Mattel is getting super creative this year by giving more freedom to the toy experts of the world: kids. At this year’s New York Toy Fair trade show, the company announced its new ThingMaker, a $300 3D printer that will let kids make their own toys. The device will work in conjunction with a 3D printing app called ThingMakerDesign, which was created in collaboration with the software company Autodesk.
While 3D printers are getting more affordable for the average person to buy, the software that goes along with them can be confusing and certainly isn’t kid-friendly. According to other reports, Mattel wanted to make its ThingMaker as appropriate as possible for kids to use and experiment with. Available for Android and iOS, the ThingMaker Design app has templates for kids to use to make all kinds of toys, including action figure-like statues, dolls, bracelets, and rings.
Kids will also be able to design toys from scratch once they feel comfortable with the software. All of the toys can be customized with different colors and textures, and the ThingMaker prints out parts of each toy so kids can assemble them on their own. The new ThingMaker is definitely the 2016 iteration of Mattel’s original ThingMaker, which debuted in the 1960s and let kids pour liquid plastic into toy molds and then bake them in the oven to create figurines.
There will certainly be endless designs kids can make just by using their imaginations and Mattel’s current design templates. However, Mattel mentions “additional design content and branded options” coming soon, which could mean kids 3D printing Hot Wheels, Barbie, or other similar toys.
The ThingMaker will use PLA plastic filament to make its toys, which is a popular material used in most commercial 3D printers. Some reports say the company could embrace other 3D printing materials in the future, but Mattel was not specific on which kinds. The company also didn’t disclose how many colors of PLA plastic filament will be ready to use with the ThingMaker when it ships, but it’s likely that colors will roll out as time goes on.
We haven’t played with the ThingMaker or its companion app yet, but it seems like Mattel is trying to combine an easy-to-use app experience with a 3D printer that parents can feel better about buying since it won’t cost an arm and a leg. A big theme at this year’s Toy Fair was kid-made items or products that encourage kids to interact with the toy during the process of making it, and Mattel’s ThingMaker definitely falls in line with that theme. The ThingMaker is available for preorder today on Amazon and will be widely available this fall.