Check out Barbie’s latest addition to her spring wardrobe (above): a suit of shining armour, complete with sword and shield!
No, Mattel’s not harking back to the days of old for sartorial inspiration for its plastic little princess. Not yet anyway; this is part of a Kickstarter project by designer Jim Rodda aimed at mustering funding to develop 3D printed accessories for toys.
Welcome to the brave new world of toys and collectables, in which products can be made on spec by anyone with access to a 3D printer. You could be forgiven for thinking this is still more sci-fi than fact - “The cost is currently prohibitive,” says NPD analyst Frédérique Tutt - but fast forward a few years and 3D printing will have hit the mainstream.
Just last month, Lego told the Financial Times it was considering the implications of 3D printing. Meanwhile, Mackinsey has estimated that in the US, 3D printing could generate up to $300bn in sales of consumer products, including toys, by 2025, forecasting that the capability for retailers “to let customers tailor products such as toys” will become an important factor in 21st-century retailing.
It seems Asda would agree. Late last year, the retailer toured two 3D printers around its UK stores, scanning customers and printing out exact scale model replicas. While the models are currently static, rather than action figures, experts suggest fully articulated figures are a possibility in coming years.
“We’re continuing to assess the potential for 3D printing,” says an Asda spokesman. “We’re not at liberty to discuss developments at present - but further developments are planned.”
Asda’s not alone. Mattel’s major rival Hasbro is certainly taking 3D printing seriously. Later this year, the company will be working with specialist 3D Systems to develop “creative play experiences powered by 3D printing”. 3D Systems has recently acquired Digital PlaySpace, a company whose flagship product allows users to design dolls’ houses online, and then print furniture.
Mattel is not likely to ignore the opportunity either. Maybe a Dungeons & Dragons Barbie set isn’t complete fantasy after all…