Can Lego get ahead of the 3D printing bandwagon?
The maker of fit-together blocks and figurines is taking a good look at 3D printing, according to a story in Sunday’s Financial Times.
The company has diligently tried to keep up with digital challenges. But 3D printing represents a new existential threat — the threat of personalized manufacturing.
So the company is apparently trying to follow the key lesson in this age of evaporating competitive advantages: If someone is going to eat your lunch, it best be you.
Lego needs to evolve faster because its customers are. Independent services like MiniFigs.me, for instance, already offer customized minifigurines from Lego parts.
Custom blocks are another obvious 3D printing target, as are, say, missing construction pieces.
Carnegie Mellon Professor Golan Levin, for instance, created a set of digital models to 3D print nearly four dozen plastic pieces that did not exist, but which could connect different kinds of toy construction sets. The objects were then released as a Free Universal Construction Kit.
Lego is trying to look at the bright side.
“It could well be,” Lego chief marketing office Mads Nipper told the Financial Times, that 3D printing “might be an exciting opportunity to print your own bricks.”
If 3D printing becomes common, what model of a modern company should Lego itself use? Maybe it’s the modern record company, which doesn’t actually create physical products anymore.
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