The advent of 3-D technology is taking the toy industry by storm, and this is evidenced by the current market projections. The toy market is estimated to be $135 billion by 2020, and 3-D printing is said to be the primary tool to rake in these profits. Do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturing uses designs from a free online repository. DIY has a multimillion dollar impact on the overall toy industry. Most, if not all, toys are made from plastic. 3-D printing has been proved to be an excellent solution to repair broken toys or replace missing parts. Different platforms offer different 3-D files, and some have sections dedicated to toy making if one desires an original and unique model. Toy customization has also been made possible by 3-D printing. With this evidence, the future of toy manufacturers looks grim.
A recent study by a research team led by professor of materials and science, Joshua Pearce, and the electrical engineering department at Michigan Tech showed that a desktop 3-D printer could save consumers a lot of money. “This evidence is just overwhelming, this makes sense from a consumer’s perspective,” Pearce said. He further added, “it is one thing to buy a toy from a store or get a commodity toy for your children. It is perhaps more valuable to get that exact, specific toy that your kid really wants that you can either design yourself or download and customize on your computer and print at home.”
3-D printing already has an impact on the toy industry, and it can only grow as 3-D printing companies become more widespread and the technology becomes readily available. Toy industries will soon run out of business, and the Professor Pearce advises that they should embrace 3-D technology. Open sourcing toy designs and focusing on unprintable components or encouraging both the toy makers and the open source community to design commercial toy add-ons will add value to the toys. “Millions of free designs exist. Distributed home manufacturing is the future of toys and many other products as well. It would be a big mistake to assume that 3-D printers are just for toys,” remarked Pearce.
Pearce and his team did a case study using Legos to delve more into the potential impacts of 3-D printing and the main things that will drive consumers to employ DIY manufacturing. “Speaking as a parent, Lego toys are expensive. All parents know that they can’t be found at garage sales, everyone hoards them like they are gold. Thanks to DIY manufacturing, you can now make custom compatible blocks and have the same kind of fun while playing with something you make yourself,” commented Pearce. An essential aspect of DIY manufacturing is judging how well a home printed version will match one bought from a store.
Michigan Technological University. (2017, July 20). 3-D printing sweeps toy manufacturing off the shelves. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170720103152.htm
(n.d.). Michigan Technological University. 3-D Printing Sweeping Toy Industry Off the Shelves | Michigan Tech News. Retrieved from http://www.mtu.edu/news/stories/2017/july/3-d-printing-sweeping-toy-industry-off-shelves.html