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3D Printed Toys: Inspiring a New Generation of Makers

We at Replicator World have kept watch over the 3D printing world these past few years, and seen this technology affect industry after industry.  The traditional ways of creating and making things are just beginning to be overtaken by 3D printing.  Whether it’s in the medical industry, the manufacturing industry, or even the war industry – this technology is turning everything on its head. 

The toy industry is no different.  We’ve reported before about the advances brought to this industry by 3D printing, but the integration of these two industries has sped up even faster. 

Now, it could be argued that this is a small and insignificant drop in the 3D printing bucket and that progress in other industries such as medicine are far more important, but Replicator World disagrees with this assertion.  Medicine, of course, is important, but it is also vital that 3D printing find its way into the creation, manufacturing, and development of the toy market. 

We believe kids today – the makers of the future (literally) need to be inspired and captivated by 3D printing.  And what better way to do this than to introduce it into their play?  To give the gift of flexibility and creativity and unleash the potential of children’s minds will be vital in the quest to keep the 3D printing industry innovating.

Replicator World’s recent journey into the toy industry begins at Bonsai Lab’s booth at the 2015 Nuremberg Toy Fair.  Gizmag was on site to discover the company’s latest 3D printer, the BS Toy.  This printer is aimed at families and children.  Although it is recommended that children who use this 3D printer do so with adult supervision.

“The BS Toy is a smaller, safer follow-up to Bonsai Lab’s BS01+ printer.  Bonsai had the BS01+ busy printing in Nuremberg, but the Bonsai Toy was still just a non-working model.  The company hopes to have it ready later this year.”

The BS Toy “is a pint-sized, 8-in (20-cm) cube that weighs just 4.4 lb (2kg).  The key to making it friendly for ‘home or educational use’ is in a specially designed filament from Polymaker.  The BS Toy’s filament melts at 176 degrees F (80 degrees C), which Bonsai Lab says is less than half the average melting temperature of filaments from other 3D printers.  It’s still not exactly…cool, but it does lessen the likelihood of serious burns.”

Bonsai previously launched the small, home friendly BS01+ in Japan and they sell it for $770.  They plan a worldwide launch soon, along with the 2015 holiday season launch of the BS Toy.  They estimate the price of the smaller printer being around $500 to $600.  “Both the BS Toy and BS01+ are designed to work with Windows 7+ and Mac OS X, with Repetier-Host, Cura, and Simplify3D as recommended software options.”

Bonsai’s BS Toy will go a long way in reaching the enterprising minds of kids while also being safe for them at the same time.  However, a different company may have unlocked another way to ignite the 3D printing flame within the next generation. 

As reported by The Guardian, an Italian startup has launched a crowd funding campaign.

3DRacers has developed a game they describe as “a cross between Scalextric, real-world Mario Kart and app-controlled toy Anki Drive – with a 3D printing twist.”  This crowd funding campaign is on Indiegogo, with the goal of raising at least $25,000.  They’ve already raised $26,790. 

The game involves toy cars racing around a track on the floor.  These cars are 3D printed and controlled via a smart phone app.  The game’s main appeal, however, is the customization of the cars. 

“Players will create their cars using an online tool, then either download the files to print their parts if they own a 3D printer, or get them printed locally by one of the more-than 10,000 members of the 3DHubs 3D printing network.”  This will allow those who do not own a 3D printer to get in on the action. 

The 3DRacers cars also come with ‘pilot electronic boards’ supplied by the company.  “Players with more technical skills will be able to hack the board and edit the interface of the smart phone app.

The company’s goal is to target schools that are teaching their kids programming skills.  “One of the rewards in its crowd funding campaign is a $400 ‘classroom’ edition aimed at schools and non-profit organizations, including an education eBook.”

3DRacers’ focus on customizability and education will hopefully draw kids into a lifelong passion for making.  They’ll come for the fast, bright cars and stay for the freedom 3D printing can offer them. 

A collaboration between Ittyblox and Shapeways is also sure to keep kids coming back for more. 

As Curbed explained, Ittyblox has “launched a collection of supremely detailed 3D printed miniature buildings.”

3D printing company Shapeways will print each piece on demand with every order at 1:1000 scale.  These pieces take their inspiration from real world cities.  For example, “there’s a mini version of New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, London’s Methodist Central Hall Westminster, plus some slightly more generic Chicago ‘black box office buildings’ and ‘Miami Art Deco hotels.’”

Ittyblox, through Shapeways, “sells the designs individually and in multi-building city-themed sets, with prices ranging from $6 for a Miami hotel to $93 for a collection of seven ‘New York buildings.’  The catalog also offers a chunk of highway for $21, a small urban park for $37, and a $20 gridded baseplate to hold all the pieces together.”

Perhaps the most exciting possible feature for Ittyblox’s cities are the LED lights customers can choose to put beneath the structures “which have some cut-out windows.”  These give the display a certain pop sure to dazzle visitors.

From toy 3D printers to 3D printed racecars to 3D printed mini cities, kids now have an amazing opportunity to witness the versatility of this technology.  People like Corben White, a 3rd year Industrial Technology teacher at both Shelbyville and Windsor High Schools in Illinois are making it possible. 

As written in the blog, last May, White showcased 3D printing in his classrooms by assigning “his students a project to design and 3D print CO2 race cars which they were then tasked with racing against one another for…supremacy.  Since [then], White [says] that he has had teachers from all around the country contact him about the project.”

But White wasn’t satisfied, so he developed what he has dubbed as “THE Printed Jelly Bean Dispenser.”  As Mr. White explained, “I really enjoy taking old/classic woodworking projects and turning them into functional and modern 3D printed designs.  I happened to stumble upon some pictures of an old wooden jelly bean dispenser, which is what I loosely based my design on.  I was also looking for a project to show my students how to complete a basic assembly drawing using Autodesk Inventor.”

“My design takes roughly 6 hours to print out every part – depending on your settings of course.  I also wanted my dispenser to be very easy to use so small children could use it.  I plan on bringing the dispenser to events to promote my CAD class and 3D printing in general, and it will be a very fun and interactive object for people to use.”

White used his own Aluminum Mendel 3D printer along with one of his school’s flexMendel 3D printers in order to create the dispenser.  “Once it is assembled after being 3D printed, you throw in some jelly beans or other small candy through an opening at the top.  Then you simply turn the knob and watch as the candy drops down and into your…hands.”

Mr. White, however, is already looking to the future: “I plan on redesigning this machine a little and adding an adjustable shaft and knob as well as creating a Plinko style Dispenser.  I try to focus my CAD lessons on practical problems while also challenging my students in fun and innovative ways.”

Mr. White offers his students a great way to get introduced to the world of 3D printing.  But he isn’t the only one offering an introduction to this technology.

The San Jose Mercury News was on site at a recent event in their city: 3D Print Jam at the Tech Museum of Innovation.  This event offered tutorials on CAD programs and 3D printing and scanning. 

Kids were offered the opportunity to create and design models of everything from robots to animals to unicorns; whatever their imaginations could come up with.  The Mercury News was impressed when “no one blinked [as] presenter Nick Kloski of HoneyPoint3D in Oakland talked about STL – surface tessellation language, the file format for 3D printing – or Thingiverse, the website for free 3D models.” 

“Beginners used Tinkercad, free browser-based software, and Chromebooks to pluck off-the-virtual-shelf shapes and assemble them into designs.  Every hour, Tech staff held a random drawing for one design to be printed.”

Some of these kids are excited about the opportunities 3D printing can provide them.  Kids like Kai Wessel, 11, of Mountain View: ‘Before you couldn’t get a 3D model.  It would have to be sculpted out of something’, he said…”He’s been researching 3D printing” on his own. 

“Kai was being scanned with a camera at a booth by Twindom, an Oakland company that produces miniature statues of people.  ‘It would be so cool to have on your desk, instead of a picture of your family, a little model of you family,’ said Kai’s dad, Alan Wessel.”

Demonstrations like 3D Print Jam in San Jose offer a chance for a new generation to get excited by the potentials of this technology.  Who knows?  In a few short years, these kids could be leading the 3D printing revolution.

That is why Replicator World is so excited by all this news coming out of the toy industry.  Advances for 3D printing in the medical field, agriculture field, and manufacturing are all vital and important – but inspiring our kids to be the innovative minds of the future?  This priority should be paramount. 

Photo Courtesy of Funbiestudios

Quotes Courtesy of Gizmag, The Guardian, Curbed,, and The San Jose Mercury News

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