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Lego looks to 3D to bridge digital divide - News article

Check out this news article on Australia Financial Review.
Appartently Lego are investigating 3D printing.

Lego is exploring the possibility of customers making bricks and figures using 3D printers as the toymaker seeks to adapt to the digital economy.

Read more here:


  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 18,217
    That is a subscription based newspaper so no access to the article.
  • Wil348Wil348 Member Posts: 240
    Maybe what they could do is make you pay for the set and then you receive the set as download that you can print? [email protected] Express!
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 18,217
    ^ It would be quicker to wait for the set to be posted than print it yourself. 3D printing is still very slow if you want the quality.
  • YakopYakop United StatesMember Posts: 15
    I wounder if it would be a way to offer rare bricks or non existing bricks in the PIB portion of the [email protected] This could even come with a limit of only being able to "print" it so many times.
  • Wil348Wil348 Member Posts: 240
    edited March 2014
    CCC said:

    ^ It would be quicker to wait for the set to be posted than print it yourself. 3D printing is still very slow if you want the quality.

    Eventually, it won't be that slow. I think LEGO might mean in the future in general, not necessarily the near future. Technology is advancing quickly, and 3D printers will eventually be faster and better.

    Or maybe they will offer PAB via 3D printers? God, that would be helpful to no end.
  • CHERUBboyCHERUBboy Member Posts: 98
    I thought it's fairly obvious they're investigating it. They can hardly ignore it.

    Right now, we seem to be at the point where the Laser printer was in about 1980. I'd guess it'll be a gradual process, that will filter down from the top rather than up from the bottom.

    3D printed skeletons for large models at theme parks, covered with real bricks might make sense already and we're probably not far from 3D printing technology that might enable Lego to make injection moulds more cheaply.

    As the tech improves, we might see a few 3D printed parts in very large sets, or limited edition minifigs.

    If the tech gets cheaper and faster in the way most people seem to expect, we could then see certain specialised pieces 3D printed in more mainstream sets. Additive manufacturing also enables the construction of intricate structures that can't be done with mouldings, so perhaps some future theme may have lego parts that can't be made any other way.

    It's probably never going to be viable to print whole sets at home. Just as it's not viable to print off whole books on a domestic inkjet or laser printer.

  • cody6268cody6268 Member Posts: 268
    I am not a futurist by any means, but I'd say that 3D printers will be as fast and as cheap as inkjet printers in the next decade or two.

    It would be a viable option, but at the current price of 3D printers, its currently cost prohibitive right now.
  • CHERUBboyCHERUBboy Member Posts: 98
    As fast and cheap as inkjet printers, an oxymoron if ever I heard one!
  • KangojackKangojack Member Posts: 38
    Is anyone concerned that the impact of 3D printing may depreciate the value of your Lego collection?

    I am thinking more around unboxed collections like individual minifigs.

    I’m sure 3D printing technology, will eventually evolves to a point where you can’t distinguish between an original ‘Star Wars Watto’ from 2001, and a printed version.
  • CrowkillersCrowkillers Member Posts: 757
    I doubt this will ever be realistically feasible anytime in the near future... Especially for the sub-par quality and time involved with 3D printing...
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    I'm not really sure why people keep saying "eventually"...

    If you're using a professional 3D printer, you can already do this. It isn't some far off future thing, they are already good enough.

    The $1,000 3D printers you can buy for your home aren't there yet, but the $100,000 3D printers are.
  • ShibShib UKMember Posts: 5,261
    The thing with 3D printing is its hard to make files for, especially good files. I think the biggest use that 3D printing would have to TLG would be for the designers wanting to create a new brick, it would be a good way for them to create a demo version of a brick for design work.
    In terms of printing a complete set at home, even the good available technology only tends to print one colour, so you would either need to repeatedly change your (to use a term that most people would understand) cartridge or print it all in white and paint it. in terms of making minifigs you would need a completely separate machine to print designs onto the minifigs, assuming you don't want to have a small lego factory in your house the best option would be to print onto stickers and attach to minifigs, which to most people just isn't the same.
    In terms of affordability of 3D printers, I don't think they'll have a huge home use market. I have a small amount of design experience and as I said before, making files for the things is tricky so until easy to use and practical 3D design software that converts the files easily for 3D print is widely available we are unlikely to see a huge home market. But also if you had a 3D printer at home, aside from model making, what would you use it for? The rise of home ink printers was down to practicality, it was replacing something that was already widely available-Typewriters. There does already exist a tool for creating 3D models mechanically available to the home market ( products like this) but they only sell far more to engineering type professions because thats the main place they are useful.

    Appologies for the long rant type post but I've had similar discussions with a lot of people about 3D print. Also I'll admit that while I know two people with small domestic 3D printers and work in an industry that might have use for them (to the point that I have had people trying to sell them to me at trade shows) I would not in anyway claim to be an expert on the subject of what the future holds for 3D print/
  • prevereprevere North of Bellville, East of Heartlake, South of Bricksburg, West of Ninjago City Member Posts: 2,883
    We're seeing some great quality on torsos and heads with reproduction minifigs. Wonder if Lego will step up with a hologram or some other type of insignia to verify brand rights?

  • ShibShib UKMember Posts: 5,261
    with the large amount of minifig collectors I wouldn't be at all surprised if they came up with something like that, but then again it'll make more difference to secondary market so it might not bother TLG too much.
  • AanchirAanchir United StatesMember Posts: 2,830
    I honestly don't know how TLG might integrate 3D printing into their business, but I'm glad they're looking into it.

    Printing things on their end, other than for the sake of prototyping or producing specialty parts for incredibly limited-release offers (like the old gold and platinum BIONICLE masks that were offered as sweepstakes prizes, or parts for Comic-Con promotions) seems like it'd be tremendously inefficient compared to injection molding. Sure, you don't have to pay the cost of a mold, but you'd also have to print each part individually. Between time, maintenance costs, quality control, and other factors, it seems like it could be a long time before 3D printing is anywhere near as efficient as TLG's proven process of injection molding.

    As for user-end printing, there are plenty of reasons why that might be problematic. For one thing, quality control would be out the window, so there'd be the risk of poorly-printed (yet still "official") LEGO making its way into the aftermarket and reducing the reputation of the LEGO brand. Think about it: what mechanisms would the LEGO Group have to ensure people are printing LEGO bricks in approved colors and materials? Also, by allowing users access to the files that they'd be printing, TLG would be opening the doors to companies pirating those files in order to produce bootleg LEGO bricks.

    Also, until 3D printers are not only affordable and efficient but widespread in family homes, allowing users to print their own bricks would not likely end up benefiting the LEGO Group's core market.

    After that, I suppose there are some real possibilities, just as there are with traditional 2D printing. To date, the LEGO Group's online printables have primarily included bookmarks, posters, coloring pages, and replacement building instructions. 3D printing could allow them to add all sorts of cheap tchotchkes to their website for kids to download and print. Erasers? Rulers? Novelty paperclips? Keychains? Even, dare I suggest, brick separators? As long as it's not an actual LEGO brick, doesn't present any safety hazards, and doesn't require more complex assembly than a kid will be able to manage on their own, the LEGO Group could probably allow it to be printed without the risk of diminishing the value of their brand.

    So no matter how long it might be before this kind of thing is practical, it's good that the LEGO Group is looking into it now. There's no telling just how quickly 3D printing technology will improve, and they have to be prepared for a future where 3D printing is widespread whether that's next year or ten years from now.
  • oldtodd33oldtodd33 Denver 4800 miles to BillundMember Posts: 2,453
    edited April 2014
    I read this article today and thought it was pretty close to what Lego might some day do.

    Coming Soon: Print-Your-Own Chocolate Treats
    It could be a chocolate lover's dream come true. The Hershey Company is working with 3D Systems on a printer that would allow users to design and print their own chocolates.

    At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, 3D Systems, which provides 3D printing solutions, introduced a series of printers, accompanied by "recipes" and aimed at commercial bakers and pastry chefs.

    It's not alone. Another 3D printer, Foodini, from Natural Machines, can print out other types of food items such as ravioli or quiche.

    The partnership between Hershey and 3D Systems was announced at the beginning of this year. There's no word on when Hershey's printer will hit the market, but it's expected sweet printers will be available for both commercial and personal use.
  • ShibShib UKMember Posts: 5,261
    I've seen a 3D printer rigged to print chocolate working...problem with it was the creations were not edible because of the coolant used. Was interesting as a concept though.
  • plasmodiumplasmodium UKMember Posts: 1,939
    Inedible chocolate? Well, whoever came up with that idea was a genius...
  • ShibShib UKMember Posts: 5,261
    Sadly it was an idea put together by a techie type so the fun of it for them was in proving it could be done more than in making something with a real purpose.
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