Should retailers and manufacturers be concerned about 3D printing changing the toy industry?

It is fair to say that across the past few years ‘3D Printing’ has been a hot topic amongst many in the toy industry. With the introduction of consumer 3D printers it is now easier than ever, albeit expensive, for consumers to produce their own products.

There is wide debate within the trade press on whether 3D printing will revolutionise the toy industry for the better or whether it will prove a hindrance to companies and consumers alike.

It was only last year that some toy retailers and manufactures embraced the medium.  Following Hasbro’s Super Hero month in September 2014, the toy company teamed with 3D printing company 3DPlusMe to launch its ‘Super Awesome Me’ campaign that allowed fans to use the in store 3D printers and place their own faces on Iron Man or Captain America action figures.

Toys R Us also teamed up with PieceMaker Technologies to run in-store 3D printing services in two of its US stores. The PieceMaker Factory programme allows shoppers the opportunity to create their own custom charms and key chains amongst other things, with the process taking less than 30 minutes.

Whilst this creates a novel experience for consumers and potentially reduces the cost to consumers it is proving the need for customisation and on demand toys. One UK Company MakieLab has already taken advantage with their 3D printed Makie Dolls that has already won awards including a BAFTA nomination. The brand allows ‘young fans to create their own avatar using an online ‘factory’, the user can then pay to have the creation printed and sent to them as a bespoke doll’.

Whilst this certainly benefits manufactures who are embracing the change and consumers who are striving for customisation and toys on demand, will retailers be by-passed with an increase in manufactures selling the electronic files straight to the end user?