Click-A-Brick Co-Founders Jason Smith and Georg de Gorostiza say they predict people will regularly be 3D printing their own building blocks in the future, which could be a potential long-term threat to the segment.
While 3D printing enthusiasts nowadays sometimes print their own building blocks that are compatible with retail sets, the Click-A-Brick team foresees a future where printing building blocks for playing with will be done on a regular basis, even by kids themselves. As 3D printing technology becomes increasingly common and the toy industry continues its move toward more educational toys, particularly in the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math), the next logical step would be for kids to learn how to create their own building blocks for creating with.
There are already toys available that relate to 3D printing, and those are going to continue to evolve in the coming years, so it’s not inconceivable that at some point, the technology will become common enough and simple enough for kids to operate to create their own building blocks, Smith says.
“I don’t foresee this happening within the next few years or anything, but you’ve got to think that at some point down the road — even if it’s decades from now — 3D printers will be a fairly common fixture in homes as they become smaller and more refined,” Smith said. “And, as that happens, they’ll become easier to use. What kid — or parent for that matter — wouldn’t want to try making their very own toys? Plastic building blocks are the ultimate toy to print on a 3D printer because you print the bricks themselves and connect them, so you don’t have to worry about moving parts or anything like that.”
Whether 3D printing ever becomes a major threat to the toy industry, particularly the building block segment where the toys could be relatively easily duplicated, will be interesting to see, Smith says. Much like the music industry has had to learn to live with file downloading, the toy industry may have to learn to live with 3D printing if it gets to the point where people can simply print their own bricks.
“Technology is great and we love to see as much as anyone all the new things coming out, including 3D printing, but we also acknowledge that it is a long-term potential threat to the market,” Smith said. “How it will all unfold may never be revealed in our lifetimes. It just depends on how quickly 3D printing technology evolves and how the toy industry, particularly us in the building block sector, deal with it as it evolves. But, nobody can say they didn’t see it coming. New technology always represents a great opportunity to a lot of people, but it also always poses a threat to a lot of other people.”
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