No longer would you have to make an action figure in China, put it on a container ship, ship it to the US, transship it to a warehouse, ship it again to a retail outlet and hope a consumer finds and buys it. Instead, you would be able to sell a download right to a consumer who would in turn print it out in the comfort of his or her own bed or living room. It would be our industry’s version of the iPod or Netflix.
I wrote that paragraph in 2011. Here we are in 2014 we are about to find out exactly what impact an affordable 3D printer is going to have on not just the toy industry but all industries that manufacture consumer products. According to author Agam Sham in a CIO magazine article, “3D Printer Price Drops Could Lure Home Users.” “A handful of 3D printers priced at less than US$500 were shown at the Inside 3D Printing trade show…They can print small objects in limited colors, but prices of more advanced home 3D printers are dropping as well, opening up the market to a wider audience.”
According to the article, the value of 3D printers and materials sold in 2013 was a surprising, at least to me, US$2.5 billion. Sales are projected to grow to US$3.8 billion this year and hit US$16.2 billion in 2018. That last figure is getting pretty close to US annual toy sales.
Here are some of the systems mentioned as selling for under $500: