A 3D printing toy shop went viral on TikTok when printing hobbyist Nick Hardman started creating custom teddy bears wearing 3D printed toy models of medical devices for children with corresponding medical conditions.
"There's a gap in the market because injection molded toys can only be made in certain orders of magnitude," Hardman told Plastics News in an interview.
"In Newcastle Freeman [Hospital] in the U.K., there's nine children with a Berlin heart, and they've got a pull-along heart pump. It's not possible to make a toy … pump for nine children if injection molding is your only process," Hardman said.
With injection molding, "just the cost to make the tool is so expensive that, if you're not going to produce 50,000 toys, it's not possible … If it [weren't] for 3D printing, what I do would not be possible."
Hardman's 3D printed toy shop started two and a half years ago after he lost his engineering job amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, he 3D printed personal protective equipment at home to meet emergency demand.
"When there was no more demand for homemade PPE, I started trying to sell some toys [on Facebook]," Hardman said.
As a "toy shop that makes toys that don't exist," Hardman started getting custom requests. "A parent of a child with a brain implant … asked if I could make a teddy with a toy shunt valve."
When he posted the teddy bear on his social media channels, Hardman "instantly" had hundreds of inquiries from parents of children with medical conditions for custom teddies that "shared" their child's medical condition.