Jan 15, 2015 | By Kira

Seus Corp, a Las Vegas based app developer, found itself in a very common position for companies wanting to make the leap from digital to physical manufacturing: they needed to find a way to make their newest toy concept come to life reliably and cost-efficiently—but they had no idea how. Of course, if you’re a fan of this blog then you can probably already guess that the solution to their problem was found in additive manufacturing, a.k.a.: 3D printing.

The company specializes in apps and accessories for the wildly popular video game Minecraft, an open world game where players move, place, and break 3D blocks. In fact, these rough, cube-shaped designs of the player avatars, as well as everything within the game, have become a signature of the Minecraft universe. The game can be played alone or with friends, and since there is no specific goal, users have let their imaginations run wild, creating entire cities and worlds with their own specific laws (or with none and at all). If ever there was a game that mirrored the DIY, maker-culture of 3D printing, Minecraft would be it.

an example of Minecraft Gameplay via YouTube

Initially, Seus Corp releasedSkins Creator pro editor,” a smartphone app that allows players to customize the appearance of their characters in the game. However, designer Raul Rodriguez wanted to expand their company’s offerings and sell a physical product as well. Thus he came up with the idea of enderToys, custom figurines based on the skins Minecraft fans make through the app. Jesus Diaz, the president of Seus Crop, knew that he could build a digital store in a couple of weeks, but actually creating the product was an area neither had much expertise in.

“At first I thought it was just plastic with sticker paper on it, but it’s a lot more difficult than it seems,” said Diaz. The pair considered making silicone molds or using an injection molding method, however those options either required too much labour and manufacturing space, or very high startup costs. Since they couldn’t be sure that enderToys would even pick up, they simply couldn’t justify the financial risk.

It was then that Diaz heard about 3D printing. As more and more small companies are starting to figure out, the risks of experimenting with a new product design or material are significantly reduced with 3D printing. Rapid prototyping technology means that several iterations can be tested before committing to a final product, and in the end, if the idea doesn’t work out, “we’d have a printer and plastic, and we could print out whatever cool stuff we wanted,” said Diaz. Where they previously saw risk, Seus Corp now saw opportunity.

After a bit of market research, the designers settled on the MakerBot Replicator 2, a desktop 3D printer, a model known for its true-to-life, high-resolution models, its capacity to build large pieces and complex assemblies in fewer runs, and most importantly, its ease of use and affordability. “It probably took us two weeks to get a consistent print,” said Diaz. “Now we have a more than 99% success rate.”

EnderToys was successfully launched after four months of research and development, and now has 11 employees and 20 MakerBot replicators that produce between 3,000 and 5,000 models a week. The fully assembled, movable figurines, which consist of high quality vinyl adhesives printed onto plastic and reinforced with a UV resistant, weatherproof laminate, sell for between $16-25 depending on the size, and can be completely customized based on skins created in the Skins Creator app. Both the designers and customers have been astounded by the high quality results.

Seus Corp’s successful transition from app developer to toy manufacturer could be used as a case study for many other small companies or even independent designers who have big ideas, but may not necessarily have the resources, time, or money to bring them to life. Thanks to 3D printing, they were able to make a low-risk initial investment, test different prototypes, and grow their company at their own rate. As 3D printing becomes more accessible and widespread, we’re sure to hear many more success stories just like this.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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craig wrote at 1/15/2015 6:46:55 PM:

Hey, they have this thing called "injection molding"......

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