Will 3D Printing Disrupt the Lucrative Toy Industry?
LEGO Star Wars kits are currently selling on Amazon.com for hundreds of dollars. Even small components come with a hefty price, such as a V-wing Starfighter that measures 9″ when full assembled and costs $20.
Enter 3D printing and open-source design package LeoCAD. If kids could design their own LEGO-style building kits and print them out on their home 3D printer, why wouldn’t they? Hey, even LEGO is training kids how to design online with the LEGO Digital Designer.
With the price of toys so marked up, it’s within reason to think that kids will turn to generics or pirated designs to fill out their toy chest after parents tap out the budget at retail.
Look back at the music industry. The only way to buy music in the late 90s was to purchase the full album at retail. Then Napster and other P2P sharing software came along and allowed consumers to download individual mp3 songs, albeit pirated. When iTunes launched with individual song pricing and a more reliable service than the P2P networks, consumers flocked to the legal alternative. The retail music industry died but the digital music industry was born.
Perhaps in the next 5 years we’ll see the retail toy industry collapse and be replaced by a digital successor. The question is whether we will see a digital toy black market in the interim. In our view, that will be up to the toymakers and their willingness to disrupt their current model.
Some references are from MIT Technology Review.