3d printers

Mattel innovates the toys of tomorrow with MakerBot 3D printers

Mattela leading global toy company with an impressive catalog of children’s and family entertainment franchises, is on a mission to “enable the next generation to explore the wonders of childhood and reach their full potential”, says the company .

It aims to facilitate this through high quality, innovative products that are built with consumer safety in mind and are accessible to as many people as possible. Part of that is the research and development of tomorrow’s toys, which they conduct using MakerBot 3D printers.

Jack Peach is the Chief Innovation Engineer at Mattel and the product innovation team supports Mattel’s entire brand portfolio. This includes Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, American Girl, Thomas and Friends, UNO, Masters of the Universe, Monster High and MEGA. He has worked in the toy industry for over 15 years, having previously worked at a toy invention company.

“As an inventor, I’m thrilled to see the sparkle in a child’s eyes when a toy does something unexpected, something ‘magical’. It’s a shared experience that stimulates imagination on their level and mine, encompassing “What if? Why not?,” Peach said.

Peach and his team use a wide range of professional digital design software and hardware tools for rough model sketching and layout, mechanical feature design and simulation, virtual model visualization (VR and AR) and the development of electronic software.

To build a toy workshop in her home office, Peach acquired two 3D printers. MakerBot METHOD and MakerBot METHOD X have been added to the mix.

“At the beginning of 2020, I decided to invest in a 3D printer that offered high resolution, high repeatability and was super easy to use. When I started using METHOD 3D Printers, I realized that 3D printing parts at home at an industrial level with industry standard materials was amazing,” said Peach.

Through an iterative process, concepts can be shared with its brand partners, the Fisher-Price Play Lab and the Mattel Imagination Center to test toys and consumer information for feedback. The design is then updated, manufactured as needed, and re-shared.

Peach said, “If we’re trying to prove a mechanical function/feature or an appropriate size for a child, model making is key. The prototype may reveal unforeseen issues that need to be resolved, or you may discover a new use case or feature that improves the product.

MakerBot 3D printers are primarily used to print early model prototypes to prove electromechanical function. The Mattel team uses a mix of 3D printing materials depending on the application.

Since most of the work is done for the demonstration of a new feature or function, the team usually uses a material that can withstand hundreds of cycles. Recently they have started using ABS-R for housings and structural features due to the material’s high impact resistance and durability, and nylon carbon fiber for gears.

Printing high quality custom parts on demand has allowed Tea to provide dimensionally accurate assemblies that are very similar to injection molded production assemblies. It helps to prove the characteristics of a toy more quickly and with high confidence of success.

A recent example from Mattel where 3D printing came in handy was when Jack Peach’s team was thinking about a new feature for a particular line. After showing some concepts, the team built a rough mockup of one of the user interfaces that included lights and sounds that played when a joystick was moved.

The joystick was an out-of-the-box version and was too big to fit in the toy. A digital model of the toy was modified and the team quickly designed a smaller joystick which was then integrated into the toy.

After checking the direction with the brand team, they 3D printed the parts, assembled the model, added the electronics and shot a demo video. The feature has received great reviews from the brand team and is now slated for production.

“The ratio of success to failure in the toy invention business is insane. If one in a hundred ideas of yours makes it to market, you’re doing good,” Peach said. “The MakerBot METHOD and METHOD X have been a game-changer by allowing me to shape creation and bring joy and imagination to the next generation of Makers.”

MakerBot recently donated 3D printers to organizations across the United States that support low-income communities, making 3D printing accessible to more students.

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