Everyone is said to be the hero of their own story. Now, for an introductory price of just $59.99, you can be a superhero thanks to a creative partnership between toy giant Hasbro Inc. and 3D printing innovator Formlabs of Somerville, Mass.
The Hasbro Selfie Series program, which was announced in July at San Diego Comic Con, allows fans to create a collectible 6-inch [152.4 mm] action figure in their likeness based on characters from popular movies, TV series and comics. Among the initial offerings are character costumes from GI JOE, Ghostbusters, Power Rangers and Marvel, as well as designs inspired by Star Wars heroes.
“We did extensive research to really understand fan demand for a custom product, and the team did a fantastic job of making that dream a reality,” said Brian Chapman, president of design, development and innovation at Hasbro. “The innovation on this exclusive technology is truly remarkable, and we look forward to giving fans the opportunity to add to their collections.”
The program ushers in a new era of personalization in consumer entertainment, powered by additive manufacturing (AM). But toys aren’t just kid stuff; the process promises to revolutionize a range of consumer products.
“Formlabs printers are a perfect fit for this business as they offer the ability to print with custom resin, allowing for a range of tints for hair and skin colors without any hardware upgrades from Hasbro’s existing Form 3” , explained Gary Rowe, head of the company. Business development.
The digital manufacturing platform, which includes high-performance printers, materials and software, allows any business to develop a scalable manufacturing workflow that enables customization and mass production, according to Formlabs.
For the Selfie Series program, Hasbro operates more than 30 SLA Form 3 printers and runs specialized versions of Formlabs’ PreForm and Dashboard software to integrate the 3D printing company’s programming interface into its own manufacturing processes.
Consumer orders began this fall, with initially limited availability in the United States. Once a customer places an order and uploads all the necessary information, it takes approximately 45-60 days to print and deliver a custom figure.
Hasbro has been toying with 3D printers for over a decade. But, like other consumer products companies, he determined there was no business case for mass-producing custom products at the time.
“Ten years ago, 3D printing was not where it could be used reliably in this type of high-value, high-customization work,” said David Lakatos, chief product officer of Formlabs. , in a joint video on the Selfie series. . But that has changed. “We now have the reliability, the precision that we can participate in manufacturing.”
Launched in 2011 by a trio of MIT graduate students, Formlabs has continuously improved its AM technology and made it more affordable to help it transition from industrial to consumer applications. In recent years, for example, the company has teamed up with industry partners to manufacture 3D-printed headphones, custom men’s razor handles, jewelry molds, fan parts and false teeth.
Hasbro began working with Formlabs in 2014, using the company’s 3D printers to rapidly prototype action figures. But the toy company had bigger plans, fueled by customer demand for personalized products.
“We applied this prototyping knowledge to ensure we could deliver the quality our fans wanted,” explained Patrick Marr, Sr., Director of Model Development at Hasbro. He said the company has been creating “one-of-a-kind” custom figures to support product development and specific company initiatives for years.
AM meets advanced facial scans
The project centers on merging two technologies, Marr noted. “The first step was to identify the right additive manufacturing (AM) technology to deliver finished parts that met our aesthetic and quality standards.”
After evaluating a host of AM competitors, Hasbro chose Formlabs because of the quality of its stereolithography (SLA) printers and versatile resins. SLA resin-based printing allows for smoother, thinner and less noticeable layer lines (as thin as 50 microns) that look like an injection-molded part, the partners say.
Advances in smartphone technology have been the other key catalyst. They include the addition of depth sensors, which makes 3D scanning more viable, and photogrammetry technology which creates a 3D model from still images.
Face scanning is done through the Hasbro Pulse mobile app, which allows the company to remotely capture a user’s likeness quickly and easily. The system works on both iPhone and Android devices, Marr said, and is compatible with multiple versions of the phones.
“When we first saw scanning technology come in, we knew there was an avenue there. … Suddenly you could see there was a bridge between the prototyping stage and the production stage,” added Marr.
“The team has done an amazing job developing a process that captures our fans’ likeness and projects on our owner chef,” he continued. “From there, the customer can adjust their detected skin tone, choose their preferred figure, decide on a hairstyle and color, and add any facial hair to capture their true self. The app seamlessly guides the consumer through the process by showing each step in amazing 3D renderings. »
The team focused on developing all of the infrastructure, tools, and processes needed to produce at scale. “Every aspect of the production process and props needed to be designed, developed and tested before we could implement them into our production process,” Marr noted.
Make a superhero
The goal was to produce a custom figure that matched the quality of, or was better than, Hasbro’s existing stock action figures. This meant that they had to be realistic and extremely durable.
Doing the job required constant testing, experimentation, innovation and collaboration. The Selfie series was “definitely one of those projects that brought together a lot of great minds from multiple departments to solve,” Marr said.
“We understood very well how to produce on a small scale,” he added. “I would say most of the time it was focused on creating a system that worked at scale. Every aspect of file management, automation, part tracking, sorting and assembly had to be understood.”
For example, the material had to be skin-safe and durable, meeting Hasbro’s high standards. To that end, the partners adapted Formlabs Tough 1500 resin to create a new proprietary material that can 3D print parts that match the stiffness and strength of polypropylene parts.
“The Selfie series required a material with a good quality surface finish, high resolution detail, the right skin color match and mechanical properties,” Rowe said, “but would still have high toughness without being too brittle – these figurines are designed to be played with.
Hasbro produces the 3D-printed heads in micro-manufacturing facilities across the country, allowing it to be close to customers and scale production based on demand. The build process is optimized to print 25 different heads at once.
Once printed, the custom heads are painted, including eyebrows, eyes, lips, and teeth, polished, and complete the final post-processing. They are then paired with the appropriate off-the-shelf, injection molded body.
Hairpieces are pre-made – users can choose from over 50 styles. Glasses and other accessories aren’t currently available through Hasbro’s process, but buyers can have them printed separately elsewhere on their own.
The Hasbro program has helped Formlabs in areas beyond just making toys, according to Rowe.
“Hasbro Selfie Series is one of, if not the premier example, of mass customization with 3D printing. Formlabs enables companies to create unique and personalized products in the technology, healthcare and dental industries, and other sectors.
Action figures are the start “of a wave of mass customization that will become common in years to come as companies recognize its value,” Rowe envisioned. “Customized products may appeal to consumers and may even provide benefits such as improved patient outcomes when used in healthcare and dental applications, and affordable and versatile 3D printing solutions from Formlabs enables this wave.”
In the years to come, this personalization could extend to a range of other products, such as shoes, eyewear and golf clubs. This would allow buyers to specify various parameters – fit, shape, weight, material, texture – to suit their needs and usher in a new era of practical applications for 3D printing.