Over in the UK, a McDonald’s techy-type tells The Register that while no actual program is being planned, he’s kicked around the idea that 3D printing could be used to resolve short-term inventory issues regarding Happy Meal toys.
One the one hand, the notion seems patently ridiculous as the time and cost to print out and assemble enough toys to stock a single franchise would currently be prohibitive compared to the minor blowouts from a few disappointed 4-year-olds. That’s not even getting into issues of materials, safety, and licensing.
All that said, if a company the size of McDonald’s were to jump into on-demand 3D printing at even a fraction of its eateries, that huge investment from a global retail food operation would be a game-changer for 3D printing in general.
In much the same way that personal printing technology advanced to the point that many people stopped having to go to the copy shop to get color printouts, it seems inevitable that the quality and cost concerns of 3D printing will someday be minimized to the point where on-demand 3D printing is not out of the norm. It’s just a matter of which major retailer will be the first to jumpstart that revolution.