Retouch 3D pen

We typically don't write about crowdfunding projects for reasons outlined last year, but this novel idea is genuinely useful and warrants an exception.

The Retouch3D is a finishing tool ergonomically designed to be held like a pen. Capable of carving, cutting and smoothing sections of PLA, ABS and resin, it is a more detailed post-processing method than smoothing an entire print with acetone vapor or taking an X-Acto knife to supports and rafts.

At first glance, the device looks something like a fancy soldering iron. I asked Retouch3D representative Danny Sullivan about the comparison.

"While testing, we learned most hot tools only heat at the tip and don't disperse heat evenly. The Retouch3D offers constant heat monitoring to maintain the desired setting, i.e. when contacting cold plastic the heat load drops," said Sullivan. "Retouch3D also offers 15 pre-sets, specific to 3D retouching tasks."

The key to the Retouch3D's ability to perform many different finishing tasks on a variety of materials is its wide range of operating temperatures and interchangeable tool heads. For smoothing away layer visibility or minor clumping, the point of contact is shaped like a spoon. For cutting away supports, the point of contact is more like a knife.

"The Retouch3D control system has been specifically designed for finishing 3D prints. Unlike wax carving pens or other hot tools on the market (although it is possible that the company will also release wax and soldering tips) the temperature range of the device can accommodate both ends of the scale," said Sullivan.

Having already surpassed its Kickstarter goal, it seems the community has been waiting for this kind of solution. As someone who has sanded, grinded, razor-cut and melted sections of my own 3D prints, it isn't hard to understand. Retouch3D simply looks easier than other methods and it offers a degree of control previously unavailable.

Pledges are still available at the $179 level. Daring types can opt for various beta testing options, ranging between $99 and $399.

Estimated delivery for production (non-beta) units is June of 2016. That may seem like a long time, but in a way it is refreshing, because it seems realistic. Far too frequently are crowdfunding projects set to have an estimated delivery of three months, only to be delivered on a schedule more close to one year and three months.