Mattel has announced that it's bringing back ThingMaker, its toy making kits which launched in the 1960s. But this time around ThingMaker will get a modern make-over and consist of a fully functioning US$300 3D printer designed specifically for kids. Used with a companion app, this will allow young creators to design and print their own toys at home.
The original ThingMaker let children produce their own toys from Creepy Crawlers to Hot Wheels cars, using die-cast metal molds, Plastigoop and an oven. However, those kits haven't been sold for a number of years (though we can still remember the combination of hot plastic and burnt fingers). Recently it's been 3D printers which once again promise to give children the ability to make their own endless supply of toys, including the Bonsai Lab BS Toy, Printeer 3D, and the hand-held 3Doodler Start 3D pen.
Now toy brand Mattel is also getting in on the action. In collaboration with Autodesk it's producing the ThingMaker 3D printer and the ThingMaker Design App. This combo will allow users to create their own toys using hundreds of predesigned parts and print them using a variety of filament material and color options.
After wirelessly linking the 3D printer to a mobile device running the ThingMaker Design App for iOS or Android, users decide whether they want to create a toy figure or jewelry, with the option to print ready-designed toys, or mix and match from hundreds of parts which can be popped together after printing thanks to ball and socket joints. After designing their creation, users simply push a button to start printing.
Features of the ThingMaker 3D printer which make it more suitable for children than your typical 3D printer include it being simple to use, and having an auto-locking door. This will stay shut until your toy is at a safe temperature and the hot print head has retracted into a recess, so that it can't burn eager little fingers.
One limitation, as with other 3D printers, is the time it will take to print a toy. A typical plastic figure can take 12 hours to print, so you'll want patient children, or to print overnight when they're asleep. Also, while available models currently include an array of figures including dinosaurs, dolls, skeletons and jewelry, you can't yet print your own Barbie, Hot Wheels or Mega Bloks. However, Mattel says additional design content including branded options will roll out at a later date.
The ThingMaker 3D printer is due to be available later this year priced at $300. The ThingMaker Design App is available now and also works with other 3D printers.