LEGO need not worry about 3D printing (any time soon)

Analyst’s prediction of trouble for toymakers seems premature

Predicting the future of cutting edge technology is popular among pundits because prognosticating is easy - no license required - and there's very little chance of ever being held accountable (unless you predicted that the iPhone would flop).


So here goes: LEGO the company need not worry about the 3D printer craze killing its golden franchise ... at least not any time soon (the latter caveat being every pundit's best friend.)

In fact, there is evidence to suggest that 3D printer makers have more to fear from LEGO than the other way around.

The thought was prompted this morning by a story written by my Network World colleague Colin Neagle in which a lawyer predicts intellectual-property trouble ahead for the manufacturers of items such as toys. A Tonka-like toy truck was the lawyer's example of choice, but my mind leapt to LEGOs, since there are about a million of them in my home.

(Steve Jobs and his gadgets ... in LEGOs.)

At first I thought was that once 3D printers proliferate LEGOs would be a goner; after all, little bricks have to be easier to make than a gun.

And hobbyists will do their thing, of course.

But if building plastic bricks was all LEGO did they'd have been undercut by imitators long ago. LEGO sells an entire experience - a seemingly endless variety bricks in seemingly endless colors, crafted into complete packages (artwork, accessories, instructions) from famous franchises (Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc.) with which its customers are already familiar and the 3D bootlegger could neither mass produce nor sell without risking a legal firestorm from both LEGO and Hollywood.

Good luck with that.

As for the threat LEGO poses to 3D printer makers? That's not serious either, but watch the video below of a "LEGO 3D milling machine," which the maker bills a "3D printer." While the latter claim may not hold up, these LEGO machines are way cool anyway.

(Update: And here's another "3D printer made almost entirely out of LEGOs." Says the maker: "While it does print, I would call this more of a prototype than a finished project.")

(Geek-themed Meme of the Week Archive)

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