Almost everyone gets nostalgic when asked about their favourite toys and games from the good old childhood days. Toys hold a special place in every child’s memory, they are a constant companion and significantly shape minds in this impressionable age.
Even the word toy itself is used to signify the spirit of creative playfulness and experimentation with objects and ideas around us. So, it is very crucial for both – the parents and toy manufacturer – play an important role in what toys can be made available for the child. Just like today’s kids, toys are evolving at a rapid pace. Today’s toys include drones/quadcopters, robotic kits, smart devices, VR headsets along with modern iterations of classic games.
Apart from this, there is a rising demand from parents for educational, holistic, gender-neutral and most importantly physically safe toys. This demand is so meteoric that even iconic toy companies such as Lego have developed learning-based robotic kits and ecosystem called Lego Mindstorms, with other companies joining in with their offerings. With increasingly stricter regulations and standards, toy manufacturers are under constant pressure to continuously design and introduce children’s toys that are right on all counts.
Toy manufacturer’s perspective
Recently, the global e-commerce giant Amazon launched a subscription-based service to deliver educational toys on a monthly basis. This is indicative of the future market trends toys makers can expect. From a business standpoint, it means that toy makers need to quickly scale up their product offerings and reach markets faster.
To ensure a steady sale of toys, they need to design unique toys that are in vogue, cost-effective, functional and most importantly safe. To add to this, conventional design and prototyping methods are long, tedious and expensive. So, how do to toy manufacturers counter this and make a mark in this competitive market? Luckily for them, 3D printers fit into their development workflow seamlessly and offer a multitude of benefits across the whole manufacturing process.
Why 3D printing in toy manufacturing?
In the world of manufacturing, there is no doubt that 3D printing is very much in vogue.
Today, companies of various verticals have their own 3D printers, including traditional manufacturers, independent shop owners, and artists among others.
3D printing or additive manufacturing can be described as the process of joining material to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, in comparison to subtractive manufacturing methodologies more specifically, traditional machining. While many materials can be easily used in 3D printing, plastic-based polymers currently dominate the space in most manufacturing verticals, rendering immense application possibilities. As many toys are made of plastic, 3D printing has quickly proven to be an excellent product design and development solution for today’s toy manufacturers.
To give you a closer-to-home perspective on 3D printing technology’s penetration in this vertical of manufacturing, it is imperative to know that the legendary toy manufacturer Mattel has launched entry-level and hobbyist-grade 3D printers as educational tools and toys for kids spanning a large age group. This brings us to the crucial question, how do 3D printing technologies benefit toy makers and their dynamic industry?
3D printing & toy manufacturing: Understanding the benefits
3D printing enables design creativity, which is always a good thing for the toy industry. Besides creativity, it also speeds up and simplifies the manufacturing process of making toys, which, in turn, lowers the cost. To fuel this fire, the rising interest in 3D printing has arrived in the age of computers, an era where designs are done in the digital domain, making it endlessly manipulable. The following are a few key benefits that 3D printing can offer to the toy manufacturing industry.
Unique toys that sell
With 3D printing, toys can be tested and samples can be shown to potential buyers or distributors. Feedback from the tests and sample prototypes can be incorporated in consequent iterations. Toy makers can also make multiple versions of the same design with better materials, ergonomics, and features with 3D printing, as the revision process is easier than before. Just like most industries, toy manufacturers can easily adopt the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) to develop products optimised to succeed in the market. 3D printing gives toy designers and manufacturers the power to design creatively and confidently.
Striking the balance: functionality and safety
Quite often, in order to deliver new, immersive, and creative play experiences, physically safety attributes either take a back seat or pose a threat in the development process. To ensure this, most manufacturers follow the ASTM F963-16 – standard consumer safety specification for toy safety by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International). It publishes a detailed list of technical standards for a wide range of materials and design stipulations for safer toy development. The core idea is to have one standard and test for safer toys worldwide. With traditional prototyping methods, adhering to this standard becomes a tedious process.
3D printed prototype toys can be tested for functionality and safety, and the necessary design improvisations easily incorporated quickly and easily. Observations can be made with children using 3D printed toys in controlled test environments to assess the functionality, safety, durability and age appropriateness of the toy, among other aspects.
Cost effectiveness and economies of scale
From a manufacturer’s perspective, 3D printing reduces prototyping time and offers significant cost saving on moulds required for multiple design iterations. 3D printed prototypes toys can easily help determine the cost of material and process required to develop the toy. Multiple tests can be run to accrue data, which can be leveraged to improve the product design immensely. With 3D printing, manufacturers have the opportunity to enhance cost-effectiveness in the mass production stage.
On a closing note, there are numerous reasons behind the surge in popularity of 3D printing technology. When done the right way, 3D printing has the potential to revolutionise how kids’ toys of the future are designed, manufactured and sold.
As one of India’s foremost providers of industrial-grade 3D printing solution providers, Divide By Zero has worked with manufacturers across various business verticals to help them harness the real benefits of this additive manufacturing technology. To learn how we can help your business. Feel free to contact us.