the first page of the GPL in 18 point font on a TAZ 4 :sunglasses: . I really want to figure out a way to generate gcode from text that prints in fast single pass movements like human writing. It won’t ever take over traditional printing, but it would be super fun to watch and nice if you have a broken / out of ink printer, but a 3D printer and a drawer full of working pens (like me!).

As for a temp error, I believe you could edit the firmware and reduce / remove the lower cold extrusion limit, depending on your electronics type.

hi, im a noob to this stuff. how do you get an image to process and print? say i have any .jpeg, how can i convert it to be plotted and then sent to my Taz 5? this is a wonderful thing! im interested in making a vertical plotter like this sometime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDo_upuQ5UA

Hey Bam,

I’m pretty new to 3d printing in general but this whole 2d on a 3d thing is pretty sweet. As far as your mount is concerned, could you make one with a little narrower plastic around the pen/marker area with a hole on each side of the opening? Then you could drop in a heat sink and a small wingnut or something to tighten down on different size writing utensils.

And on the human writing, you could possibly try making the text the size of one pass of the hot end (.05mm maybe? idk) so that it doesn’t try to do any infill, just a one pass thickness border sort of, but with ink. Would that work you reckon? Just some thoughts. Curious to see more!


If you’ve got any lulzbot printer, my part should fit right onto your stepper motor, no tools required. Thanks so much for figuring this out Bam!

Hi, when setting initial z-height on printer (limit switch) - what do you recommend?
Is this thing actually printing from say 0.01 to 0.05 truly raising the z height a little - and does that affect the downpressure - look of the pen plot or just the way it needs to work so it can slice the layers?


That is a good idea of putting pens. I have been using 3d pens from http://www.allthat3d.com to create additional designs on the outer layer of my 3d print and it looks great!

I had a Panasonic Penwriter P400c. It was a typewriter/plotter that used 4 little pens in a cylinder. The cylinder was rotated by bumping a little arm at one side of the travel, a ratchet type mechanism. The active pen was pushed forward to contact the paper.
For your use there could be a cam on the end of the cylinder that pushes each pen down a little as the cylinder rotates.

Hello, I’d like to know how you did the “gradients”. I’ve had several ideas for making gradients, with a pen adapted to a 3d printer.

first idea: take a black and white image, give it several saturation levels, for each level transform the image into gcode and print it on the same sheet. As a result, the darker parts of the image will be drawn more times than the lighter ones, and will therefore appear darker.

Second idea: take a black-and-white image (again), turn it into a 3d file, with the following rule: the darker the color, the higher the height of the 3d model. Then take each layer and print them on the same sheet, one after the other.

Hope you haven’t stopped using this forum, I’m very interested in the project of drawing with a 3d printer.

Thanks in advance, a French guy.