Toy manufacturing giant Fisher Price has recently begun to use 3D printing and virtual reality technologyies to produce rapid prototypes its new toy concepts for hand-on testing and analysis by its designers. The technology is helping the company to ensure product safety, accuracy, functionality, durability and size. In their most recent toy design, the BatBot Xtreme, the company found one initial flaw, the size of the toy was too small. In order to make it better, while maintaining an otherwise flawless design, the design team turned to 3D printing technology.
Typically, the designers would simply just open up the toy’s CAD file, enlarge its proportions in a reverse engineering application, and simply send the toy’s re-sized CAD file to the 3D printer where the test model would be produced in less than just 7 days. In this case, however, the team could not afford to wait a week for there testing model to be produced, having already withdrawn the flagship toy from Fisher Price’s 2017 Imaginext line of toys, designed to captivate kids with the most modern and high-tech toys available. Design Director of Imaginext had this to say:
“When you get that physical toy from the screen for the first time, there’s a state change. We need to get across that barrier as quickly as possible,” said Tyler Berkheiser, design director of the Imaginext brand. “We quickly realized we don’t have time to build this model. How could we realize if this works?”
Because of this shortage in time, the team came up with a innovative solution: bring the CAD file for BatBot Xtreme into a virtual reality for the team to evaluate and observe. By doing so, they were able to view and play around with the virtual prototype of the toy, checking the geometric accuracy, observing the functionality of the toy’s mechanical, moving parts and more. According to Berkheiser, the virtual reality experience was revolutionary to the design process and he expected in to become a standard in the industry
“I might feel comfortable moving all the way to first plastic [just from] looking at something virtual,” he says. “In the past, I would have never dreamed that. And you know, if there’s something simple and it’s not a complex product, I could see going all the way down the line [into production].”
As developments to both 3D printing and virtual reality technologies continually advance, Fisher Price and other industry leaders in toy manufacturing will look to integrate them even more into their design process.