Hero Forge Demonstrates Mass Customization Possibilities

 A unique custom-designed figurine 3D model in Hero Forge [Source: Fabbaloo]
A unique custom-designed figurine 3D model in Hero Forge [Source: Fabbaloo]

I’ve been fiddling around with a service called Hero Forge, and am quite impressed. 

3D Printed Game Figurines

The service is directed towards game players seeking customized figurines, and they provide an ability to receive 3D printed representations or downloads of the corresponding 3D model. These figurines can then be used in one of several different games. 

The notion of downloading figurines is not new; I recall some of this publication’s earliest posts being on that topic, as several ventures attempted to launch services to 3D print figurines, particularly those from 3D body scans. 

But Hero Forge is different. From its name you can guess their approach: they allow you, the customer, to design the figurine. Basically, you scroll through a very extensive list of options for different aspects of the design to create a unique figurine. 

Customizable aspects of the figurine include: 

  • Race

  • Head

  • Body

  • Outfits

  • Clothing

  • Gear

  • Base

  • Pose

  • Mount

  • Extras

Hero Forge Combinations

 Some of the countless customization options in Hero Forge [Source: Fabbaloo]
Some of the countless customization options in Hero Forge [Source: Fabbaloo]

I’m not quite sure how many possible figurine combinations can be designed with this set of knobs, but to put it in perspective the “Race” category includes 66 different options, and there are almost 100 outfit options. There are 150 different hats to choose from, for goodness sakes. 

There must be billions of combinations. It is quite possible any character you design will never have previously been made on the system. It’s an extremely well-designed set of 3D components that all fit together, regardless of the combination chosen. 

Once you finish the design, HereForge offers to 3D print the finished model in a variety of materials, which are likely the ones offered by the 3D print service they’re using behind the scenes. Their current offer is to print it in plastic, premium plastic (whatever that means), steel, bronze, or a digital download. 

I’ve downloaded a design and subsequently 3D printed it on a high resolution resin 3D printer and obtained excellent results. Their system works, and works very well. 

Hero Forge Costs

 A sample self-3D print from a Hero Forge custom designed 3D model (before support removal) [Source: Fabbaloo]
A sample self-3D print from a Hero Forge custom designed 3D model (before support removal) [Source: Fabbaloo]

The costs of the service vary, depending on what you’re making and what it is to be made from, but it’s not terribly expensive. A download is available for only US$8, for example. 

The company is also now offering what they call version “2.0”, where you can color the design and request a full color 3D print of the model. They’ve curiously launched this on Kickstarter where as of this writing they’ve collected an amazing 20K orders totalling near US$1.7M.

Obviously this is a popular product, as there are plenty of gamers in the world. But there’s something interesting here: a very large market for game figurines already exists. 

Games Workshop Competition

One of the largest companies involved is UK-based Games Workshop, which recently has been hauling in £220M (US$287M) in annual revenue, much of which is from figurine sales. 

I’m now wondering what might happen here when the cost and value of 3D printed custom figurines closes the gap with traditionally mass-manufactured products. Could it be that services like Hero Forge are going to make a dent in Games Workshop’s revenues? 

Mass Customization Coming?

Will Hero Forge’s tremendously straightforward interface demonstrate a path forward for other mass customization initiatives? It’s possible, as entrepreneurs typically copy successful business models and apply them to other industries. 

So far we’ve seen work done in the footwear, eyewear and a couple other industries to develop user-designed products. Perhaps we’re seeing the beginning of a wave of such applications. 

Via Hero Forge and Kickstarter (Hat tip to Harrison)

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