When I was growing up I was extremely protective of my toys, specifically my large collection of LEGO building sets. Obviously there were many small parts that could easily get lost, and when it came to LEGO the smaller the part usually meant that it was more important or useful when building new creations. I wasn’t as organized as many hardcore LEGO enthusiasts can be today, with their dedicated rooms and large cabinets of tiny drawers full of parts that have been separated, divided and meticulously organized. However I was still far more organized than most kids were, and I had several different boxes of LEGO parts, including one that I stored all of the small or unique parts that I would be upset to lose.
My organizing certainly paid off, as I enjoyed my LEGO sets well into my twenties when I finally decided to part with them and hand them over to my nephews. Decades later, my original LEGOs still act as tiny landmines hidden in the carpeting of my sister and her kids’ living room. But despite having done a great job protecting my favorite and most used pieces, over the years I did unfortunately find some of the best parts that I had gone missing. These days many replacement parts can be purchased directly from LEGO online or at one of their retail stores, something that I had no access to back in the day. But even today, when a company has been manufacturing building bricks for fifty years, not every individual part can be sold individually.
A Texan 3D printing service provider is looking to fill in the gaps that LEGO themselves can’t fill and hopes to offer 3D printed replacements parts for LEGO collectors. They specifically have asked LEGO for a license to offer 3D printed replacements to broken, lost or missing pieces that are not available in LEGO’s retail outlets. Changing Technologies, Inc. believes that they have the know-how and the technology to offer LEGO fans this service, and that it would be extremely profitable for both them and the Danish toy maker.
“We’re reaching out to LEGO to explore ways to work together. LEGO not only makes the famous interlocking bricks and blocks, but also a near-infinite variety of minifigure collector sets based on real-life places, themes, movies and video games. When a customer loses or breaks a minifigure piece, it can be difficult to replace. So we’d like a license from LEGO to 3D custom-print replacement bricks or repair broken ones. There’s a tremendous market for replacements and the revenue possibilities are immense,” said the CEO of Changing Technologies, Marco Valenzuela.
You can already find custom designed LEGO bricks and parts on 3D model marketplaces like Thingiverse, however none of those models are legal, or authorized by LEGO, so most 3D print service providers won’t touch them. And the quality is often limited to the 3D printer being used to print them, which is often going to produce substandard parts. Changing Technologies, or CHGT, is looking to license only specific parts from LEGO and use their industrial-quality 3D printers to make the high-quality reproductions. LEGO parts are already made using ABS, so the technology exists to replace them provided there are customers willing to pay for them.
While any 3D printed replacement bricks or parts would, frankly, be quite expensive in relation to their mass produced, injection molded counterparts, the higher price tag is unlikely to put off customers. The secondary market for LEGO toys found on online marketplaces like eBay is a huge business, and replacing parts or getting special, hard to find pieces is something that LEGO fans are used to paying a premium for. Being able to have custom replacement parts made for them is likely to be a welcome option to the often fruitless search for specific parts offered by online sellers. So far there has been no response from LEGO officially, but I think it would be quite a profitable service if they were willing to let CHGT offer it. Is this a service you could use? Discuss in the 3D Printed LEGO Replacement forum over at 3DPB.com.