Mattel reintroduces ThingMaker as a 3-D printer

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When we took a look at the emerging consumer market for 3-D printers, we came away unimpressed with the devices as a useful household tool for a variety of reasons, including price.However, experts whom we interviewed at the time said it was possible that the future for 3-D printers might be as child toys. If so, the future will arrive in fall 2016. That’s when Mattel’s new ThingMaker system arrives in stores. (Mattel’s original ThingMaker toy debuted in the 1960s.)

The new ThingMaker, which was introduced at New York Toy Fair 2016, is a two-part system that lets consumers design and build toys.

Through the ThingMaker Design mobile app, which is available for Apple iOS and Google Android devices, consumers can browse toy designs or create their own. Then, they can make the toys with the ThingMaker 3-D Printer, which Mattel says prints multiple pieces for “easy assembly.”

Mattel says additional designs will be available later, including “branded options.” Multiple reports speculate that those will include designs from iconic lines Barbie and Hot Wheels, although Mattel didn’t respond to questions about those reports.

Previously, experts told us that the cost of a 3-D printer—at the time typically well above $1,000—would have to come down to $300 to make such a purchase reasonable for the average consumer. Mattel’s ThingMaker 3D Printer is available on preorder for $300 at Amazon.com. Shipping and bricks-and-mortar store sales are expected to begin Oct. 15, 2016.