Mattel $300 3D printer for toys looks to spawn new maker generation

16 Feb 2016

ThingMaker image via Mattel

3D printing is about to become a lot more accessible for children as Mattel has announced a new $300 3D printer that will allow them to design and print their own toys.

Mattel clearly has big intentions for its new 3D printer, called ThingMaker, with the company saying that this will give kids the “keys to the toy factory” through the printer itself, but also the companion software that will go with it.

At its unveiling recently at the Toy Fair in New York, it was revealed the ThingMaker has been developed in collaboration with the company AutoDesk to take the basics of 3D printing and bring it to a usability level that a kid shouldn’t have a problem working with.

Using the ThingMaker Design app (iOS and Android), kids will be given a set of templates from which to work from, as well as a range of tutorials to help them create their own designs, too.

From the screenshots, at least, it appears that the user interface is very simple to operate, with kids also being able to choose what colour they would like their creation to be, although this will obviously depend on what materials are available to them.

ThingMaker app

ThingMaker Design app. Image via Mattel

If you’re making something like, say, jewellery, Mattel says the ThingMaker 3D printer will print parts in batches and then let you put it all together through ball and socket joints.

This can also be applied to much larger objects, giving kids the opportunity to create giant robots or dinosaurs if they wish.

As for the STL print files that the kids have created, Mattel says that they can be exported wirelessly to any 3D printer, regardless of which company made it.

According to TechCrunch, the spec of the ThingMaker is pretty standard for ones of its size, with a small item taking about 30 minutes to print, or as much as eight hours for much larger items.

In terms of filament, Mattel also confirmed that it will use the commonly-used PLA filament.

While no European release date has been announced, Mattel will launch the ThingMaker in the US sometime during the autumn.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic