Mattel launches ThingMaker 3D printer
February 15, 2016 // 3:10 p.m.
Toymaker Mattel has announced that it is throwing its lot in with the maker movement, launching an aggressively-priced 3D printer targeting younger users.
Mattel is no stranger to homebrew devices: the company launched ThingMaker in the 1960s, allowing customers to make their own simple plastic figurines by pouring melted liquid into a mould and baking in the oven. The 2016 version of the ThingMaker, though, is somewhat more advanced: a fully-functional 3D printer, tied in with an app built by Autodesk which promises to make it easy for kids to design and build their own toys.
'In today's digital age, it's more important than ever for families to transcend the digital world and make their ideas real,' claimed Aslan Appleman, senior director at Mattel, of the launch. 'ThingMaker pushes the boundaries of imaginative play, giving families countless ways to customise their toys and let their creativity run wild. We're thrilled to work with the 3D design experts at Autodesk to bring this one-of-a-kind experience to life.'
Priced at just $299.99 (around £207 excluding taxes), the Mattel ThingMaker is nevertheless a fully-functional 3D printer. Designs are created using a drag-and-drop process on the bundled smartphone or tablet app, then sent wirelessly to the printer for processing and assembly. Like the more 'adult' printers on the market the device uses polylactic acid (PLA) plastic, a biodegradable thermoplastic to build its creations layer-by-layer.
Interestingly, Mattel isn't tying the ThingMaker down: although it will expect users to buy its own official filament spools, the printer itself can be driven by third-party software while the bundled app can also be used on selected third-party printers - meaning anyone who already has a 3D printer need only download the new software, rather than splash out $300 on the ThingMaker itself.
The company has opened pre-orders for the device in the US today, with no word yet on international availability, ahead of expected shipping in the autumn.