The latest issue of Make: has a great profile of my wife, Alice Taylor, and the 3D printed toy-company she founded. They're going great guns, too -- just won one of the top prizes at the SXSW Accelerator!
Makies are manufactured using a 3D printing technology called selective laser sintering (SLS), in which a laser fuses together particles of nylon powder to form the individual parts. The process can produce items with very high fidelity and strength, compared with the more common fused deposition modelling process (FDM), often used in desktop 3D printers, where a filament of plastic is extruded to build up a model in layers.
The downside of this process is price, with SLS machines costing an order of magnitude more than their FDM cousins. Nevertheless, SLS technology could be described as just-about-affordable, and Makies are a perfect application for consumer-quality 3D printing. Digitally designed, and each one unique, Makies are a sign today of a much-talked-about future trend in manufacturing: mass-customisation.
“We set out to make consumer-facing goods using 3D printing. The original vision was: virtual goods would produce physical goods; the physical goods you would be able to modify, and that would feed back into the virtual world. That would create a kind of loop between digital and physical. The only way you can do that is with a digital thing that also lives as a physical thing, connected with an identity. The traditional technology for manufacturing toys makes it hard. 3D printing technology makes it possible.”
So 3D printing makes personalised dolls possible. And personalisation is what makes a Makie special.
MAKE | Alice Taylor: Inventing the Future of Toys [Make/Andrew Sleigh]