Mattel wants to make a toy factory out of the living room with its announcement of the ThingMaker — a 3D printer designed to let children customize and create their own playthings.
Originally shown off at the New York Toy Fair, Mattel's ThingMaker is a far cry technologically from its 1960s' predecessor, which was also known as Creepy Crawlers.
In place of cooking up rudimentary rubber bugs, the new ThingMaker marries contemporary hardware and software, allowing kids and adults alike to design articulated toys that the printer creates within a matter of hours.
While 3D printers typically require modeling software expertise, not mention copious amounts of supervision, the ThingMaker keeps things family-friendly with a simple app for designing toys and a safety-focused construction that keeps little hands away from the printer's heated elements.
Created with the help of software developer Autodesk, Mattel's Thingmaker Design app mocks up action figures, accessories, and even toy jewelry using an iOS or Android device.
Once designed, the schematics then beam wirelessly to the ThingMaker, which uses heated plastic filament to construct your child's masterpiece, piece-by-piece and layer-by-layer.
While 3D printing is old news, especially for making toys and other knick-knacks, the ThingMaker is one of the first attempts we've seen by a major company to bring consumer-level 3D printing to the mass market.
That said, Mattel isn't the first company looking to put 3D printing tech in the hands of younglings, as WoobleWorks also recently announced the 3Doodler Start — a child-friendly pen that 'draws' three-dimensional shapes using heated plastic.
Mattel's ThingMaker is set to debut this fall, with preorders available now. Getting one will set you back $300 — approximately £208/AU$420 — though pricing on the filament needed to print each part has not yet been specified.
Those especially eager to begin preliminary designs for their new action figure can also download Tinkerplay — Autodesk's toymaking app intended for other 3D printers besides the ThingMaker.