The Toybox 3D Printer, a low-cost 3D printer aimed for kids, lives up to its name by producing a large number of small toys quickly. (It starts at $329; we tried the Deluxe bundle for $389, which is explained further down.) In our tests, it provided consistent one-touch printing of simple objects from an iOS or Android device or a web browser, with excellent print quality and no misprints. You can choose from over 2,000 printable objects or projects in the Toybox, or import 3D files made elsewhere. You can even draw and print objects. Its most significant flaw is its small print area, but this isn’t a problem when printing products from the Toybox catalog. This uncommon 3D printer receives an Editors’ Choice award for basic budget 3D printing because it’s closer to failsafe than others. Furthermore, the bundles have been drastically discounted when purchased directly from Toybox.
TOYBOX 3D PRINTER SPECS
|3D-Printing Technology||Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)|
|Number of Print Colors||1|
|Number of Extruders||1|
|Maximum Build Area (HWD)||3.5 by 3.1 by 2.8 inches|
|Top Print Resolution||200 microns|
|Built-In 3D Scanner?||No|
|Dimensions (HWD)||9.1 by 7.4 by 7.4 inches|
|Warranty (Parts/Labor)||1 year(s)|
A Kids-Friendly 3D Printer
I started seeing a flurry of internet adverts for the Toybox 3D Printer, a 3D printer for kids, a few months ago. I contacted the maker, Toybox Labs of California, who lent us the test unit for this evaluation. The Toybox is designed for children aged 5 and older, and it is recommended that children use it with adult supervision. The printer is intended for amusement and convenience of use, according to Toybox Labs.
The Toybox is a tiny 3D printer, measuring only 9.1 by 7.4 by 7.4 inches (HWD). In comparison, the Polaroid PlaySmart 3D Printer (12.6 by 10.6 by 11.8 inches) and the MakerBot Replicator Mini (15 by 11.6 by 12.2 inches) seem enormous. Only the now-discontinued M3D Micro, a cube with a side length of 7.3 inches, was smaller.
The build area of the Toybox is quite small, measuring 3.5 by 3.1 by 2.8 inches. The build area of the Replicator Mini (3.9 by 3.9 by 4.9 inches) is slightly greater than that of other printers. All of this implies that it can only print little toys or small parts of larger toys.
It’s simple to set up the printer. The “printer food holder” (also known as the filament spool) is attached to the back of the Toybox, and a spool of “printer food” (PLA filament) is placed on it. The flexible, magnetized print bed is then placed on top of the print platform.
A message shows on the printer’s LCD when you first plug it in and turn it on, directing you to a link where you can download the Toybox software. (There are iOS and Android versions of the software.) You create a free Toybox account and sync your mobile to the printer after installing the software. (On your list of available wireless networks, look for a name that starts with “Toybox.”) To authenticate the connection, enter a six-digit code that appears on the Toybox’s LCD into your mobile device.
Using the User Interface
I used an iPhone 11 Pro to test the Toybox software. (You can print from the Toybox site in your browser after entering your account details, or you can use an iPhone or Android device.) Several settings are listed at the bottom of the Toybox app’s UI. The default option, Explore, allows you to browse or search the Toybox library for toys or collections. It estimates the length of the print job in minutes for each. When you tap a toy, you’ll learn more about it and its maker. The print job is started by pressing the Print Me button. That’s all there is to it.
In the so-called Creator Space, the Create option allows you a variety of activities to undertake. You can construct Block Buddies, printable human beings, by picking their hair style and color, facial features, skin color, and the style and color of numerous clothing items under Apps, for example. After you’ve finished, name your Block Buddy and save it. When you launch the app, you’ll see your Block Buddies.
When you tap a Block Buddy in the app, you’ll see a list of components that need to be printed before you can put it together. You can print all of the components in one color, then switch filament spools and print more in another color until the parts are finished. After that, you can put them together.
The Build a Car app works in a similar way: you can construct a car and customize it with features and colors. You may create a design or doodle in Draw and then print it in 3D. Picture is another function that allows you to import a photo to be recreated in 3D and printed. Of course, a 3D image created from a single two-dimensional photo cannot be fully appreciated, but Toybox does an admirable job. It’s really cool.
Finally, you can import an existing STL, OBJ, 3MF, or GCODE 3D file. I attempted to import a GCODE file, but it proved to be too huge. GCODE files contain printing instructions specific to the printer for which they were created (in a program such as Cura). Working with a format like STL, which hasn’t been “sliced” for printing, may be preferable.
The Filament and the Print Bed
The print bed of the Toybox should not need to be leveled; I never adjusted it during my time with it. You turn an Allen key on a screw on the back of the build platform if the printer needs to be calibrated (the troubleshooting section of Toybox’s Help pages discusses numerous instances in which this may be useful).
The Toybox makes removing a printed object from the print bed, which is typically a source of frustration with 3D printers, a breeze. With the object still in position on the bed, which is magnetically attached to the print platform, you remove it from the printer. After that, you gently flex the bed once or twice, and the thing easily pulls away. You can now print again by returning the print bed to the platform.
The Toybox only supports PLA filament, which is an appropriate option for a printer aimed at children. It’s both safe (neither the printed objects nor the (little) fumes it emits while printing are poisonous) and simple to use. Toybox sells half-pound spools of PLA in a range of colors for $10 each, as well as speciality filaments like gloss and glitter for $14 each. MakerBot, for example, sells half-pound standard spools for their Replicator printers for $19, although you can obtain them for a few dollars cheaper from shops.
The Toybox Deluxe Bundle (the printer plus eight standard spools of various colors) costs $50 more than the Starter Bundle, based on Toybox’s current sale pricing ($249 for the base bundle, $299 for the Deluxe) (the printer plus one standard spool). So, in essence, the Deluxe package includes two free spools. (If you check at the list prices, the difference is $60.)
And believe us when we say that you’ll want filaments in a variety of colors because many of Toybox’s prepackaged projects involve printing numerous pieces and merging them, and altering the piece colors can frequently enhance the toy or object.
A Treasure Chest of Gears and Crawling Creatures
I printed a total of ten test pieces from the Toybox catalog. They all printed correctly the first time, with no misprints or major problems. For a filament-based 3D printer, the print quality was around average. Some prints were a little rough around the edges, with a ropy texture on top, and many had loose filament tails that required to be cut or taken off. Nonetheless, the quality was adequate—you can rest confident that the Toybox can print products that a child (or an adult) will enjoy.
Even better, a large percentage of the Toybox catalog’s items include moving parts: wheels turn, a cube unfolds, gears turn and mesh, and legs move. These kinds of devices are usually printed pre-assembled in one pass, albeit I had to print the gears separately and then snap them together. The multi-segmented reptiles, which are printed with individual segments chain-linked together, offering both flexibility and strength—at least, I haven’t mistakenly torn one apart yet (and I don’t have the heart to dismember one, even as a stress test).
Fun for Children of All Ages
As a 3D printer for kids, the Toybox 3D Printer is an excellent choice. It printed a variety of products reliably and without errors in my tests, several of which included hinges or other moving elements. These lovely, inventive toys left a lasting impression on me. Overall print quality, however, is just average for a printer with a maximum resolution of 200 microns. The Toybox’s biggest flaw is its small print area.
Toybox has a huge catalog of toys and projects, and its Creator Space allows young (and not-so-young) artists to build and print their own ideas, either hand-drawn or from images. You can import 3D-printable files, although doing so can be difficult, and the Toybox’s construction volume is limited.
The Toybox isn’t a decent replacement for a traditional hobbyist 3D printer, but it’s a fantastic and successful product in its own right. It’ll undoubtedly give hours of creative enjoyment for both youngsters and the adults who help them, and it’s a definite Editors’ Choice budget 3D printer for kids.