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Clay toy store allows customers to customize designs

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 5:06 p.m.

The Playthings Etc. toy store in Clay isn't just selling toys, but is providing an opportunity for customers to make custom creations.

Playthings Etc. is testing a pilot system for a state-of-the-art 3-D printer, manufactured by Pittsburgh-based PieceMaker Technologies Inc. It allows customers to custom-make items from an online catalog of about a hundred options.

The printer can make things such as chess pieces, jewelry, key chains, cake toppers and guitar picks in seven colors.

“We want to help everyone make this world more personalized,” said Arden Rosenblatt, co-founder of PieceMaker Technologies. “We want to bring the world inventory on demand.”

Playthings Etc. launched the system on July 26 — the second toy store in the region to have one — and it's been busy ever since, said Allen DiFrischia, manager of the store at 2483 William Flynn Highway.

“It's been used quite a lot,” DiFrischia said. “They were running the printer practically all day on (July 26). It had a big crowd around it.”

The printer will be at the store through August for consumers to use and test, DiFrishia said. After that, the team at PieceMaker will pick it up and make adjustments and upgrades using feedback from the store employees and customers.

Rosenblatt said the company hopes to roll out the full system in October, just before the holiday shopping season begins.

The suggested retail prices for printer-made pieces range from $5 to $10. Rosenblatt said the user interface is so easy that people of any age can use it.

Typically, 3-D printers are products for a “very technical crowd” with knowledge of programming, engineering and design to operate, Rosenblatt said.

So he and partner Alejandro Sklar, both 25, built their own printer and customized it to work from a specific set of designs, making it accessible for the average person.

The first PieceMaker Print-on-Demand pilot system went in at S.W. Randall toys in Squirrel Hill in April. It had a catalog of 10 to 20 pieces.

DiFrischia said Playthings Etc. was happy to test the second pilot machine. The store has customer feedback forms for users to give input, and store employees are logging any problems or suggestions they have as well.

“We love being part of the new cutting-edge things like that and supporting local ventures,” DiFrischia said.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. You can reach her at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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