Global fast food giant McDonald’s is in the research stages of employing 3D printing technologies to create their popular Happy Meals toys, allowing the company to produce and reproduce new and discontinued figurines and toys in-store to comply with demand.
3D printing allows shift to collectables
Each collection of pocket-sized Happy Meal toys are launched as a collectable set, with specific toy distribution per meal being randomised depending on the server’s choice. The move towards 3D printing would allow children missing certain toys from their collection being able to request individual toys to complete their set.
The technology would also allow McDonald’s to resurrect popular but discontinued toys that would otherwise be forgotten, or traded for eyewatering prices. These plastic children’s figurines can fetch upwards of $75 each on eBay, proving the demand and market for Happy Meal relics is flourishing. Toys launched in conjunction with popular events such as international sporting fixtures, or blockbuster releases – Disney entered into a now defunct contract with McDonald’s for almost 20 years to license tie-in toys – could be reproduced by 3D printing machines to commemorate anniversary releases or complete an avid collector’s set.
The fast food chain announced a proposed move to replace Happy Meal toys with children’s books until 2015, in a collaboration with Dorling Kindersley and WH Smith which made the firm the largest book distributor in the UK. This project looks to be sidelined after the initial time scale if the in-store 3D printing of Happy Meals toys is adopted.
Presently, the two major contributing factors to the postponement of this idea is the cost and cleanliness of this technological process. At around £700 each on the high street, McDonald’s would have to allocate a substantial amount of their global budget to this initiative, and are therefore holding off on green-lighting the project until printing costs can be brought down across the industry. Health and safety regulations would also forbid the printers from being installed in each restaurant, as fine particles of the printing material are released with every creation, infringing on the cleanliness of each site.