🖨️ Work and play: How Mattel uses 3D printing to dream up new toys
“3D printing allows us to use our time more efficiently and effectively,” said Peach, Key Lead Innovation Engineer at Mattel. “We really don’t want to print every single concept that we brainstorm but when the idea is right, 3D printing is definitely a time saver, and allows us to focus on other aspects of the concept. Instead of manually fabricating it or working out toolpaths for the CNC, you can spend that time developing your concept pitch, or maybe working on the electronics, hardware, electronics software, or maybe the audio that’s going to go into that model. So you could be multitasking and then all your parts come off, you can put it together and you’re ready to go to show it to the brand team.”
While it may have offered its young customers the tools to print their own toys from home, Mattel isn’t currently deploying 3D printing for mass production applications, though Peach does have some interesting thoughts on how that could look. “I think maybe far into the future,” Peach says, emphasising the ‘far’, “perhaps we’ll have a virtuous cycle where toys can be printed at home and then played with and then the material could be recycled or part of it could be recycled and maybe you could reprint that into a new toy.”
While injection moulding may still be the way to go given Mattel’s huge production volumes – its products are available in 150 countries – Peach emphasises that for new toy development, which typically takes around 18 months depending on emerging trends and complexity, “3D printing has been a game changer.”
Mexico’s Industrial Hubs Grow as Part of Trade Shift Toward Nearshoring
“Being able to hire enough people at our U.S. plants to support our growth was a real challenge. That was a major interest for us to open up a facility in Mexico,” said Sam Rosen, president of Ollin Plastics, the plastic molding unit of Minnesota-based ATEK Companies.
Mattel Inc., the maker of Barbie dolls and Mega Bloks, expanded its Monterrey plant into its largest manufacturing facility worldwide with an investment of $47 million between 2020 and 2022. The toy maker more than doubled its workforce to 3,500 at the plant as part of a global supply-chain restructuring to boost output and productivity, with immediate access to the U.S., the world’s largest toy market, said Roberto Isaias, Mattel’s chief supply chain officer. The company exports toys from Mexico to nearly 30 countries.
As demand for industrial space picks up, insufficient electricity infrastructure is limiting the speed at which manufacturers can move into Mexico, said Alberto Villarreal, managing director of Chicago-based Nepanoa, which does project management and consulting for U.S. companies setting up or expanding in Mexico.