Hi Reddit! I’m the CEO of Toybox - The 3D printer for toys. Back after a year to answer more questions about our bottomless toybox, 3D Printers for toys, and 3D printing in general! AMAA
My name is Ben Baltes, and I’m lucky enough to work with a small team of extremely talented engineers and designers based out of Oakland to create the ultimate toy - one that makes you toys!
Inspired by the type of toys that helped us build amazing things when we were kids, we set out to build the ultimate tool for creative children. Something to allows kids to create real tangible toys without any formal training. We’re extremely passionate about leveraging the power of 3D printing to encourage children to start building. We believe this next generation will leverage these types of technologies to create amazing things!
A year ago, we did an AMA here on Reddit and had such a great experience we wanted to come back. Since then, we’ve built on some your feedback, finished a product, and actually sold out of our first batch of kid-friendly 3D printers!
You can check out more info about what we do at our website here: www.make.toys
Also, just like last time, to show our appreciation we’ll be mailing custom 3D printed toys to the top 4 comments (2 for the highest votes, 2 for the ones we like the most). We’ll ship it to anywhere in the continental US.
Last time Kanye West never thanked us for the snoo we sent him :(
Anyways, let’s get to it, AMAA!
*** PROOF ***: www.make.toys (the banner at the top).
We built toybox to be completely operated by the kid. It's actually quite simple to use, and children pick it up with no problems. We do recommend children asking for help when removing small prints from the build bed as those tend to stick more.
The machine doesn't require any maintenance other than changing ink when it runs out. If there are any problems you can send it back and we'll mail you a new one :)
Do we have to pay return postage if the machine you sent has a problem with it? I cant stand when people just say send it back and expect you to eat the fees for their problem.
No, we cover the shipping fee if your printer arrives with problems. :)
So is this just a closed ecosystem? your designs, your printers, only your filaments?
Nope! We recommend using our filaments because we uphold certain quality standards that a lot of amazon retailers dont, but people are free to use whatever filaments they want. If you don't use ours we recommend using hatchbox.
We also take raw gcode files, so people are free to use whatever software they want and can send their own models wirelessly to their Toybox.
But why not existing ecosystems like thingiverse? the only advantage of toybox is to sell your printers; not to advance 3D printing.
Thingiverse is merely file hosting, there is no way to print right from thingiverse on anything other than a MakerBot or stratasys as they own it and are also only in it to sell their printers.
Also, our customers can still use thingiverse with toybox. The cool thing about our toys experience is that we only put up toys that are guaranteed to print and work, that makes it super easy for kids to get started with 3d printing. Thingiverse generally has a lot of content that doesn't work with standard FDM printers.
Do you have any features that allow kids to design and create their own toys?
Yup! We have a simple drawing mode where kids can draw their own pictures, press one button, and Toybox immediately makes what they draw.
We'll also soon be introducing some simple apps for children to be able to customize toys.
How is Zach doing?
We keep Zach in the basement where he does most his coding. We actually haven't seen him in days, we should probably feed him soon.
Just kidding, he's right next to me, happy and well fed :)
I think some people are missing out on your AMA because you forgot to put up the cool round square icon/avatar thing to left of your posting and putting up the"LIVE" announcement, and many are still at work and at school, will you be answering questions all day?
I believe the mods have to mark the thread as LIVE. So I guess it's up to the mod gods to save me :(
First time doing this :p Do you plan on expanding to other counties? Here in Argentina some people would love to get 3D printers but due to inflation they are very expensive
We do eventually plan on expanding to different countries! For now, we focus mainly on the US because it's easier to handle closer shipping costs, and we don't have to pay extra VAT taxes. But we're looking to change that very soon!
Thanks for the info. Good luck :)
No problem! :)
If you're interested, join our email list on the site. We'll notify you when we start shipping to other countries!
Can dog and cat toys be made with the toy printer?
We've seen people print things like dog tags through our drawing app, but we wouldn't recommend chew toys.
So is Microsoft Windows persona non grata, it would be cool to have an app for Microsoft Surface Tablet users, did you ask anyone on r/windows, r/surface r/Microsoft if they would help make one for the company?
We actually have a quite robust [web app](www.make.toys/toys) that connects to our printer directly from the site particularly for this reason.
As in a native windows store app, we haven't yet looked into that.
Mr. Baltes what jobs did you have before starting this business and what did you major in college?
I worked a software developer at Microsoft in Washington. I was on the user experience team for Windows and did a quite a bit of Data Engineering, and Data analysis.
I majored in computer science at UT Austin
Mr. Baltes, how big of a toy can be made and what dangers can Series from a child make too small of a toy that a sibling or pet could swallow and how do you plan to prevent such dangers?
The printing size for the printer is 85x60x95mm. So that is the biggest SINGLE piece that you can print. However, a lot of our toys are much bigger than that because they are printed in pieces and assembled afterward.
have you worked with or looked into edible plastics (assuming they would exceed any child safety requirements) -- what's the latest development on that front?
Great question! We currently only sell and recommend printing with PLA on Toybox printers. It's a common corn plastic that is non-toxic and biodegradable. However, I wouldn't say it's quite edible.
Right now our focus isn't yet to do edible prints, though that may be interesting in the future :)
What about a material that could be safely reconstituted into printable material? That way if a toy gets broken or a child gets tired of it you could turn it into something new
There are companies such as filastruder that sell a machine that grinds down plastic and extrudes filament ready for printing.
However, one thing you have to be careful with is that every time you recycle plastics they become more and more brittle, and its generally by a pretty noticeable amount.
That's one thing that's so appealing about biodegradable plastics such as PLA.
how difficult would it be to produce something approaching lego-quality pieces using PLA with your platform? What sort of modifications would you need to bring them to that stage?
Great question, we actually have a lego-stye collection called brickworld on our platform.
They work pretty decently but are a slightly different mechanism as lego. Though they are compatible with lego. We really had to play with the different thicknesses and shapes of the binding mechanisms to work well being 3D printed.
would the process be significantly easier or more reliable if you had preset metal molds for the pieces built into your device, or would such an approach require a total redesign?
That's an awesome question, and one we were considering for a while. The mold would need a considerable amount of heat to keep the plastic molten, so we it would require a much larger power supply and a lot of heaters so it would increase the price of the actual printer.
That being said it could be possible to make future modules that could be attached to the print bed, just may cost more than expected.
Have you ever considered making a line of replacement parts or pieces for older toys/action figures?
Examples would be either a weapon from the early TMNT action figures or that really fragile proton stream from the Ghostbusters.
That's an interesting idea. The tricky part is being able to create the mass amount of replacement parts for action figures and matching the compatibility. Since all toys use different joint systems, getting the measurements right for each one can be tricky..
Hi Mr. Baltes, what is the most fulfilling part of your job? I would guess that you and your team must be very passionate about children being able to use their imagination and be creative.
Happy Kids! Whenever we see kids building cool things with our platform and enjoying them it definitely makes us super happy. :)
That, and I get to work with some of the most talented people I've ever worked with so that's a huge one as well.
Is that image a picture of a stikfas? Or. What toy is that? Is it 3D printable?
It's actually an open toy 3D toy called modio. Yes it is printable! :)
the biggest misconception you get about your product?
A lot of people that come to the site think we sell 3D printed toys. It's actually quite the opposite. All our 3D printed toys are free after you get the printer!
Question from my son (he's 11):
"Is there any way for a bunch of kids to work on something together? My friend lives in China, and I'd like to create a toy together and then I could print it."
(Mom here: I could also see a collaborative design being interesting in a classroom setting, or a challenge/competition where different classes or schools create a design based on specific criteria).
That's a great question. People can definitely collaborate on projects together and print them. You would want to both download the same 3D program and create a model together. those Models can be shared and put onto the printer. In fact, you could even publish your toy for thousands of kids to print off their own Toybox's.
We're always trying to get kids to do fun collaborative projects. Our latest one is actually coming to an end today. We have children submit their drawings and we turn 5 of them into real toys and mail it to them. Feel free to check it out here! . If you want to join in on upcoming projects feel free to join here.
Ok, listen up. This is not related but I have this burning question. For a second imagine that hell is real. What is the light source in hell? Is there a sun in hell or is the lava bright enough to light up all of hell?
I'd say that the lava's gotta be bright enough, i don't think the sun could reach down there..
Hey, can this be used to print figures? Like the figures of anime characters you can display in your room?
Absolutely. We don't yet have anime figures in our default collection. But you can absolutely print them if you find the figures online or make them!
How would you say you are different than thingmaker? I had been waiting for it to come out but it has been delayed many times. Did not know of Toybox until this AMA. Can you give me reasons why I should get ToyBox now vs waiting for Thingmaker?
Edit: or this model also aimed for kids /young adults Specs show same resolution but faster speed. What makes toybox a better choice? I would be using it with 5 year old
There are two fundamental things that we aimed to do to make 3D printing simpler for kids. One is to take out the pain in sifting through hundreds of models to find high fidelity models that are actually 3d printable (Not everything is 3D printable). And two is to simplify everything between the person and the printer. In traditional 3D printing, there are a few software programs you need to run the model through before printing, The process is complex enough I wouldn't expect anyone that's not extremely tech savvy to figure it out, let alone a 5-year-old. With Toybox, you just find the model and click one button, its guaranteed to print and to work.
As for Thingmaker, nobody really knows much about them. They didn't have a single picture or video of their working product (only 3D renders). I'm a little disappointed with the way they handled their customers. They were supposed to ship by Christmas, took people's preorder money, and then brought their site down http://www.thingmaker.com/ . They also only showcased one app that it was supposed to come with the printer, an action figure maker, and I have used that app, and you actually need a hammer to get the pieces together.
The davinci minimaker is just a 3D printer with colors on it. So all the complications of 3D printing still exist on it. They have a library, but the library is full of unprintable objects, the shapes just won't print on a 3D printer, it still has to tether to a computer, etc. (They only have a 3/5 star on amazon). The worst feeling when 3D printing is waiting for a 3-hour print to finish only to discover that the last part of the object is unprintable and then having a clump of plastic that you can't do anything with.
With Toybox, we test every single toy in our library to make sure it not only prints, but all the pieces of the toys fit together nicely. That way you are guaranteed to know you'll have high-fidelity toys to play with right after you press the print button. Also, everything works through wifi, so you can just pull out your phone or computer wherever you are, and click one button to start printing, so theirs no setup required when you want to start printing. I hope that more 3D printers will follow this model, as it actually makes it easier for anyone to get involved with 3D printing, kids and adults alike.
What's the biggest toy you have made?
We made a pretty huge catapult, it's on our home page.
Also a huge castle, that one is coming soon to our toy collection :)
What inspired you the most to be in this industry?
As a kid, I was ALWAYS trying to build things with the kids in my neighborhood. One time we tried to build a go kart with a weedeater engine, lawnmower wheels, and a few other junk parts that we found in a dumpster. But we couldn't get some critical components that we needed to piece the rest together like a shaft to secure to the engine to the wheels. Looking back, If I knew about, or had a 3D printer, I think we could have built some of the critical pieces and finished that go kart.
I think children will forever have the same aspirations to build awesome things, and it's our jobs to enable them to do that.
What's the coolest toy you guys have?
Right now a TON of kids have been making fidget spinners. I can't say I quite understand it, but kids really seem to enjoy making them.
Amongst other things, a lot of children have been printing block buddies, which is an action figure set where kids can interchange different parts.
Do you know when or if 3d printing will be more affordable?
What do you consider affordable? I think they are approaching very low costs. It seems that the price of 3D printers drops by about 30% every year. So in just a couple years I predict we'll be seeing a good amount of 3D printers in the $150 - $200 range.
Looks like the website is down (er, it's serving me a "blank page" anyway -- it's not actually blank, but there is no visible content in Firefox). Where might one be able to pick one of these up? Are they on Amazon or any other large retailers?
Edit: It was privacy badger. Apparently this website respects your privacy about as much as Russia respects Ukraine. Thank you EFF for giving us the tools to fight back.
We don't yet sell them with retailers, our profit margins are razor thin so the bulk of our sales is through our website store
We're working to improve some industrial processes to eventually get these into stores but that may be a year out.
As for the site, it should be working. If you try again and it's not working feel free to send me a PM. I'd love to investigate.
Are the printers operated only by phone and tablet apps or can a computer program on a PC run them too?
They work on PC too :)
In fact, we also have some cool apps for kids to draw things and print them as well.
What are the recommended age ranges to operate the printer?
We recommend kids ages 6-12. But it's also great for kids-at-heart
Sorry if i have so many questions, I'm ignorant about the printer and toy industry, for example, how much does the parent(s) have to supervise while the kid(s) are building their toy and how much maintenance is required of the machine by the parent(s)?
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