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Your kids can 3D print their own toys now

Date:2016-06-29 Hits:287
Your kids can 3D print their own toys now
Just a few years ago, the idea of kid-friendly 3d printers made for a pretty good joke. Well, reality has caught up to the punchline. In February, Mattel launched its $300 ThingMaker, a 3D printer with a kid-friendly app that lets children design, print, and build their own toys.

The printer lets kids create everything from bracelets and necklaces to dolls, dinosaurs, and robots. The parts print out individually, so later in the day kids can return to assemble the interlocking ball-and-socket pieces into the objects and characters they dreamed up themselves.

Though the prices of 3D printers were once unthinkable for most, they've dropped considerably in recent years, and should continue to do so. Libraries, which often offer free or cheap introductions to the technology, are catching on, too. That means 3D printing is more accessible to adults. It only follows that kids are the next frontier.

In a certain sense, kids 3D printing their own toys is just an evolution from toys that were popular decades ago. In fact, Mattel's ThingMaker even takes its name from a popular toy the company released in the '60s that allowed kids to make flowers and creatures from plastic molds.

If the thought of children getting involved with a complex, new, and somewhat unproven practice still sounds too ridiculous, University of Colorado computer science professor Michael Eisenberg makes a great counterpoint by comparing 3D printers to computers.

"In both cases, the advent of home-accessible devices has sparked an interest in the use of the given technology by children. It is worth recalling how strange it seemed to many observers, back in the 1970s, that children — kids! — might actually use computers," Eisenberg wrote in a 2013 analysis of 3D printing for children. "The idea sounded almost absurd, as if someone today were to suggest that children could be given control of a high-energy collider."