Oct 5, 2012
3DPrintingNews
Comments Off on Could 3D printed lighting be the next big thing for children’s toys.

Could 3D printed lighting be the next big thing for children’s toys.

Children’s entertainment giant Disney are currently researching the role of 3D printing in the creation of a new kind of toy. The research focuses on developing interactive devices with active components, with these devices created as a single object rather than assembled from individual parts. The team of researchers at Disney’s Pittsburgh lab have used 3D printing technology to create “light pipes” which provide flexible alternative  to optical fibre. By printing the pipes to fit a toys specific form it was possible to place and light pipe intersections with greater ease than would have been possible with traditional lighting fibres.

This technology was outlined in the research teams first paper which also details some prototype toys developed to date including;

  • A bug like toy with glowing eyes that displays various graphics.


             Incorporating a series of light pipes into the design of a 3D printed demon toy, engineers were able to create the impression that the toy was rolling its eyes, blinking or in love (cartoon style – with two small throbbing hearts) by simply controlling which bits of the eye were illuminated in a specific colour.
  • A chess set with light up pieces that display their location on the board 


             Similarly by creating chess pieces with a large number of light pipes which form a dot matrix display, the team was able to make text and numbers glow through the sides of the bases of each chess pieces, this could be used to show location or suggest moves for each chess piece during chess games.

While the technology sounds promising there are a number of kinks to be worked out by the team. Currently there is too much light loss from longer 3D printed light pipes and some complications have arisen in the creation of entirely enclosed hollow areas. The team however should also be aware of costing factors which may prove a challenge once the prototype design nears completion. Developing 3D printing for the toy industry is not a new concept however industry watchers suggest that production costs for 3D printed toys remain high which pushes prices upwards, making 3D printed toys more suitable to the adult collectors.

 

 

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