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Mattel Revives 'ThingMaker' As 3D Printer For Families: Toy Factory At Home

13 February 2016, 10:07 am EST By Horia Ungureanu Tech Times
Mattel announced a partnership with Autodesk to bring the ThingMaker back to life. The classic toy will return as a 3D printer with apps for Android and iOS, allowing users to come up with myriads of designs for toys, jewelry and more.  ( Mattel )

The ThingMaker from the 1960s is making a comeback, as toymaker Mattel wants to revamp the classic device into a contemporary 3D printer.

During the Toy Fair trade show, Mattel told the media that the 3D printer will be available on Amazon for a price point of $299.99, later this year.

The printer's 3D printing apps will support both Android and iOS, and rely on a partnership with Autodesk.  

At the Toy Fair, visitors could take a look at the myriad of toys and items that can come out of the ThingMaker. From dolls to dinosaurs to jewelry to robots, the possibilities are nearly endless.

The ThingMaker app allows for user customization so that you may choose from existing templates and from a number of drag and drop parts. After the assembly is complete, simply tap the print button and wait for the magic to happen. A nifty safety feature is that the printer auto-shuts down the door after you press print.

"Mattel will have a variety of filament color options available for the ThingMaker 3D Printer with additional design content including branded options rolling out at a later date," the company says.

The apps are already available for download, so you can toy around in it and craft items to your liking. However, the 3D printer will reach its customers later in autumn. Preorders open on Amazon this Monday.

"We're going to use these seven months to really learn and gain analytics of how people are using it," a senior director at Mattel, Aslan Appleman, says.

Despite the surging potential of 3D printers for professional, hobbyist and industrial purposes, the devices did not yet win over the consumer segment. One reason might be the price, the complexity of the machines or the time it takes them to roll out a finished product.

It should be noted that the ThingMaker can be used by teenagers who are 13 and beyond, and the smallest parts are safe for 3-year-olds or older children.

Even if it might seem that Mattel focuses on manufacturing toys, its home-targeted 3D printers are much more than that.

For now, Amazon is the only vendor that will sell Mattel's printer. Amazon has experience in 3D printing on its own, as the e-commerce company offers users the opportunity to get custom 3D printed objects made to order.

How much you will be able to print depends mainly on the type and size of the end products. With 2.2 pounds of filament spool you should be able to roll out 20 figures, 30 jewelry items or 100 standard rings.

Appleman hints that in the long run, it may be possible for users to print Hot Wheels or Barbie parts. As the brands are under Mattel's umbrella, this is a prospect that is both desirable and plausible.

ThingMaker does come with one drawback, just like every 3D printer on the market: waiting times. A small ring could require 30 minutes to print, whereas a large toy could gulp between 6 and 8 hours.

Mattel says its printer works on standard PLA (Polylactic Acid) filament, a material that is commonly used in 3D printing. No official information permeated about the branded colors it may make available or how much a filament will cost. The good news is that spools from third parties cost about $23 per piece and they are most likely ThingMaker compatible.

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