Crowd-funding, the process of financing a project through hundreds or thousands of small donations, is fundamentally changing the way we design, produce and buy gadgets.

Leading the pack in crowd-funding success is Kickstarter, which has been home to over a dozen million-dollar projects in the past year.

Kickstarter projects that have featured in this column include a precision-engineered pen, Pen Type A, and Makey Makey, a gadget that turns fruit, people and animals into keyboards by attaching them to the MaKey MaKey board and the computer with an alligator clip.

The latest phenomenon to catch my attention is 3Doodler, a gadget described as the world's first 3D printing pen.

Robotic 3D printers are nothing new, with fresh models hitting the market almost every month. The problem is that most carry four-figure price-tags and occupy a lot of shelf space in the garage or home office.

3Doodler cuts the complexity of robotic 3D printers by removing the complicated bit in the middle: the robot. What you're left with is a hand-held electric pen that is capable of "writing" in coloured plastic in three dimensions.

The plastic comes out as liquid but sets quickly, allowing anyone with some creative flair to draw 3D shapes in mid air.

Demonstrations with a pre-production model show the inventors building anything from a simple house to a scale model of the Eiffel Tower.

Although building objects with the 3Doodler is a manual affair, the inventors have come up with a clever paper template system.

Models can be downloaded and printed on to standard paper and it's then possible to trace the shapes manually with the 3D pen to build something that approximates to a template-based design.

The gadget has smashed its initial funding target of £20,000 and is on its way to breaking the £2m barrier with two weeks left.

While I found the demos slick and entertaining, I'm surprised my trigger finger isn't hovering over the "back this project" button.

I think my reluctance stems from the fact the 3Doodler has none of the attributes I'd associate with a 3D printer. It's neither accurate nor automated and it doesn't interface with the massive online library of 3D objects that make a robotic printer so appealing. It's not that 3Doodler is bad, it's just that it fills a need I don't have: to be surrounded by misshapen plastic doodles.

Readers with more imagination or creativity than I can back the project. There are still 15 days to go on the Kickstarter page, but new backers should note: if you support the project now the estimated shipping date is February 2014.

Positives A clever way to bring 3D printing to the mass market.

Negatives Limited scope beyond its initial novelty factor.

Twitter: @grant_gibson