Toy Story 3D

3D printing toy parts


We’re well into the new year now, and Christmas is starting to fade from memory. Well, it would be except for one little thing. It’s amazing how many bits of their new toys and games the kids can lose in three weeks, isn’t it? How many gifts have already been tearfully relegated to the back of the cupboard because one small but vital piece of plastic has disappeared? You know from long experience that it’ll turn up some day when you’re cleaning under a bed or unblocking the U bend on the kitchen sink, but until it does there’s a valued toy that’s not getting any attention.

Thanks to 3D printing you might just be able to replace that lost part right away, instead of having to order a hugely over-priced replacement from the maker or just waiting for it to turn up on its own. A printer manufacturer has come up with a solution for those missing bits, and it’s a great example of how additive manufacturing can solve problems in ingenious new ways.

Dagoma is a French company with a taste for social projects. For example they aim to slow down the spread of 3D printed guns by releasing files for subtly altered parts that look the same as functional ones but don’t actually fit together. Their latest project is a bit less politically sensitive, though.

Toy Rescue’s website is an online database of printable toy parts. Dagoma have listed all the most popular toys of the last 40 years, identified the parts that usually end up being lost or broken, and created 3D models of them by scanning originals. Then they’ve loaded these files into the database and made them available to download. So if your Millennium Falcon is missing its radar dish, one of your Hungry Hungry Hippos has been decapitated or Mr Potato Head is going for the Van Gogh look with his ears, a replacement part is only a few clicks and some printing away.

Dagoma say all their parts have been printed and tested to make sure they fit, so you shouldn’t have any problems with them. There are well over 100 parts on the Toy Rescue site already, more are being uploaded all the time, and Dagoma is also encouraging a user community to create even more. If you’re looking for a bit that isn’t listed you can request it, and there’s a good chance someone in the community will get back to you with a file. Don’t have a printer? No problem; there are also volunteers who’ll print parts for others.

Toy Rescue is obviously going to dry up a lot of tears by letting parents put toys back into use, but Dagoma have a more serious goal behind the site. They say 40 million toys are thrown away in France every year because of lost or broken parts. That’s a lot of plastic going onto landfills., and maybe people will hold on to those toys if they can be easily repaired. There’s even an opportunity for charity shops here. Usually they’ll reject toys or games with parts missing – but now they can print a replacement and put it on sale. This project isn’t going to change the future. It’s not like 3D-printed artificial organs or a self-replicating terraformer that can help colonise Mars. But it’s a good idea that will reduce pollution and waste, while making some kids happy, and that’s not a bad outcome for a simple website community.

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