Technology has come a long way in the past few decades—especially when it comes to 3D printers. They’re most typically used to print 3D organs or machine parts, but the technology is expanding into other sectors and becoming more common in engineering and even art.

Now, 3D printing has reached a new frontier: your living room.

Once 3D printing became a reality, printers cost thousands of dollars and were completely impractical for personal use. Recently, however, the market has expanded, making printers smaller, cheaper and more user friendly. With costs averaging around $400, the possibility of owning a 3D printer in your home has become a more achievable reality.

For families, this means on-demand toy printing.

Affordable 3D printers work just the same as larger 3D printers used in manufacturing and medical fields. Rather than ink, the printer dispenses material—such as nylon or titanium—in multiple thin layers to make up a 3D object. Anyone can design and print their own toys, accessories or gadgets with the click of a mouse.

There are even apps for 3D printing design. For instance, with ThingMaker Design, all you have to do is download it to your phone or tablet to enjoy user-friendly, interactive software that looks and feels almost like a video game. It allows you to create anything your imagination can think of: figures and dolls, accessories, and more. While you design, you can customize the color, texture and pose of your printable toys. Other similar apps that allow you to make your own 3D printable designs include 3D CreationistMakerBot Mobile and Sculpteo.

With software and printers like these, kids and their parents can have a toy store at their disposal. The only limit is their imagination.

Did You Know?

President Obama is the first president whose likeness was captured through 3D scans. These scans were then 3D printed into both a bust and a life mask and are on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, along with the plaster life masks of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Photo Credit: C13m3n7