Circa 2014, the world was being told by people like this author that 3D printing was ushering in an era of mass customization for consumers. That is, anyone would soon be able to purchase products tailored specifically to them… soon. While there were numerous attempts to realize this marketing vision, most didn’t really pan out. Nearly a decade later and the dream may finally be coming true as Hasbro
3D Printed Hasbro Selfie Series
With the introduction of the Hasbro Selfie Series, consumers can now purchase six-inch action figures from their favorite franchises (e.g., Ghostbusters, G.I. Joe, Power Rangers, Star Wars, Marvel, etc.) in their own likenesses. According to Brian Chapman, Head of Global Design and Development at Hasbro, the technology for realizing the perfect personalized product wasn’t available until now.
“It wasn’t until recently that two technologies came into play at once,” Chapman said in a promotional video for the product line. “One is a very simple way to scan someone’s face and head, and then a very affordable way to print that head in a one-off way. And when those two things collided, we said, ‘Hey, I think the time is now to launch Hasbro’s Selfie Series.’”
Using proprietary software, consumers are able to scan their faces with a simple smartphone app, Hasbro Pulse. The resulting model is then made on Formlabs 3D printers, which rely on custom resin developed specifically for the toy manufacturer to mimic a range of skin tones and hair colors. The heads then undergo a proprietary, ‘“state-of-the-art’ process for adding color and detail to ensure every Hasbro Selfie Series action figure is collector-grade. All of this is performed by Hasbro itself with each unit passing through standard product testing certification, which all Hasbro products receive.
3D Printed Selfies of the Past
Hasbro has been toying with additive manufacturing (AM) for some time. In 2014, the company partnered with 3D printing service bureau Shapeways to allow users to sell their own printable fan art for My Little Pony, Transformers, Dungeons & Dragons, G.I. Joe., and more. It went a step further by partnering with a startup dedicated to essentially doing what it is doing now: 3D printing consumers heads and placing them onto mass produced figure bodies.
However, the consumer 3D printing bubble burst around the same time that the toy giant began publicly exploring the technology. The tides turned toward industrial manufacturing, leaving numerous AM businesses to go belly up. These included not only desktop 3D printer makers, but bespoke earbud startups, 3D printed shoe cobblers, and small firms dedicated to creating 3D printed selfies (or “shelfies,” as they were sometimes branded).
As cool as it was for consumers to see themselves 3D printed in full color, the business case didn’t make sense. To achieve the quality necessary for shelfies, expensive 3D scanners or even entire rigs were required. This, in turn, would necessitate renting a physical space—an actual brick-and-mortar shop in the high-rent-driven 21st century. Then, to bring shelfies into physical reality, an industrial, full-color 3D printer would be needed as well. To justify the cost, these stores would charge upwards of $50 for a full-color simulacrum that couldn’t even be played with because the only full-color 3D printers around used a very fragile medium.
3D Printing in the 2020s
Though the consumer 3D printing bubble burst around 2014, AM continued developing more or less apace. Formlabs was one of the strongest desktop startups to come out of that period. This was largely due to the high quality and low cost of its technology, which allowed Formlabs to straddle the consumer and industrial sectors. One industrial client was Hasbro, which teamed with the 3D printer manufacturer in 2014, first using its machines for in-house prototyping and, now, for end part production. For the Hasbro Selfie Series, the toy giant operates a fleet of 30 Form 3 printers and runs specialized versions of Formlabs’ PreForm and Dash
Meanwhile, related technologies, such as augmented reality (AR), became more refined. For instance, the introduction of depth sensors to smartphones has made 3D scanning much more accessible. While originally meant to visualize IKEA furniture in living rooms and medical information onto surgical patients, depth sensing has had the added benefit of enabling a number of new consumer applications, like scanning oneself into the metaverse or 3D printing a custom action figure.
Attendees of the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con, July 21-24, will be able to get a preview of the Hasbro Selfie Series. A select number will even get to make and buy their own figures, which will ship this fall. The release of Hasbro’s newest product could be a step toward full mass customization, often considered the holy grail of 3D printing. Such a world would mean that products would be tailored exactly to the needs of the consumer. Size, fit, shape, weight, material, texture—everything could be custom.
We’re already inching toward such possibilities. In addition to the latest news from Hasbro, Arevo is selling 3D printed e-bikes and scooters that can be matched to a rider’s height and riding style. Orthotics companies are adopting AM for the production of patient-specific insoles. Hearing aids and dental aligners have long been made in the millions through the use of 3D printing.
If we are reaching a level in which such ordinary goods as action figures can be personalized for the consumer, then that may be just the beginning for a whole slew of products: shoes, eyewear, golf clubs, and more. And, once everything is designed perfectly for the consumer, we may be left wondering why and whether or not more consumption was really worth it in the end.
Mall Of America To Host Two New World Class ‘Immersive Experiences’
Bloomingdale’s Brings The Treasure Hunt Excitement Of Outlet Shopping Via Livestream
Building Tech That Lasts — Learning From France’s Reparability Index