Budding inventors, artists, designers and indeed children worldwide have been waiting with bated breath for the arrival of ThingMaker, Mattel’s 3D printer. The printer is aimed at kids and will allow youngsters to print their own toys in the comfort of their own homes. The device, which was unveiled at the New York Toy Fair back in February this year, works with an app that Mattel developed in partnership with the software company, Autodesk. With a simple interface, the ThingMaker has been designed to negate the need for creative kids to rely on the services of a 3D printing bureau to bring their design concepts to life.
With pre-built character templates and a simple user guide and interface, Mattel looked to be bringing the 3D printing service into the playroom this autumn. The machine allows the various component parts of 3D figures to be printed separately, then clicked together with ball and socket joints. Colour and texture variations can also be chosen through the app and sent to the printer, ensuring that the end result is exactly what the user intended
Then came the announcement at the end of September that the wait for the ThingMaker is set to continue for another year, because, apparently the manufacturer need just a little more time to make the device a bit more awesome for its young customer base.
According to a company spokesperson, shipment of the ThingMaker 3D printer will now be moved back a full twelve months to September 2017, to ensure that it delivered the “most engaging end-to-end experience for all family members”. Refusing to elaborate, the spokesperson merely intimated that they were improving the software, so that it would deliver a much better user experience and be more future proof, in term of technology and user requirements.
So it appears that countless children around the world may be disappointed on Christmas morning since even if Mum, Dad or Santa Claus were amongst the many people who placed their pre-orders on Amazon way back in February, there is zero chance of any of them getting stock in time for the big day.
Having the ability to design and print your own toys for a mere $300 will be seen by many as an opportunity worth waiting for. Children, although notoriously impatient by nature, could be convinced that this will, when it finally hits the shelves, be the gift that literally keeps on giving. Who are we kidding? It’s almost a sure bet that at least some (if not most) of the ThingMakers currently on order are destined not for little children but for full grown adults waiting eagerly to get their mitts on what is arguably one of the coolest “toys” to emerge from Mattel’s stables for a very long while!
Incidentally, if you think you’ve heard the name ThingMaker before, you’re probably of a certain age and remember Mattel’s 1960’s toy, the Creepy Crawlers Thing-Maker, another offering that let the little ones create their own stuff. It just goes to show that the best ideas never get old!