Mattel unveils updated ThingMaker at 2016 Toy Fair, introduces kids to 3D printing

By Steve Brachmann
March 19, 2016

Mattel Logo.

Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT) of El Segundo, CA, is an American multinational corporation which manufactures and sells toys and games such as Barbie, Othello, Scrabble, UNO, Outburst and Fisher-Price. The company currently holds the top spot in the global toy industry ahead of toymaker rivals Lego and Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS).

This February saw the latest edition of the New York Toy Fair and science and technology toys from physics sets to build-your-own-structure toys were abundant at the event. One of the more attention-grabbing offerings in this field was Mattel’s ThingMaker 3D printing system for creating custom toys at home. The system includes the ThingMaker 3D Studio digital platform, accessible through the ThingMaker Design App, for creating original toy designs which are wirelessly sent to the ThingMaker for printing.

The 3D printer is a reimagining of the first ThingMaker released by Mattel in the 1960s, which was an electronic device that heated a mold containing a mixture which created Creepy Crawlies and other such toys. Safety concerns over burns caused by the heated elements of the ThingMaker, and the decline of the Creepy Crawlies fad, led Mattel to discontinue the device in 1978. Since then, Mattel let its Creepy Crawlies trademark and those toys have been brought back to market by different toy makers over the years, but Mattel is reviving the ThingMaker by itself.

Although the ThingMaker itself will be created by Mattel, the toymaker is relying on a partnership with software developer Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADSK) for the development of the 3D design software enabling the printer to create a wide range of toys. Mattel’s press release on the new ThingMaker boasts its ability to make a wide range of toys, including dolls, dinosaurs or wearable accessories. It will retail for about $300 when it’s released to consumers in the fall. The ThingMaker will use a polylactic acid (PLA) filament, which is fairly standard in the 3D printing world. Depending on the size and complexity of the toy, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to eight hours for completion. Safety measures for the printer include a door that locks while a toy is being printed and a recessed portion for the heated print head, preventing children from touching the print head.

The ThingMaker wasn’t the only Mattel product at the 2016 Toy Fair to make waves in the world of technology toys. Mattel’s Fisher-Price brand exhibited the Code-A-Pillar, a $50 toy which teaches the basics of computer programming to kids who add segments to a caterpillar shaped toy, each segment representing a coded command to turn or play music which the caterpillar will execute in sequence. The ThingMaker wasn’t even the only 3D printing platform for making toys at the recent toy exhibition, although the PieceMaker which has been making waves at this event in recent years isn’t being marketed for home use like Mattel’s ThingMaker.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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