I have to admit that Minecraft gets a lot of airtime in my household. Mostly this is due to my two kids who seem to think that Stampylongnose, a Minecraft video star, might be the best thing since sliced bread. Better, in fact. In a fit of optimism, I even downloaded the game to my computer and made an attempt to play. I built a house, sorely abused some errant pigs, and then wandered off, never to find my house again. I then spent several days falling off of cliffs and being killed by zombies before realizing that I am helplessly uncool and have absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever.
In this incredibly diverse and dedicated Minecraft community, Seus Corp has found its niche offering players the ability to take their Minecraft character creations from the digital to the physical world through 3D printing. Based in Las Vegas, Seus has built a reputation for themselves by creating accessories for fans of Minecraft such as a smartphone app called “Skins Creator Pro Editor.” They didn’t make the leap from digital to physical until designer Raul Rodriguez approached them with the idea of creating a line of custom figurines based on the skins that users had created using Seus Corp’s app. They called their creation EnderToys, an inside joke for Minecraft aficionados.
At first they considered creating the figurines using silicone molds but quickly realized that casting the creatures would require an investment in manufacturing space and additional labor that simply wasn’t available. Their second thought was injection molding but with startup costs nearing $30,000 and a minimum order of 10,000 units, it wasn’t the friendliest method for an untested idea.
That’s when Diaz suggested they look at 3D printing as an option.
“We could begin prototyping and not be far off the road to starting up a business. And even if EnderToys didn’t work out, we’d have a printer and plastic, and we could print out whatever cool stuff we wanted. Or we could resell it on eBay. It felt like a safe bet.”
After looking at a number of 3D printing options, they settled on the MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D printer as the machine of choice. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Only a few months after beginning production, the company already needs to hire more employees and is using 20 MakerBot Replicators to produce between 3 and 5,000 toys per week.
“It probably took us two weeks to get a consistent print. Now we have a more than 99% success rate. The printers run 24 hours a day. Some of them have logged more than 4,000 hours. The kids are astounded at just how good quality the toy is. They thought it was going to be good but we’ve exceeded their expectations.”
This is exactly the sort of opportunity for innovation by small businesses that 3D printing has become famous for. Rather than stymying creativity beneath an enormous initial investment, people with an idea are able to bring that to fruition in a relatively painless way. It also creates the possibilities for much greater flexibility, something that is especially important when developing a new product. For example, not long before the proposed launch date, Diaz noticed that the arms on the figurines didn’t move quite right. He and Rodriguez then spent just over a week redesigning the piece to address the problem. This kind of last minute adjustment simply wouldn’t have been possible with a process such as injection molding.
The EnderToy Figurines are available through Seus Corp’s website in either a 4” or a 7” version and if, like me, you find all of this Minecraftieness somewhat bewildering, you can always get a gift card and leave the rest up to the recipient.
Are you a Minecraft aficionado, or do you know someone who is? Let us know if EnderToy figures have just made your newest wish list over at the Seus Corp 3D Printed Minecraft Figures forum thread at 3DPB.com.