Toy industry – Into the future with 3D printing

3D printing in the toy industry

Many toys are now made of plastic. So what could be more obvious than to also use 3D printers to manufacture toys? But the technology can be used not only for the production, but also for the repair of toy parts. On Internet platforms such as Thingiverse and Shapeways, for example, you can find many files that can be used and downloaded as templates for toys of any kind. Of course, it is also possible to design your own objects with the help of special software. This article shows which possibilities additive manufacturing offers for the production of toys.

Print custom toys

3D printing makes it possible to make unique toys even at home. Both 3D printers and 3D pens can be used for this purpose. The latter can be used not only to repair minor damage, but also by the children themselves to create their own toys, such as animal figures, buildings, etc., by drawing it in 3D. It usually takes only a few minutes for such an object to be completed.

However, our main focus in this post will be on manufacturing toys using 3D printers.

Modify toys with 3D printing

With 3D printing, it becomes possible to modify some previous favorite toys. Of course, you can buy, for example, LEGO or Playmobil figures. However, they become much more individual when they are manufactured by a 3D printer. Even for visually impaired people, 3D printing can be of great advantage, for example, when the game pieces are provided with Braille. A Rubik's cube on which the colors are described in Braille may serve as an example.

More and more toy manufacturers are also using 3D printing processes for the production of prototypes. This gives you the opportunity to check the functionality and quality of the product and make any necessary corrections. Comparison of different versions is also possible by building prototypes.

3D printing also offers toy manufacturers the opportunity to connect with their customers. This makes it possible to involve fans in design processes. At the same time, customers can use 3D printing software to design their own toys and print them at home. The Shapeways platform, for example, made it possible to customize My Little Pony figures as part of a Superfanart section. Especially among girls, these figures enjoyed great popularity. If you don't have a 3D printer yet, you can hire a service provider to do it for you.

Toy manufacturers could benefit significantly from 3D printing, especially in the longer term. They would then no longer have to manufacture and package the toys themselves, but only provide the relevant files. At the same time, packaging and shipping material can be saved. However, when 3D printing toys, it is of course important to ensure that they are safe for babies and toddlers in particular (no detachable parts, toys such as building blocks large enough not to be swallowed, etc.).

3D Software and 3D Printer for Kids

Toy manufacturer Mattel (known for Barbie dolls and Matchbox cars, among other things) and 3D software company Autodesk have already embraced 3D printing and regularly offer 3D printing customization services. Autodesk, for example, has developed Tinkerplay, a software that can be used by the children themselves. With just a few clicks you can select body parts, colors and more.

3D pens allow children (and adults too) to draw and finish small objects instantly. This promotes the company's own creativity.

Intellectual property must continue to be protected even in 3D printing

Especially in the field of 3D printing, the protection of intellectual property plays a major role. This is also the case with toy manufacturers. As already known from the music industry, there is also the danger of piracy and illegal downloads, which can cause great financial damage to the manufacturers. So far, however, toy manufacturers are not so concerned about it, as many toys are very complex, he said. The manufacturing companies continue to rely on fans buying licensed products. It remains to be seen whether this will remain the case in the near future or what technical innovations the manufacturers will come up with here (for example, a specially saved file that can only be accessed once).