3D Printing Action Figures – Is This The Future Of The Toy Industry?

3D Printing is making it possible for customizers to create their own Action Figures. Using digital models, you can now directly print  three-dimensional solid objects of virtually any shape. Thanks to ToyArk.com board member “Hauke” for posting up images of his “Dan Generiko3D Printed Action Figure, that has 30 points of articulation, swappable hands and weapons, and is in 7 inch scale.

construction 3d printed action figure by hauke

This brings us to our talking point. Are companies who manufacture action figures like Hasbro, Mattel and Sideshow going to face a storm of 3D Printed home made action figures that can rival the quality of today’s standards? It looks like we may be just a few short years away from more accessible pricing of higher quality 3D Printers, including software.

In a time where it seems like companies are moving away from articulation and heavy marketing of brands, and the core fan base wanting more, this could get interesting. Not only would it be a nightmare scenario to try and shut down the “sharing” of 3D Models over the web, it would be nearly impossible to stop people from printing their own versions of Licensed Products.

3d printed action figure gijoe

One thing is certain, we’re entering a brand new day; one in which we can make our own action figures. This could open the door for many smaller Action Figure producers to enter the market, and shine some new light on the industry.

Discussion / Comments (Jump to this Thread on the Forum)

  1. hauke has no avatar! hauke says

    Hello everyone!

    Not really a custom but some of you might find this interesting. I recently got into 3D printing and I was wondering how far I could take the functionality of my models. This is my first attempt at a figure with proper action figure articulation. It worked out pretty well. It basically works like a snap together model kit. It has about 30 points of articulation. I had to do some sandpapering in order to make everything fit together but that is something one should expect when 3D printing. The figure holds firmly together and all the joints have a nice range of motion. The seam lines are a little bit big but I believe that has more to do with the resolution of my printer then the 3D file. The figure is about 7 inches tall. It has a couple of swapable hands and the weapons can be stored on the back of the figure. The figure is called Dan Generiko and he is a hero in an apocalyptic world where genetically enhanced humans wage war against humans who have given up their natural bodies for robotic ones. Dan protects the ordinary humans who are caught in the middle of the fighting of the two factions.

    - Hauke



  2. TheLongestDay's Avatar TheLongestDay says

    Woah! This is awesome!!!

    Id love to see what can be made in the 3.75" scale.

    Wicked job mate

  3. DESTRO's Avatar DESTRO says

    In less then 10 years time 3D printing has the potential to crush the action figure industry as we know it today.

  4. hauke has no avatar! hauke says

    Thanks guys!
    My printer is not precise enough for 3.75" scale. The joints would be too inaccurate to work. You would probably need an expensive high resolution printer for that. Up close even this large figure is still rough.
    3D printing is great for prototyping and stuff like that but it will still take a long time before people can print something with it comming close to a factory manufactured figure when it comes to detail, painting and price.

  5. Iceman's Avatar Iceman says

    I dream of the day when top quality 3d printers will only be a couple hundred dollars. So many things I would do with that but I think the big thing in customs will become who has the best files to print characters that people want. Love that some people are able to do stuff like this even now.

  6. bigkid24's Avatar bigkid24 says

    Mind if I ask what kind of printer you have and what kind of material you used? That's a pretty sweet figure. I always wondered how well a fully printed figure at that size would be able to hold poses and stuff.

  7. hauke has no avatar! hauke says

    The figure was printed on a Mojo from Stratasys. It uses ABS plastic. The joints are not as tight as on a normal action figure. I gave them some room to adjust for printer irregularities and friction over time. But the joints of the figure are good enough for posing as you can see in the pictures above.

  8. DESTRO's Avatar DESTRO says

    I think this will be a great talking point for the front page, and this - IMO is the future of "Customs".

  9. DESTRO's Avatar DESTRO says

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hauke View Post
    The figure was printed on a Mojo from Stratasys. It uses ABS plastic. The joints are not as tight as on a normal action figure. I gave them some room to adjust for printer irregularities and friction over time. But the joints of the figure are good enough for posing as you can see in the pictures above.
    Do you have any video of your printer at work?

  10. Tarquinius's Avatar Tarquinius says

    First of all, beautiful work. I absolutely love it. And I agree with the people above on more details please. How long did this take you? How hard was it to design the figure in program? etc. Great job

    Second, while I agree with what the front page said about it presenting as a threat to the toy industry, I think there are still some caveats. The 3-D printing equipment (today) is super expensive. Of course, over time the prices might go down but I think affordability will always be a factor and not everyone will be able to afford the hardware/software/materials to do this (even in the future). Not to mention that some people may lack the technical skills to pull it off as well.

    Regardless, this post makes me happy because it demonstrates that in a little time we won't be limited to what the toy companies produce.

    On the other hand, what does that mean for collecting? A lot of MISB, MOSC collectors often look for resell value on their toys. If the toy industry moves to individuals producing their own toys, what becomes collectible then?

    Just interesting points to consider.

  11. Tony_Bacala's Avatar Tony_Bacala says

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tarquinius View Post
    On the other hand, what does that mean for collecting? A lot of MISB, MOSC collectors often look for resell value on their toys. If the toy industry moves to individuals producing their own toys, what becomes collectible then?
    I think it equates to what's going on with digital comics, from a fan's perspective. The old guard which collects for value will be pissed at first. But, the technology brings more people into the fold. Which in turn makes the few hardcopy prints available worth more over time. The average toy collector will switch from being a value based speculator into more of a personal collector. Just as the comic fan is switching from someone who collects comics to someone who reads comics. In this 3d era, you will only buy something if you like it yourself, not for value later.

    The other angle is the paint. I can see those with good paint skills getting a rock star status. It will be much easier to sell the above figure later if it was painted by rock-star-painter than if I did it. So finding model A with painter B will be the collector focus on eBay or whatever I think. Especially if the painter documents he's only doing a limited run of paint jobs per figure.

    And, realistically, until I can get something that is indiscernible from a Hasbro product, in quality of materials, paint apps, mold sharpness - for 10-20 bucks, it's not something I'd get into. Since printers won't be buying materials in bulk, and painters aren't being paid 10 cents an hour, it can't happen. The big guys will have to abandon the market completely so there is no other choice before I'd pay 100 bucks for a well done 3d figure.

    Exciting times either way, I hope it creates a kick ass boutique market and forces the big guys to step up their game, address adult needs for real.

  12. hauke has no avatar! hauke says

    Thanks again for all the feedback. Unfortunately I have no video of my printer working. But I am sure there are examples of the printer working on the stratasys website. Printing all the parts for the figure takes about 32 hours. The material cost is at least three times what a figure of similar size and articulation would cost in a store. It took me a couple of weeks to make the 3D model until it was perfect for printing. But the cool thing is that now I have a template for future figure designs.
    I think it will still take a while until 3D printing will be cheap and detailed enough for extensive personal use. I can really only do it because I have all the equipment for work anyway.

  13. roshan has no avatar! roshan says

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DESTRO View Post
    I think this will be a great talking point for the front page, and this - IMO is the future of "Customs".
    More than that, it's the future of action figures. I've brought this subject up numerous times to Hasbro reps over the last five years that they need to get ahead of this, it's coming and it will wipe you out if you try to react after the fact.

    Sharing will always happen, but if they work ahead of time to create a library of CAD files of the entire history of hasbro, there are people who will legally buy those to print at home so they will see at least some revenue and create a precedent for providing a service before a throng of customizers create that library first. The old days are gone and they're never going to see a CAD file go for the price of a figure, but next to nothing in overhead they can create a library of thousands upon thousands of action figures to purchase. That money adds up, and the product is infinitely renewable for free. Find the right price point and add the convenience of assembly, paint, alternate scheme instructions, and you will have a market.

    We're still a couple years out from the right price point on 3d printers to make this a reality. Which is why Hasbro needs to prepare NOW.

  14. martian410's Avatar martian410 says

    Great job on the detail. Good to see other arkers with access to 3D printers. I see endless possibilities with this technology.

  15. hauke has no avatar! hauke says

    I think toy companies would be smart to invest in creating their own certified printers. This way they could give out printfiles that only work on their machines similar to the music bought on itunes only working on apple devices. They could also make sure those printers use child friendly materials to ensure child safety regulations. I think 3D printing could become big in customer service where people can print damaged parts or lost accessories.

  16. roshan has no avatar! roshan says

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hauke View Post
    I think toy companies would be smart to invest in creating their own certified printers. This way they could give out printfiles that only work on their machines similar to the music bought on itunes only working on apple devices. They could also make sure those printers use child friendly materials to ensure child safety regulations. I think 3D printing could become big in customer service where people can print damaged parts or lost accessories.
    Hasbro is not Apple. Trying to come up with Hasbro standard printer would fall flat on its face. Any attempt to try and restrict how you create the figure from the file would have most folks running to the customizers versions. You have to make it convenient. Set it up as an adult collector file. For at least the first few years of this, the majority of users will be adult collectors, these files won't be used to print out a birthday present for a kid very often if at all. I'm not even sure how child safety regulations would come into play anyway. They'd be selling a CAD file.

    In the grand scheme of things, the money they would make off of this is peanuts compared to their movie properties and existing toy product on the shelves. But it keeps a foothold on their intellectual property online.

  17. timone317's Avatar timone317 says

    Incredible work, I've been waiting to see something like this ever since I found out about 3D printing. I find the possibilities behind 3D printing very exciting...I consider myself a custom figure aficionado and can't wait to see what people will eventually create, especially if the quality will rival manufactured releases. While I'm sure this may bring about some sort of legal issues I also think this may force companies like Hasbro to increase the quality of their product.

  18. Brownfinger's Avatar Brownfinger says

    That is exceptional stuff. Well done!

    Toy companies can safely count on my money, for now, as I'm pretty terrible with a paint brush.

  19. hauke has no avatar! hauke says

    Thanks again guys. I used Softimage for modeling the figure and the joints and then made the 3D file ready for printing in a program called netfabb. That program I also used to make the holes for the plugs and joints.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by roshan View Post
    Hasbro is not Apple. Trying to come up with Hasbro standard printer would fall flat on its face. Any attempt to try and restrict how you create the figure from the file would have most folks running to the customizers versions.
    I think that would depend how you would market this to people. If you would say this Hasbro printer uses the exact plastic colors as the Hasbro products and ensures it will print Hasbro products in quality as close to their manufactured products as possible, it would be a very convenient way for customers to print the Hasbro products. More convenient then using some customized printer that needs a lot of finetuning before printing. Also you would not have to restrict how the parts are printed. You would only retrict them to be printable exclusively on Hasbro approved machines.
    Personally I do not see Hasbro giving out printfiles on current toys except for replacement parts. But it could be a cool way to offer long out of print figures or even figures that were never produced. There would be no harm in releasing the old Super Powers figures as printfiles for example.
    But that is just my opinion yours may differ.

  20. Fortune's Avatar Fortune says

    something that I have been pondering is, if 3D printing REEEAAALLY takes off and hits the toy industry wouldn't marvel and or DC and plenty of other companies start cracking down and banning making of their characters?

  21. sabretoothe has no avatar! sabretoothe says

    3d printing will not kill hasbro or any other main toy company, it's cost. the printers might come down in price but the materials wont. also the time designing something and then printing it make it as a main stream thing a moot point. i make a lot of custom toys and every now and again ones for retail and there is benefits to 3d printing for personal use. the notion of 3d printing your own toys is great but has it's draw backs. 3d printers are great for prototyping and single projects but for anything more than that is wishful thinking. people have been casting toy/model parts for years and it barely even a blip in the grand scale of the retail. thinking hasbro should sell 3d models of their products is at this time very very very wishful thinking, shapeways has all sorts of stuff on their site for sale that is 3d printed and it's still not a game changer.
    this being said i'm not knocking anyone who 3d prints there own stuff, it's pretty darn cool

  22. roshan has no avatar! roshan says

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hauke View Post
    Personally I do not see Hasbro giving out printfiles on current toys except for replacement parts. But it could be a cool way to offer long out of print figures or even figures that were never produced. There would be no harm in releasing the old Super Powers figures as printfiles for example.
    But that is just my opinion yours may differ.
    I agree, new product would not be available. But scanning in and offering up their entire catalog from the 60's to present would be an amazing possibility.

  23. behindthemask's Avatar behindthemask says

    3d printing would be awesome for guns/weapons, headcasts,bullets, bases, etc, smaller stuff that has limited detail compared to an entire figure, and less time designing/making, and could be mass produced, would be sweet to have a Tony Stark Head for every figure I own, rather then buying a figure just to get the headsculpt. Or buy a MS figure just to get the base.
    I do like the idea of Hasbro making a toy repair centre, where you can take a broken toy and make a new replacement part. Cheaper then buying a new one. Or Hasbro selling online pieces, such as bases, weapons, headcasts, similiar to what Spawn.com used to do. The other issue I thought of with 3d printing to be profitable is licensing rights, you can't make and sell Spiderman toys, even if it's your own design without giving Disney/Marvel a piece of the action, so your left coming up original characters and designs which is hard to sell to a mass audience, without doing a cartoon or movie.

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