A handful of 3D printing deals forged in 2016 illustrate some of the ways property owners are currently using this technology as part of their licensing strategies:
- Customization. Activision’s new Skylanders’ iteration, Skylanders Imaginators, allows fans to create personalized Skylanders characters, customizing the appearance and name as well as attributes such as powers, musical themes, and catchphrases. After using the console game or the Skylanders Creator app to make their character, fans receive the 3D printed figure in the mail, ready for use with the game.
- Replicating unique objects. Disney and Lucasfilm forged a deal with Propshop to enable fans to order authentic replicas of some of the props used in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, under the Star Wars Collectibles: Ultimate Studio Edition banner. Through Collectibles.StarWars.com, fans can order eight items, such as Rey’s lightsaber hilt and Darth Vader’s melted helmet, which arrive in a special case with a display pedestal.
- Enabling legal 3D printing at home. Syfy Labs and its licensee MakerBot are offering 3D blueprints to allow fans to replicate items that appear in its series Dark Matter, Killjoys, The Magicians, 12 Monkeys, and Hunters. The models are available through 3D printing marketplace Thingiverse and can be printed at home or through a service provider.
- Adding dimension to 2D artwork. Epic Rights paired with Source3 to create sculptural versions of classic album covers from Epic-represented bands Journey and Styx. Printed by ZVerse and available initially through Amazon, the products are mounted on a wooden base and are suitable for wall hanging. The launch was timed to the two acts’ joint concert tour in summer 2016.
- Reducing risk on small runs. Comedy Central and agent Brandgenuity licensed Source3 for a series of 3D printed South Park collectibles. To mark the property’s 20th anniversary, the partners premiered the first of a changing assortment of collectibles planned over a three-year period, including the four main characters as well as secondary characters that have appeared in the series but have never been available in merchandise form. 3D printing eliminates the need to carry inventory, which is a benefit for secondary characters that likely have niche appeal.
- Counteracting infringement. Warner Bros. and DC Comics licensed Launzer for the first official Batman 3D-printed figures to be available for sale, starting in Europe. Batman and the Batmobile are often available through the various 3D printing marketplaces in unauthorized, fan-created versions. (This deal, completed in 2015, preceded the others listed here.)
It should be noted that many of these ventures illustrate more than one of the objectives mentioned.
Additional 3D printing deals announced in 2016 have ranged from U.S. Army-licensed personalized ornaments made from photographs of service members (through Source3) to Hello Kitty fine jewelry in sterling silver and 18k plated gold (through 3DShook).