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Research team helps create a more huggable form of fabrication.

A 3D printer can create some pretty amazing things, but not many of them would be considered safe for children to play with. Disney Research may change all of that with a 3D printer that uses wool and other blends to create soft and cuddly playthings for children. It could eventually be used to embed electronics into toys, and offer competition to customization services such as Build-A-Bear.

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The 3D printer was developed by Scott Hudson from Carnegie Mellon University, and adds a felting needle to a sewing needle mechanism to connect one layer to the next. Using a CAD model as its guide, the machine is effectively a hybrid between a sewing machine and a 3D printer.

Teddy bears created with the prototype are pretty cute so far, even if they do come apart quite easily. The hope is that eventually the technology can be used to create more precise and robust toys for children. Even so, it’s a great new application of 3D printing, which also does away with materials that aren’t well-suited to children.

Disney Research

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