Transformers, meet 3D printing: Hasbro and 3D Systems team up

In a new partnership, the company behind some of the largest brands on the planet will be working with 3D Systems to unlock the children's toy market.

Nick Statt Former Staff Reporter / News
Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
Nick Statt
2 min read
3D Systems' Cube 3 printer. 3D Systems

3D-printed products from multinational toy company Hasbro -- which oversees brands such as Transformers, Star Wars, Scrabble, and Monopoly -- may be a future fixture of children's playrooms, classroom show-and-tell, and family board game night thanks to a partnership that could accelerate the adoption of 3D printers in mainstream settings like households and schools.

The Rhode Island-based company announced Friday that it has partnered with 3D Systems, a maker of wide-ranging 3D printers and accompanying software, to "co-develop, co-venture and deliver new immersive, creative play experiences powered by 3D printing for children and their families later this year."

In other words, the company that owns a sprawling set of massively successful subsidiaries -- Tonka, Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, and Playskool to name a few -- has just found its way into the 3D printing market in a huge way. 3D Systems has been a staple of the 3D-printing industry as far back as the '80s, and it has been smartly capitalizing on the MakerBot-led movement to go mainstream in the last few years by offering a wide set of printer options for the home and small businesses, while also catering to professional industries like aerospace, automotive, and health care.

Not only does this partnership give 3D Systems access to a dizzying number of licensed brands that have been lying in wait to be funneled through the 3D printing world, but it gives Hasbro an established veteran of the blossoming industry with which to establish itself in the space. After all, a MakerBot 3D printing offers great design and a leading platform that caters first and foremost to tinkerers and "makers," but a Hasbro one could be a better selling point for an apprehensive parent looking to dip their toes into bringing 3D printing into the home.

The partnership also marks a potentially important step for Hasbro with regards to its controversial manufacturing processes, which have been almost exclusively headquartered in East Asia for years and have been heavily criticized for a lack of oversight and the contracted companies' consistent labor abuses. By putting low-cost 3D printers in the homes of families -- and pioneering alongside 3D Systems a platform for parents, teachers, and kids alike to design, print, and purchase toys and board games -- Hasbro has the opportunity to add a fundamental new arm to its business that does not rely directly on an influx of cheap labor overseas.

The companies have not signaled anything about price or products, only that they will "exclusively co-develop and commercialize innovative play printers and platforms later this year."