Mattel, a leading global toy company with one of the world’s most extensive catalogues of children’s and family entertainment franchises, is on a mission “to empower the next generation to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential.” Mattel’s Product Innovation team is using MakerBot 3D printers for research, design, and development of the Toys of Tomorrow.
The Product Innovation team, led by Jack Peach, key lead innovation engineer at Mattel, is in charge of the research and development.
All of Mattel’s iconic brands, including Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, American Girl, Thomas & Friends, UNO, Masters of the Universe, Monster High, and MEGA, are supported by Jack and his team. The Product Innovation team assists Mattel brands in executing their vision based on consumer insight, from simple mechanical features to researching and prototyping toys of the future.
“Being an inventor, I’m most excited to see the sparkle in a kid’s eye when a toy does something unexpected, something “magical”. It is a shared experience driving imagination at their level and mine, encompassing ‘What if? Why Not?’.”– Jack Peach, Key Lead Innovation Engineer at Mattel
Innovating the Toys of Tomorrow
Mattel has access to some of the most advanced design tools and machine shops available. For sketching and rough model layout, mechanical feature design and simulation, virtual model (VR and AR) visualisation, and electronic hardware/software development, Jack and his team employ a wide range of professional digital design software and hardware tools.
Jack added two 3D printers to his home office to outfit his toy workshop: the MakerBot METHOD® and MakerBot METHOD X®.
Jack said, “In early 2020, I decided to invest in a 3D printer that offered high resolution, high repeatability and was super easy to use. When I started using the METHOD 3D printers, I realized 3D printing parts at home at the industrial level with industry standard material was amazing. Our team’s focus is to share innovative product features with the brand team and help bring them to market. When physical models are needed, our team can rely on industrial-grade 3D printing materials like ABS-R or Nylon Carbon Fiber because they are durable enough to prove out form and function.”
Digital design and development are critical at Mattel for increasing internal efficiencies and innovation as well as collaborating with outside vendors. Concepts can be shared with its brand partners, the Fisher-Price™ Play Lab and the Mattel® Imagination Center, through an iterative process for toy testing and consumer insights for feedback. The design is then updated, fabricated as necessary, and shared once more.
Jack continued, “Brainstorming and concept sketching is where it all starts. Minimal deco changes to last years’ products might be approved with visuals in the digital space. But if we’re trying to prove out a mechanical function/feature or appropriate sizing for a child, fabricating a model is essential. The prototype can reveal unforeseen issues that need to be resolved or you might discover a new use case or feature that elevates the product. With a 3D printer, you don’t have to re-fabricate the entire prototype by hand. You can make a few adjustments digitally, send it to the printer, and have a new part printed quickly. This process makes modifications, testing, and reviewing so much easier and quicker.”
MakerBot 3D Printers – Changing the Game
MakerBot 3D printers are typically used to print early prototype models to demonstrate an electromechanical function. Depending on the application, Jack employs a variety of 3D printing materials. Because the majority of his team’s work involves demonstrating a new feature or function, he usually employs a material that can withstand hundreds of cycles. Because of the material’s high impact resistance and durability, they recently began using ABS-R for housings and structural features, and Nylon Carbon Fiber for gears.
In one recent instance, Jack and his team worked on a project for a brand team, where they were asked to come up with a new feature for a specific line. After pitching a few ideas, the team created a rough mock-up of one of the user interfaces, complete with lights and sounds that played when the joystick was moved FORWARD/REVERSE/LEFT/RIGHT. The joystick was a store-bought model that was too large to fit into the toy.
The team quickly designed a smaller joystick that was then integrated into the toy after modifying a digital model of the toy. They 3D printed the parts, assembled the model, added the electronics, and shot a demo video after confirming the direction with the brand team. The brand team gave the feature high marks, and it is now scheduled for production.
Jack concluded, “The hit and miss ratio in the toy invention business is crazy. If one out of a hundred of your ideas makes it to the market, you’re doing good. The MakerBot METHOD and METHOD X have been game changers enabling me to put form to the creation and bring joy and imagination to the next generation of Makers.”
About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Global News page for more updates on Global 3D Printing News. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.