Right now, for toy manufacturer Lego, “Everything is Awesome.” In addition to the company’s ridiculously popular brick toys, Lego is raking in money from video games, theme parks, and one of the best-reviewed movies of 2014. But a technological challenge far greater than the threat of President Business looms on the horizon: 3D printing.
Thanks to the miracle of this new technology, consumers can create objects on their 3D printers for a fraction of the cost of buying those items in a retail environment. All they need is the right template, and they can churn out whatever products they need. In the case Lego fans, they can create simple blocks, Lego figurines (known as MiniFigs) and even customized pieces that are not available from the corporate catalog. For hobbyists who love building (and aspire to Nathan Sawaya levels of creativity) the appeal of 3D-printed Lego pieces will be sorely tempting.
So what is a corporation to do? The music, movie and publishing industries have faced challenges with the advent of new technology that has allowed consumers to pirate content, and now, it seems, toy manufacturers are poised to face similar obstacles. Well, if Lego is smart, say the folks at venturebeat.com, it will transition itself into a purveyor of intellectual property. The company could provide digital models of its products for use in 3D printers, opening up the playbook and allowing people to modify designs and even create custom figurines with their own images. Lego may take a cue from the recording industry, greatly cutting down on its own physical manufacturing and instead focusing on digital content.
In the meantime, it can be happy it has diversified into other areas, like theme parks, video games and movies. After all, that Lego Movie sequel has got to be in the works, right? I might just print myself out a Lego igloo and start waiting in line for tickets…
For more on 3D printing, check out the following: