In the early days of this hobby if you wanted to have a miniature for use in your war game or role-playing game you had three options: go to the store and purchase a figure; trade for a figure you liked; or make your own. As time has gone on we've eschewed the proud tradition of making our own miniature figurines in favor of purchasing figures from name brand manufacturers. For some manufacturers, such as Games Workshop, this has resulted in a very lucrative business where the enthusiast pays an ever escalating price for their figurines. Those days are coming to an end.
In recent years 3D printing has gone from being the sort of thing that only existed within the manufacturing and wealthy hobbyist realms to something that is within the budgets of many homes. 3D scanners are making the copying of existing designs easier, and the software required for creating original miniatures designs continues to evolve into a simpler and user friendly form. Then there are sites like Thingiverse where you can download 3D modules to print your dungeon terrain and miniature figures. Combined together it is easy to foresee a future where this technology eliminates the traditional miniature figure manufacturer.
It's so easy to see that earlier this year Hasbro entered into the fray. In February Hasbro announced that they had partnered with 3D Systems to "develop and commercialize innovative play printers and platforms" that would be used with all of Hasbro brands. Then neither side said another word until a patent was filed on May 9, 2014.
The patent was for a ". . . Computer software for creating, designing, modifying, customizing, sharing and saving computer generated representations capable of being printed by a three dimensional printer to create physical objects, namely, jewelry, ornaments, arts objects, artifacts, household goods, toys, games, hobby models, accessories, office products, and various other consumer products . . ." that would allow for the ". . . Custom prototype fabrication via three dimensional printing for others of new parts, components and models . . ." (Patent Application 86276566). The patent also mentioned that it would be ". . . providing a website featuring technology that enables users to download, modify, and share three-dimensional designs on the internet for use with computer driven machines for making three-dimensional embodiments of the designs; providing online computer games and interactive multiplayer online games via global networks . . ." (Patent Application 86276566).
With Hasbro providing a way to create your 3D designs based on their brands it seems a natural extension that miniature figures for the Dungeons and Dragons game would become a part of their overall plan. Imagine being able to purchase a set of designs for an adventure you were playing in that would give you all the miniature figures you needed and all you had to do was print them out. It would be a revolutionary change in how we purchase our figures.