3D Printing Happy Meal Toys is simply a far fetch dream
A few days ago I read an article on Business Insider (www.businessinsider.com) that talked about how McDonald’s IT Director, Mark Fabes, was pondering with the idea of using in-store 3D printers to print Happy Meal Toys. I chuckled.
The article mentioned how Fabes said that using 3D printers at the stores would allow staff to print the toy of the child’s choice, should the kid not like the current toy being offered in the happy meal. How interesting. I would love to have a pet unicorn also…that could sweep the floors, mow the grass, cook me lunch and wash my cars.
It is a fact that 3D Printing is becoming more and more mainstream but the challenges facing this pondering are simply too many to list in a few paragraphs. The first thing that comes to mind is safety. If McDonald’s and other toy manufacturers are currently spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to safety test a single collection of toys, how is it that, a paren, kid or restaurant employee, is going to be able to print a toy via a 3D printer and have this toy (static figurine I assume) meet and comply with all current ASTM or EN71 or CPSC regulations? Is the parent going to print the toy, send it for testing (mind you, test labs require you to send multiple pieces), wait a few days for pre-approvals, then print a new item, before he/she gives it to their kid for playing? Each item is supposed to be given to the kid in a polyag that lists safety information and instructions…so the 3D printer is now going to have to mate with an over-wrapper? I get a headache just thinking about all the issues associated with this.
Do not even get me started in the operational and logistic aspects and challenges. Yes, we have traveled to space and yes, we can have wi-fi on a trip across the oceans. There is absolutely nothing wrong about dreaming big, but if I see this happening in my lifetime, I will gladly retire from my current position. Nobody in their right mind, especially parents with a screaming child, will be willing to wait hours for a little figurine to be dispensed (I say a little figurine, because there will be no windups, led lights, or other cool mechanisms associated with this for obvious reasons). Some of the fastest 3D printers would require hours to print a toy like this, and at costs per piece exceeding US$ 750, it is highly unlikely you will see this happening, at least not in the next 3 decades. Now, if you are printing a paper toy or sticker sheet, then we are going to be making more sense.
Manufacturing costs continue to rise in China and in other markets where these Happy Meal Toys are being manufactured. That is not to say they are going to go away. Have you been to a McDonald’s lately? If you have a 75% chance of getting your order correctly, what leads one to believe they will be able to work a 3D Printer with success?
I don’t buy Mr. Fabes pondering. He is dreaming big…which is not a bad thing in itself. I would rather get my order right next time I go to McDonald’s, but again, I may also be dreaming big. And in McDonald’s defense though, I love their snack wraps.