Aug 12, 2015 | By Alec

3D printing technology definitely has the potential to become a fun medium for creating cool and unique children’s toys, but so far most attempts haven’t gotten much farther than some relatively Thingiverse creations that probably won’t see a lot of play time. However, one startup from Singapore might have found a perfect combination to give 3D printed toys some more body. Called Blokko, this online platform combines fun and fresh storytelling from authors from all over the world with matching 3D printed toys. Because what kid doesn’t love toys that match stories?

Blokko was founded by a team of two: CEO Rahul Thayyalamkandy and CTO Pral Lal. ‘We have known each other since college in 2004 and we are based in Singapore. Prad has designed and built 2 3D printers,’ the CEO tells They themselves have always found it difficult to find toys to match their favourite stories. ‘When I was growing up I used to love Tintin comics, but I didn’t find any merchandise — maybe because I was growing up in India. That’s when I realised a lot of stories or games that you like don’t have merchandise. The reason is that all those independent storytellers don’t have the resources or the marketing muscle to create and sell merchandise,’ Rahul explained.

And this is exactly where Blokko began. ‘You can easily find merchandise for popular stories with large audiences like Superman comics, Star wars etc but not for indie stories with small audiences. With 3D printing, it is possible to serve this market because we manufacture on demand,’ he goes on. Blokko is a 3D printing solution to this problem. In a nutshell, it offers a commercial platform for storytellers and comic artists to publish their creations and collaborate with a community of 3D designers to create and sell toys. ‘We help storytellers extend their storytelling to the three dimensional world! We print these toy merchandise using professional 3D printers via 3D printing services like Shapeways, i.materialise etc and ship them to customers,’ Rahul says. Alternatively, 3D printable STL files can also be downloaded.

The idea obviously is that 3D printing enables stories to take on an extra dimension, but the one will never be as potent without the other. ‘A lot of people are looking into 3D printed toys, but this experience of writing a story and then building the toy is unique,’ Rahul says. ‘The two essential elements of toy play experience are storytelling and building. Stories are basically for role playing and building stuff. That’s what makes LEGO great. That is what we’re trying to recreate here.’

So how does it work exactly? It starts, as they write on their website, with a storyteller of any shape and form publishing their content – think comic books, animated series, or even video games. In collaboration with the owner of the story, 3D designers design toys to match. ‘Any fan from anywhere in the world can then purchase the toy, which he or she can either build themselves with a 3D printer, or have us do it with our professional grade machines before sending it to them,’ Rahul explains. Profits from the sales are finally split between storytellers, 3D designers and the platform respectively in a 40-40-20 fashion.

The target market is obviously independent and small scale storytellers and publishers with a relatively small audience. Creators who don’t need to place an injection molding order for several thousand parts at once. Of course, starting this platform was not without its challenges. ‘As with building any platform, in the beginning it is very difficult to convince storytellers and 3D modelers to join the platform, Rahul says. ‘Creative issues that arises when transforming a character from 2D drawing to a 3D model are also a problem, just as ensuring that these 3D models can be printed with quality and consistency.’ This latter problem is solved by doing a lot of test prints to ensure that the final 3D printed product is of a sufficient quality.

However, they went online just two weeks ago, with the first toys already being sold. ‘8 artists have published their content on our platform right now, and we have 5 more toy figurines coming soon,’ Rahul proudly says.

Over the coming months they will be aiming to expand the number of storytellers and 3D modelers on their platform and bring as many stories to life for children everywhere. ‘We would also like to explore creating merchandise for others forms of visual stories like animations,’ Rahul adds. Previously, they shared projections of having 384 publishers on the platform by early 2016, with each generating 5,000 unique visitors. While that might be a bit too ambitious, their initial creations suggest that we so no reason why they should fail.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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