Wednesday, 22 December 2010

LEGO and 3D printers

I wonder if the LEGO company will collapse or adapt when we all have cheap, reliable 3D printers on our desks. After all, at that point it will become trivial to print new LEGO-compatible blocks from freely-downloadable templates. Charging lots for models and pieces will be much less sustainable as a business model in that world, and lots of people are willing to create their own designs and distribute them for free, too. The advantages I can see genuine LEGO retaining in that world are:
  • Durability. Home-printed blocks are likely to be a little rougher and a little weaker than the moulded ones from LEGO.
  • Colour. The home-printed blocks will probably be all the same shade of milky-white.
  • Creativity. As long as LEGO has designers working on interesting new models, they'll probably still be able to sell sets.
  • Electronics. 3D printers will only be producing plastic, which means electronic sets like Mindstorms will still have the vital electronic controller pieces and wired bits that crafty bricksters need for their more advanced projects.
Mokalus of Borg

PS - They've already lost a court case about producing LEGO-compatible bricks.
PPS - I think the only illegal thing would be distributing trademarked designs.

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