It’s a long-held, common belief that sex drives technology and its mainstreaming. The advent of the Internet, VCR and camcorders often serve as examples of technology that has evolved and facilitated the consumption of adult content by bringing it into the everyday lives of society and enabling on-demand sexual gratification. Could pleasure products go the way of adult movies with consumers creating their own functional playthings at home?
According to an active poll on XBIZ.com, the adult products industry is split between believing 3D printing will revolutionize sex toys similar to VHS’ impact on adult movies. While 36 percent see a future in at-home 3D printing, 29 percent did not and 34 percent are not familiar with 3D printing technology.
The only thing standing between people and owning a 3D printer is price and prices are dropping incredibly quickly, from $20k a couple of years ago, to $2k last year, to $600 this year.
At the forefront of the 3D printing revolution of pleasure products is Tom Nardone, who launched MakerLove.com as a platform for 3D designs of pleasure products to be downloaded and printed into physical toys.
“The most powerful element that will drive people to use a 3D printer to make sex toys is the ability to avoid embarrassment,” Nardone said. “Any technology in history that has allowed people more privacy has been successful. Look at the success of the VCR. Not only did it allow porn companies to flourish, it also put porno theaters out of business. People overwhelmingly chose the private route.
“In the future (or present for some people) once a person owns a 3D printer, they won’t have to go to a store to buy a dildo. They will be able to make their own toys in any shape or design that they want. Sure, they will only be able to make non-vibrating things, but items like dildos, butt plugs, anal beads, cock rings, etc. can all be made with a 3D printer for pennies. You can also customize them to your heart’s content. Did your 1½ inch cock ring end up being too small but a 2 inch ring is too big? You could print a 1.73 inch or a 1.82 inch, whatever you like. 3D printer users will be able to make their toys just right. But size and fit aren’t the most important reason to print your own sex toys.”
Ryan Rix of Dongiverse, a platform for sharing 3D digital designs, first took notice of the potential proliferation of 3D-created sex toys in 2011.
“Additive manufacturing technologies like 3D printing have been around for decades now, but they’ve previously available only as $100,000 machines that were restricted to R&D departments of large corporations,” Rix said. “In the last few years, however, projects like the RepRap project and companies like Makerbot and Ultimaker have brought 3D printing to the point where consumers are starting to take notice, and larger 3D printing companies who previously were only interested in those commercial markets are starting to take notice.
“Back in 2011, we realized that there would be a huge market for this — as soon technologies got to the point where it was feasible to print your own sex toys, people would be doing it,” Rix continued. “We weren’t at that point in 2011, but we felt that there was an unspoken demand for it as we watched the popular 3D model warehouse Thingiverse fill with suspiciously phallic objects, such as ‘pizza cutter handles’ or ‘coat hooks.’ We’re at that point now, in 2013, where we can bring this small-scale custom production to peoples’ bedrooms.”
Chelsea Downs, founder of the New York Toy Collective — an adult company founded in 2012 that specializes in personalized sex toys made based on 3D scans of its clientele’s private parts.
In February, the New York Collective hosted 3D scanning sessessions for Valentine’s Day at a hotel room in the city.
“Everyone from the man who has everything to the hip rock star, tattooed type, to the husband/boyfriend going away on long business trips and wants his partner to stay satisfied over long distances,” Downs said. “Men also inquire for scans of their girlfriend, wives and favorite entertainers.”
“A lot of people think we offer 3D printed toys, we don’t,” Downs said. “We offer 3D scanning of your intimate areas and turn that into a silicone toy. Materials used in 3D printers are not safe/intended for use in intimate areas. After a 3D scan all of our clients receive a silicone replica.”
The materials that 3D printers process is typically not intended for internal use and as objects are created by using plastic filament to build upwards, leaving its different layers visible in the final product and creating a rough, porous texture.
“I think that in the next five years, as long-held patents on various 3D printing techniques begin to expire, hobbyists will begin experimenting with new, exciting materials, including softer materials that mimic the qualities of existing resin materials like silicone,” Rix said. “We’ve seen in the recent months, companies like FormLabs introduce consumer resin printers, and the company I am working with is in the process of developing similar ventures and custom resins and materials to go with them. These printers and access to them will be incredibly cheap, and services will quickly grow around them to fill a demand for mass-customized items of all natures, not just of a sexual nature.”
According to Nardone, the price of 3D printers also is currently an obstacle.
“The only thing standing between people and owning a 3D printer is price and prices are dropping incredibly quickly, from $20k a couple of years ago, to $2k last year, to $600 this year,” Nardone said. “Soon, I think that some kind of hobby or toy company will market them as a toy for kids to play with and experiment with. But, just like any new technology, people will want to mess with it and use it for sexual purposes. This happened for VCRs, this happened for the internet, and the fact that people are already writing about sex toys and 3D printers makes me believe it will happen for them as well.”
According to Rix, the real potential isn’t in the adoption of 3D printers in consumers’ homes, but in the ability to enable “mass customization.”
“Designers can license their models to these 3D printing houses, and the 3D printing houses can print customized sex toys in quantities of one, or 1 million,” Rix said. “Imagine tweaking a sex toy so that is specifically tuned to, shall we say, your particular taste and profile, and having it shipped to you six hours later, in your choice of color, in a box that isn’t labeled ‘Bob’s Sex Warehouse,’ but labeled as the equivalent of Amazon for 3D printing. Non-descript, customized sex toys shipped to your door overnight? That is a powerful idea and is exactly what we are going to deliver with Dongiverse.
“Because of this mass-customization, barrier to entry for artists also drops close to zero. Artists can make their designs from the comfort of their home without having to play with expensive and sometimes harmful chemicals to create their prototypes and their final products; you will be able to upload your prototypes and through that same mass-customization, you could have 10 or 50 variations shipped to you, pick the design you like the best, and have a thousand of them available for sale next week.”