The advent of online file sharing made it easy for anyone to copy and distribute media for free, and many feel — and fear — that 3D printing will eventually do the same for physical products. So it's surprisingly refreshing to hear that a corporation like Hasbro has decided to embrace 3D printing, and will work with Shapeways to allow fans to design and sell their own toys based on the company's properties.
Timed to correspond with the start of Comic-Con later this week, this morning the two companies officially unveiled SuperFanArt, a dedicated website that will allow fans and artists to showcase their creations based on existing Hasbro toy lines, starting with My Little Pony. The site isn't just a place for amateur designers to show off their creations, though. They will actually be able to sell them to the public, produced through Shapeways' existing 3D printing infrastructure.
That being said, SuperFanArt isn't going to be a complete free-for-all with anyone being able to design and sell bootleg My Little Pony figurines. The featured artists and their creations will be individually approved and curated, so for the time being you can probably think of this partnership as Hasbro testing the 3D printing waters. But the fact that the toymaker is officially allowing fans to design and sell their own My Little Pony figures, instead of simply demanding that Shapeways remove existing creations from its online catalogue, is pretty exciting.
And if SuperFanArt ends up being a success, there's no reason to think that Hasbro won't give the green light to fan creations based on its other properties too. Who hasn't thought that Optimus Prime would be an even greater leader with a majestic flowing beard and mustache? I can't be the only one who'd buy that figure. [Shapeways]