3D printed sex toys is a craze we're going to have to start preparing ourselves for

By James Robinson , written on April 24, 2014

From The News Desk

For a week in December 2012, a store popped up in New York called 3DEA. For $250 men could get a 3D scan of their manhood, which would be sent to the New York Toy Collective who would then create a truly one-of-a-kind sex toy. A Christmas gift for the lady that really does have it all...

It turns out that while everyone was declaring 3D printing to be too simple for much practical use now, its ability to replicate objects precisely in one solid piece is more than enough for it to start having big relevancy in the sex toy industry, at least according to UK-based retailer Pink Rocket’s new Sex Toys & 3D Printing report.

Given that vibrators are 145-years old this year and the first blow-up doll went on sale 110-years ago, it fits with history that the adult industry would be an early adopter of 3D printing.

As Pink Rocket’s report details, there are still some hurdles to get by. Many 3D printed objects, especially those made with a cheaper machine, can have a rough, uncomfortable finish having been built up from many hundreds of tiny layers or material. Sex toys need to be smooth for safety as well as comfort, and to avoid build ups of unseemly bacteria. Given that almost nobody has a 3D printer in their home yet, 3D printing sex toys require sending your design away to a third party to be printed, meaning there’s a lot of squeamishness to overcome as well. 3D printing also could bring up potential problems around sex toy piracy, undermining the efforts of established manufacturers and designers and bringing a real Napster moment to the adult industry.

Self-cloning casting kits have been popular in the sex toy industry for many years, Pink Rocket’s Oliver Mason tells me. But 3D printed sex toys could quickly take much of this business,  even if the market hasn’t got going yet.

“Not to say there’s no market for it now, but I think the real innovation has been designer and enthusiast led so far,” he says.

Innovation has started to gather steam. Barcelona-designer Cunicode has been working on a method for 3D printing ceramic sex toys. Maker Love founder Tom Nardone last year unveiled a new silicone gel that 3D printers could use to print sex toys with a smooth finish. Industry-giant Standard Innovation has been using 3D printed sex toys for rapid prototyping and testing for five years now and has been able to use it to boost its revenue by over $50 million in that time.

“If you’re making something in small batches because you’re a niche studio, this kind of rapid prototyping is incredible,” Mason says.

Consumer 3D printing is tipped to be a $70 billion industry by 2030. A variety of patents expire this year that should make it more affordable going forward, likely aiding in adoption. Pink Rocket predict that as consumer printing takes off -- it is projected by 2016 that a 3D printer will be cheaper than a household computer -- it will ignite a boom in innovation and design in the sex toy industry.

And really, why wouldn’t it? At every fork in the technological road, new market opportunities have been co-opted in someway to help us explore our own sexual quirks. The birth of the Internet gave way to a tidal wave of online pornography, social media to things like Ashley Madison and Craigslist personals, and mobile apps to Tindr and Grindr.

Judging by basic human behavior, the jump from 3D printing to an explosion of anatomically precise sexual paraphernalia seems inevitable.

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