In the 1960s, Mattel's ThingMaker let children create their own toys by pouring liquid plastic into metal molds. Now, Mattel has updated the idea for a new century using 3D printing. The reinvented ThingMaker is a $299.99 3D printer which works with an iOS and Android app to let children (and adults, of course) design new figurines and send them wirelessly from their phone or tablet straight to the printer. According to Toyland, the app comes with dozens of basic blueprints (including rings, necklaces, scorpions, dinosaurs, and skeletons), and users can customize toys by printing new parts that click into basic ball-and-socket joints.
The printer itself is aimed at children aged 13 and up, reports USA Today, and has a few safety features to keep kids from 3D printing themselves any wounds. The device's doors lock automatically when it's in use, and Toyland notes that the printing head retracts when it's not working, keeping curious kids from touching something that's been heating PLA plastic filament into a soft goo. Mattel says the ThingMaker will work with any standard filament, and although it hasn't announced colors or pricing for its own spools, the company was showing off plenty of variety at the New York Toy Fair this weekend. USA Today notes that using an average 1 kg spool of plastic, the ThingMaker should be able to create 20 figurines, 30 pieces of jewelry, or 100 rings.
"Click print before [you] go to bed and wake up to a brand new toy."
The printer's app is already live in the iOS and Android app stores, while the printer itself is scheduled to be available on Amazon today to preorder, although it won't be shipping until this fall. Right now, the ThingMaker looks like just an easy-to-use 3D printer with a fairly competitive price, but Mattel has the opportunity to connect it to a wider universe of toys, letting users 3D print new Barbie or Hot Wheels accessories. "Obviously we have quite a few iconic brands in our portfolio as well as access to partner brands. You can imagine that’s part of our longer term strategy," Mattel senior director Aslan Appleman told USA Today. "We think it’s pretty magical to watch these things being printed, but after awhile you don’t want to sit there for hours. For bigger prints, click print before [you] go to bed and wake up to a brand new toy."