7 March 2016

Mattel Releases 3-D Printing Licenses for Toys

Mattel announced this morning in a press conference that it would begin selling limited-use licenses to print copies of its popular toys on 3-D printers. The “Designerz” line, sold on the company’s website as a download and in stores as a DRM-protected memory stick, will allow users to print up to five copies of a toy on any commercially-available 3-D printer, including MakerBot.

A "vintage" 2010 Thing-O-Matic, photo CC-BY Bre Pettis

“We’re excited to give children around the world an opportunity to make their favorite Mattel-brand toys right in their own homes,” spokesman Matt Reich said at the conference. The first release of toy schematic files will be a tie in with Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3, which is coming to theaters this summer. The Cars 3 toy files will be released in April, with files for printing Barbie-related objects coming in August.

No official word has been given regarding pricing, but an anonymous inside source claims the licenses for the Cars 3 toys will cost $15, which will include five reprints per license.

The process requires users to install a program called “Toy Factory” which tracks the number of licenses used. While the process will involve the open AMF file format, Toy Factory will ensure that proprietary designs are not illegally copied by the user. This hasn’t gone over well with everyone, notably a consortium of MakerBot users called “The Jolly Elves”, who operate a database of free, open-source toy schematic files.

The Jolly Elves posted this statement on their homepage:

“Dozens of designers have spent thousands of hours making quality toy schematics that can be used on any 3-D printer, at any time, at no cost. Purchasing a DRM-hobbled system from a major corporation is a waste of your time and money. Teach your children to appreciate quality, not over-branding. We, the Jolly Elves, will always welcome you into our humble workshop.”

The Jolly Elves are the creators of Ballpeen, an open-source toy design tool, and have been operating since the summer of 2014.


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