Monday, 17 February 2014

3D Printing, Toys, And Hints Towards The Future

A 3D printed action figure - from ToyArk
There's an interesting article in the Guardian today about 3D printing and toys. I repost it here in full because I think it hints at some interesting ramifications for the wargaming community. Principally this could be a way that the market leaders - e.g. GW, PP - choose to go, although I imagine plenty of resistance from a company that still depends on a high street and shopping mall presence. Also I wonder how it would influence the future of crowd funded projects - it would certainly cut out the manufacturing and shipping times, so maybe we'd see more adventurous or diverse projects (allowing of course for the limitations of home printing).

From the Guardian, 17th Feb 2014:
The prospect of children printing their own Transformers and My Little Pony toys is a step closer, after toy firm Hasbro revealed a partnership with 3D printing company 3D Systems. 
The two companies are working together to “co-develop and commercialise innovative play printers and platforms later this year” according to their announcement, which refers to the “entirety of Hasbro’s world-renowned brands” without mentioning specific details for the latter. 
“We believe 3D printing offers endless potential to bring incredible new play experiences for kids and we’re excited to work with 3D Systems, a recognised industry leader in this space,” said Hasbro’s president and chief executive Brian Goldner. 
It’s the latest high-profile partnership for 3D Systems, which sells a range of 3D printers and related services. In January, the company announced that it was working with The Hershey Company to explore the potential of 3D-printed chocolate, while also appointing musician as its “chief creative officer”. 
The new partnership is part of a wider interest in the potential for 3D printing and toys. Disney has developed software to turn animated characters into 3D-printed mechanical toys, for example, while British charity Kids Company worked with agency AMV BBDO and 3D printing firm Ultimaker on a pop-up shop in London printing toys for vulnerable children when visitors made a donation. 
British startup MakieLab has been making waves in the toy industry with its Makies dolls, which children design themselves using its website or app, before their parent orders the physical versions. 
“There will be plenty of emerging-tech types in toy companies saying this is part of the future, but as a big company it takes a long time to change course,” chief executive Alice Taylor told The Guardian in March 2013
Some large toy companies have since talked publicly about the challenges of adopting 3D printing. That June, Mattel told the Wall Street Journal that while its engineers used the technology to create prototype toys for brands including Barbie and Hot Wheels, it was steering clear of letting consumers print out their own toys for safety reasons. 
Lego press officer Roar Rude Trangbæk expressed similar sentiments inan interview with trade website 3D Printing Industry in December 2013. “Currently we do not see 3D printing as a viable replacement for the moulded LEGO elements of today due to the fact that we have very strict demands for the quality, durability and safety of our products,” said Trangbæk “3D printing does not currently live up to these requirements. In addition there is a high production cost involved, which currently does not make it commercially viable for us – except for prototyping purposes.”
3D printing technology is changing fast though, including the cost and quality of consumer printers. Hasbro’s partnership with 3D Systems – and the public commitment to release products later this year – indicates that it has taken a more optimistic view of the technology’s potential.


  1. I've been saying for a long time that GW needs to put high quality CAD images of it's figures for sale that it's never going to make again. They have nothing to lose and money to gain. Failure to embrace/plan for this technology will leave them staggering much like the music industry and others who thought that the Walkman for forever.

    1. Joe, if the tech really does become widespread then opening but the 'back catalogue' would be an excellent move by GW. Who can say what business models will be coming down the line. We can hope at least!


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