“Who needs Hasbro?”
Prior to 2013, such brash talk would have seemed almost sacrilegious coming out of the mouth of a devoted GIjOE fan. But not any longer. As of this month, David Pruitt, a self-professed, longtime fan of the Adventure Team, can back up those challenging words with a hard, physical reality—he makes his OWN custom toys! According to Pruitt:
“After growing up with Adventure Team as a kid, I was blown away with the GIjOE Collector’s Club releases of the 3 3/4 Adventurers. Naturally, I had to have some retro vehicles to go with those extremely cool figures, so I decided to build my own!”
Pruitt, a professional design engineer from Jonesboro, Arkansas, has been making headlines all over the internet since revealing his creation of superb 1:18 scale replicas of vintage GIjOE vehicles. Of course, talented individuals around the world have been making their own toys for years, all by hand, without the aid of a Hasbro or Mattel (See: Kampfgruppe Von Abt). So what makes David’s achievements so unique? Let’s take a closer look…
What makes Pruitt’s custom creations so absolutely extraordinary is not that they were made, but how they were made. By combining his knowledge of 3-D CAD software and the capabilities of 3-D printing (3DP), David has shown fans, collectors and other customizers around the world, that professional-level toy production is now within reach of the “average Joe.” Prices of 3-D printers continue to fall, and 3-D printing services will soon become commonplace at quick-print shops such as Kinkos. This is BIG, folks. Hold on to your pith helmets!
How Does 3-D Printing Work?
Simply put, 3-dimensional objects can now be produced in a variety of materials (including metals and plastics) based upon the specifications set forth in a 3-D CAD drawing created on a computer. Such technology has been in use by major toy companies and manufacturers for years, primarily to create prototypes of their own products. But recently, “desktop” 3-D printers have come down in price to such a point that home users are beginning to get interested—VERY interested. Pruitt further explains the process this way:
“Today’s 3-D printer moves in x and y directions and prints layer over layer to build up the z part (height). The spooled ABS material feeds into the printing tip similar to a hot-melt glue gun. All in all, it’s a much less technical way of creating a 3-D part than the older, more labor-intensive methods.”
Why “3DP” is Great News for Joeheads
Imagine being able to design and produce your own spare parts and accessories— on demand—out of solid plastic—without ever touching a sheet of styrene, a jar of resin or a putty knife. Imagine being able to simply hit “PRINT” on your computer’s keyboard and a much-desired part “magically” appears. Such an exciting concept has long been a fantasy for many.
And why not? Who wouldn’t want to replace a missing Crash Crew Truck handrail, broken Sea Sled spear gun or other rare vintage part? We clearly can’t rely on Hasbro. There’s simply not enough profit in it for them to bother.
What Else Should We Know?
The only real “hang-ups” with 3DP are cost and time. Regardless of what you’re planning to do with them, these machines can be both expensive and slow. According to Pruitt:
“3-D printers range in cost from thousands of dollars to as little as $500 (HERE). As an example, all of the parts for my MSV were printed at one time and took about 17 hours to complete. Materials-wise, 17 cubic inches of ABS spooled extrusion material were used, at a total cost of around $70. The costs and time required depend entirely on what you’re making.”
“This All Seems…Strangely Familiar.”
It should! Remember the “replicators” from TV’s Star Trek? The computerized, almost magical devices that seemed like they could make almost anything out of thin air? Today’s 3-D printing is very similar. Here’s how Wikipedia describes the Star Trek replicator:
“A replicator works by rearranging subatomic particles, which are abundant everywhere in the universe, to form molecules and arrange those molecules to form the object. For example, to create a pork chop, the replicator would first form atoms of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc., then arrange them into amino acids, proteins, and cells, and assemble the particles into the form of a pork chop.”
Although it’s unlikely GIjOE fans will be creating pork chops with 3-D printers anytime soon, it’s a sure bet they’ll be following in the footsteps of 3DP pioneers such as Pruitt and making their own spare parts, accessories and vehicles.
More 3DP Intel from David Pruitt
We asked Pruitt to elaborate on his experiences with 3DP. No surprisingly, he uses the versatile technology in his professional life as well. Here’s what he had to say:
“I’m an engineer by trade and my big claim to fame career-wise was co-designing and developing a new all-plastic shopping cart for Target back in 2005-6. After making the parts with a 3-D printer, we glued it all together to make the frame, basket, handle, etc.
Then, we built large plexiglass boxes and hung the assembled parts inside the boxes with wire. Next, we filled the boxes with a clear liquid silicone. After the silicone had set, we took the box sides off and cut everything into two pieces.
Finally, we removed the original cart parts and put the two silicone mold halves back together so as to cast solid urethane parts. Wa-la! A full-scale shopping cart prototype. You can build just about anything you want if you can afford the materials!”
When asked if he had any future plans for producing his own line of vehicles or products, Pruitt optimistically replied:
“I’m working on getting my own printer and thinking about building and painting and selling these. I still have a few steps to go. The coolest aspect of 3-D printing is that you can design and make anything you can think of. Watch out Hasbro! Now we can make ANY toy we want!”
“Hey, You. No Cutting in Line!”
Potential customers for Pruitt’s amazing creations have already begun queuing up on various online forums. One such eager fan, “GIJOEY,” wrote in on the Hisstank website to say:
“I know this comment is going to sound over the top, but I just cried happy tears to see a toy that I owned in the past come to life again in the scale that I now love. Thank you, David, for making a middle-aged man get excited like he was 10 years old again. I cannot wait to see you do more pieces from this era. You are a true artist!”
Bottom Line: Clearly a leader in the use of 3-D printing by GIjOE collectors, David has proven that fans no longer have to rely on the whims and unpredictable corporate decisions of Hasbro or any other toy company. As “Cobra Blue” so eloquently summed it up over on Hisstank:
“David Pruitt is a pioneer. I predicted in another forum that this was where we were headed with technology, and that sooner or later, this was how we were going to get updated or better versions of RAH vehicles in the future. Someone on this forum said ‘it is still a VERY long way from replacing the volume injection molding.’ Well, if ‘very long way’ means four months, then I guess that prediction is true. I read an article on MakerBot that they have a desktop 3-D Printer which will SCAN an object and then print it. This is exciting!”