It’s hard to believe that we’ve actually reached the point where 3D printing technology is so accessible to consumers that even children can use it. Mattel proved this with its new ThingMaker, which was originally a device that allowed children to create their own plastic molds back in the 1960s, but is now a $300 3D printer that allows children to design their own toys through an Android or iOS app, and then print a physical version of them. Obviously there are a few safety measures to ensure that the children don’t hurt themselves, but the device is geared towards children aged thirteen and older, so most of them should have enough common sense not to hurt themselves, but you can never be too careful with kids.
In the 1960s, Mattel’s ThingMaker let children create their own toys by pouring liquid plastic into metal molds. Now, Mattel has updated the idea for a new century using 3D printing. The reinvented ThingMaker is a $299.99 3D printer which works with an iOS and Android app to let children (and adults, of course) design new figurines and send them wirelessly from their phone or tablet straight to the printer. According to Toyland, the app comes with dozens of basic blueprints (including rings, necklaces, scorpions, dinosaurs, and skeletons), and users can customize toys by printing new parts that click into basic ball-and-socket joints. The printer itself is aimed at children aged 13 and up, reports USA Today, and has a few safety features to keep kids from 3D printing themselves any wounds. The device’s doors lock automatically when it’s in use, and Toyland notes that the printing head retracts when it’s not working, keeping curious kids from touching something that’s been heating PLA plastic filament into a soft goo. Mattel says the ThingMaker will work with any standard filament, and although it hasn’t announced colors or pricing for its own spools, the company was showing off plenty of variety at the New York Toy Fair this weekend. USA Today notes that using an average 1 kg spool of plastic, the ThingMaker should be able to create 20 figurines, 30 pieces of jewelry, or 100 rings.