Toybox 3D Printer Review | PCMag

The Toybox 3D printer, a budget 3D printer for children, lives up to its name: It easily generates a lot of small toys. (It starts at $ 329; we tested the $ 389 Deluxe package described below.) It offers reliable one-touch printing of simple objects from an iOS or Android device or a web browser with solid print quality and no typos in our tests. Toybox allows you to choose from more than 2,000 printable objects or projects, or you can import 3D files created elsewhere. You can even draw objects to be printed. Its most significant shortcoming is its small print area, but when printing items from the Toybox catalog, it is not a limiting factor. This rare 3D printer – rare because it’s closer to foolproof than most – receives an Editors’ Choice Award for basic budget 3D printing. Plus, we’ve seen the heavily discounted bundles sold directly from Toybox.


A 3D printer designed for children

A few months ago, I started seeing a barrage of online ads for the Toybox 3D printer, a 3D printer for kids. I contacted the manufacturer, California-based Toybox Labs, who lent us the test device used for this review. The toybox is intended for young people at least 5 years old, and adult supervision is recommended for children’s use. According to Toybox Labs, the printer is designed for entertainment and ease of use.

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Toybox 3D printer

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The open-frame white toybox is small for a 3D printer and measures only 9.1 x 7.4 x 7.4 inches (HWD). Some other “compact” 3D printers we’ve reviewed, such as the Polaroid PlaySmart 3D printer (12.6 x 10.6 x 11.8 inches) and the MakerBot Replicator Mini (15 x 11.6 x 12.2 inches), seems great in comparison. Only the now discontinued M3D Micro, a cube measuring 7.3 inches on one side, has been smaller.

The toybox’s construction area – 3.5 x 3.1 x 2.8 inches – is just as small. The Replicator Mini (3.9 x 3.9 x 4.9 inches) has a slightly larger construction area; few printers have almost as small print areas. All of this means that it is limited to printing small toys or small pieces of larger toys.

Setting up the printer is easy. You attach the “printer food holder” (aka the filament spool) to the back of the Toybox and place a spool of “printer food” (PLA filament) on the holder. Then place the flexible, magnetized print bearing in place on the printing platform.

Toybox 3D printer

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The first time you connect the printer and turn it on, a message will appear on the LCD screen directing you to a page where you can download the Toybox app. (The versions of the app are available for iOS and Android.) After installing the app, create a free Toybox account and sync your device to the printer. (A name beginning with “Toybox” should appear in your list of available wireless networks.) You must enter a six-digit code that appears on Toybox’s LCD screen in your mobile device to confirm the connection.

Toybox 3D printer

(Photo: Molly Flores)


I tested the Toybox app on an iPhone 11 Pro. (You can use an iPhone or Android device, or you can start printing from the Toybox website in your browser after entering your account information.) The Toybox app interface gives you several options listed at the bottom. Explore, by default, lets you browse or search for toys or collections in the Toybox catalog. For each, it gives you an estimated length of the print job in minutes. By tapping on a toy, you get some information about the object and its creator. Pressing the Print Me button starts the print job. It’s that simple.

Toybox 3D printer

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The create option gives you several choices of activities you can do in the so-called Creator Space. Under Apps, for example, you can create Block Buddies, printable human figures that you design, choose their hair style and color, facial features, skin color, and the style and color of various garments. When you are done, give your Block Buddy a name and save it. You will see your Block Buddies every time you open the app.

Toybox 3D printer

Sample screens from the app interface, left to right

Tap a Block Buddy in the app and you will see a list of components that need to be printed for you to assemble. You can print all parts of one color, change the filament spool, print several of them in another color, and keep changing until the parts are finished. Then you can put them together.

Build a Car app works the same way: You can design a car by adding features and color to it. Under Characters, you can create a design or doodle and print it in 3D. Another feature, Picture, lets you import a photo to be rendered in 3D for printing. Of course, you can not do justice to a 3D image that is converted from a single two-dimensional photo, of course, but Toybox does a credible job. Cool stuff.

Toybox 3D printer

Finally, you can import an existing 3D file in STL, OBJ, 3MF or GCODE formats. I tried to import a GCODE file, but it turned out to be too large. GCODE files contain printing instructions that are relevant to the printer to which it was originally formatted (in a program such as Cura). You may be better off working with a format like STL that has not been “cut” for printing.


The print bed and the filament

The toybox’s print bed should not require leveling – I did not adjust it at all in my time with it. If the printer needs to be calibrated – the troubleshooting part of Toybox’s auxiliary resources describes several situations where it may be desirable – turn a screw on the back of the construction platform using an Allen key.

Removing a printed object from the print bed, often a source of headaches in 3D printers, could not be easier than with Toybox. You remove the bed – which is magnetically glued to the printing platform – from the printer with the object still in place on it. You then gently bend the bed once or twice and the object pulls off easily. Put the circuit board back on the platform and you are ready to print again.

In terms of filament support, Toybox is a PLA-only printer, which is a suitable choice for a printer intended for children. It’s safe – neither the printed objects nor the (minimal) vapors it can emit during printing are toxic – and relatively easy to work with. Toybox sells standard half-pound PLA coils in a variety of colors for $ 10 each, and specialty filaments such as gloss and sparkle variants for $ 14 each. coil. That pricing is good; for example, MakerBot sells half a pound of standard coils for its Replicator printers for $ 19, and you can get them for a few dollars less through resellers.

Toybox 3D printer

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Based on Toybox’s selling prices at the time of writing ($ 249 for the basic package, $ 299 for Deluxe), the so-called Toybox Deluxe Bundle (printer plus eight standard coils in different colors) costs $ 50 more than the Starter Bundle (printer plus). a standard coil). So in essence, with the Deluxe package you get two reels for free. (The difference is $ 60 if you look at the list prices.)

Toybox 3D printer

(Photo: Molly Flores)

And trust us: You will want filaments in different colors because many of the can projects that Toybox offers involve printing multiple pieces and combining them, and often varying the colors of the piece can enhance the toy or object.


A wealth of gear and crawling things

I printed 10 test objects, all from the Toybox catalog. They all printed successfully on the first try, with no printing errors or significant errors. The overall print quality was approximately average for a filament-based 3D printer. Some prints looked a little rough, often with a wrinkled texture on top, and many had loose filament tails that needed to be trimmed or pulled off. Still, the quality was solid enough – you can be sure that Toybox can print items that a child (or an adult, for that matter) will love.

Toybox 3D printer

(Photo: Tony Hoffman)

Even better, a good percentage of the items in the Toybox catalog have moving parts: the wheels turn, a cube unfolds, the gears turn and engage, the legs move. For the most part, such items are printed pre-assembled in one go, though with the gears I had to print them separately and then click them together. My favorites are the multi-segmented reptiles, which printed with the individual segments linked together, giving both flexibility and strength – at least I have not accidentally pulled one apart yet (and I do not have the heart to separate one ad ). , even as a stress test).

Toybox 3D printer

(Photo: Tony Hoffman)


Fun for kids of all ages

The Toybox 3D printer is a great choice as a 3D printer for kids. In my test, it provided reliable, error-free printing of a variety of objects, many of them including hinges or other moving parts. I was very impressed with this lovely, ingenious toy. That said, the overall print quality is only average, as befits a printer with a maximum resolution of 200 microns. And its small print area is Toybox’s biggest drawback.

Toybox 3D printer

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Toybox includes a large selection of toys and projects in its so-called catalog and lets young (or less young) creators create and print their own designs, either hand-drawn or from photos, in Creator Space. You can import 3D printable files, but this can be difficult and you are limited to the small build volume of the Toybox.

Toybox may not be a good replacement for a conventional hobby 3D printer, but it is a wonderful and quite successful device in itself. It is committed to providing hours of creative entertainment for both children and the adults who help them, and it is a clear choice as an Editors’ Choice budget 3D printer aimed at young people.

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