Affordable 3D Printer For Children Starting At $300: Mattel Set To Change 3D Printing Market

Mattel’s 3D printer is called the ThingMaker, and it costs around $300 to own it. Normally, a 3D printer price would be much higher, but since this one is marketed to kids, Mattel had to figure out a way to keep 3D printer costs low.

The Verge reports that Mattel made a ThingMaker back in the 1960s, and instead of 3D printing, it allowed children to create their own toys by pouring liquid plastic into metal molds.

Gizmodo reports that this affordable 3D printer comes with dozens of blueprints including rings, necklaces, scorpions, and skeletons.

Michael Nunez at Gizmodo writes, “You can pick different colors for different parts of the toy you’re printing out, and you can also customize new toys using simple ball-and-socket joints that are printed on many of the pieces.”

The new ThingMaker works with an iOS and Android app to let children design figurines, which are then sent in for a 3D print. The companion application is pretty complex, too, so those looking to get in-depth with their designs won’t be disappointed for such a low-priced 3D printer. After consumers are done designing, they can send in their designs wirelessly from their smartphone.

As for the app, Mattel designed it alongside another company to bring it to life.

“Mattel partnered with software company Autodesk to make sure that the app was fast, easy to navigate and wouldn’t crash like so many other poorly made toy apps,” Nunez writes. “Because the software was outsourced to autodesk, it actually works with other 3D printers too—not just the ThingMaker 3D. But that probably won’t matter for most people because other 3D printers aren’t nearly as affordable or as well built at this price.”

It’s crazy to think that Mattel’s $300 3D printer could be marketed to kids but used by everyone. The 3D printer is an interesting enough piece of technology to captivate people of all ages.

But how could this be safe? Surely one of the first affordable 3D printers must have some safety precautions for those young people wanting to build.

“The printer itself is aimed at children aged 13 and up, and has a few safety features to keep kids from 3D printing themselves any wounds,” James Vincent at the Verge writes. “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.”

For Mattel, the 3D printer cost incurred through production wouldn’t be an issue because of their access to a wider universe of toys.

“Obviously we have quite a few iconic brands in our portfolio as well as access to partner brands. You can imagine that’s part of our longer term strategy,” Mattel senior director Aslan Appleman said. “We think it’s pretty magical to watch these things being printed, but after awhile you don’t want to sit there for hours. For bigger prints, click print before [you] go to bed and wake up to a brand new toy.”

Mattel’s 3D printer price is set at $299.99 to be exact, and this new technology is sure to turn the whole industry on its collective head. It’s one of the first affordable 3D printers available with a relatively complex mobile app allowing users to get creative with their new 3D printer.

[Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]