Just a few years ago, the idea of kid-friendly 3D printers made for a pretty good April Fools’ joke. Well, reality has caught up to the punchline. In February, Mattel launched its $300 ThingMaker, a 3D printer with a kid-friendly app that lets children design, print, and build their own toys.
The printer lets kids create everything from bracelets and necklaces to dolls, dinosaurs, and robots. The parts print out individually, so later in the day kids can return to assemble the interlocking ball-and-socket pieces into the objects and characters they dreamed up themselves.
Though the prices of 3D printers were once unthinkable for most, they’ve dropped considerably in recent years, and should continue to do so. Libraries, which often offer free or cheap introductions to the technology, are catching on, too. That means 3D printing is more accessible to adults. It only follows that kids are the next frontier.