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ARTICLE

Matt Nuccio. "What to Print First, the Chicken or the Egg."

Toy & Family Entertainment, Feb. 2014

This month I am revisiting a subject - 3D PRINTING- that I wrote about some while ago. I am stressing this because the creative aspects of the Toy Industry are being impacted by this more and faster than we imagined even a year ago. It is affecting how we approach the design, marketing and manufacturing of the products we believe in and sell. But there are complexities to any new technology. Knowing the assets and pitfalls work in one's favor.

3D printing has been around for years yet the average person has only recently become aware it. Chuck Hull patented the process of Stereolithography or the 3D printing as it commonly known today in back 1984. When the patent ran out a competitive market for desktop 3D printers opened up and started to drive down prices. As prices went down demand has gone up. While 10 years ago a 3D printer could cost upwards $20K, that same print today would only cost a few hundred bucks.

At current there are an estimated 300,000 consumer grade desktop printers in homes. Yup I said 300,000.... Considering all the hype about 3D printers it may be a surprising low number to you. Why is that number so low? Well the technology is not yet entirely user friendly. Today, the majority of 3D printers are owned by engineers with a high skill set for 3D modeling. 3D modeling programs can be extremely complicated and time consuming to learn and while there are free programs available, the popular ones tend to be

expensive. Yet even with a strong knowledge of the programs, 3D printing can be a frustrating process. The average 3D printer, if used properly has a 30% failure rate. While that may not seem terrible, it can be, if you consider that the process of actual printing can take upwards of 5 hours. Imagine the look on your face when your 2 hours into printing and your printer fails... not fun. Not fun at all!

There are many reasons why the prints fail. It could be software issue, it could be a file issue or it may be the printer itself. But as time goes on these issue are being ironed out. It is estimated that by the end of next year at home printers will jump from the current 300,000 to over a 140 million... and with each sales comes a new user. As user use increases we will start to nominate leaders take over segments of the market and dictate the processes by which we print. While todays 3D modeling programs are fairly complicated it is only a short time before simply friendly programs become go to staples of the design challenged. 

That being said. we in the Toy Industry must bone up on knowing what can be expected from this new asset. It cannot all be outlined here, but you can access a whole world of self education on all of that amazing challenges 3D PRINTING brings to the future of our TOY INDUSTRY just by delving into the torrent of information available on the web. I encourage you to do so!