Learning toy company Click-A-Brick applauds toy giant Mattel for meeting what it believes is a threat to the toy industry from 3D printing head on with the release of its own 3D printer that allows kids to easily make their own toys.
Mattel unveiled its 3D printer, dubbed “ThingMaker” at the recent North American International Toy Fair in New York. A 3D printing app allows kids to use the printer with a simple interface that makes the process easier than most 3D printers on the market, as reported by TechCrunch. It includes a number of character templates and tutorials that make using the app and printer intuitive for people, even young children, but it also allows for toy design from scratch.
The toys are printed using a hard PLA filament in separate pieces that snap together to create moveable joints so childen can play with their creations. Kids can watch the printing process through a clear window.
“In today’s digital age, it’s more important than ever for families to transcend the digital world and make their ideas real,” Aslan Appleman, senior director at Mattel, said in a statement. “ThingMaker pushes the boundaries of imaginative play, giving families countless ways to customize their toys and let their creativity run wild.”
Jason Smith and Georg de Gorostiza, co-founders of learning toy company Click-A-Brick, which recently released the 30-piece building block set Sandy Sidekicks, say it’s a smart and bold move for a toy company to embrace 3D printing, as the pair of entrepreneurs see it as a threat to the toy industry.
“At first, we were a little surprised to see Mattel had come out with a 3D printer that encourages children to print their own toys, but after thinking about it a bit, it actually makes perfect sense,” Smith said. “The worst thing an industry that is threatened by a new technology can do is take the ‘ostrich approach’ and ignore that technology altogether. Ignoring a new threat just makes it easier to succumb to it once it’s too big to ignore. With 3D printing still in its infancy and seen as more of a novelty at this point, we think it was a smart move on Mattel’s part to go ahead and align their brand with it early on.”
The team at Click-A-Brick say Mattel has less to worry about from 3D printing, as its toy lineup primarily consists of toys with moving parts like action figures and vehicles that are difficult to replicate in a 3D printer. Even though it is possible to 3D print action figures and dolls, the entrepreneurial pair say, those toys won’t be the same quality as factory-made ones. Toys that are made from solid plastic, like most building toys, will have more to worry about from 3D printing, the co-founders note.
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