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Resin/plastic instead of metal miniatures?

 
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Starfury
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 3:13 pm    Post subject: Resin/plastic instead of metal miniatures? Reply with quote

I was recently in a Games Workshop store (wife in shoe store next door) at a local mall. In the latest White Dwarf magazine they had pictures of some new miniatures that were all plastic. The detail was incredible on a 28mm scale figure. I was wondering if ADB has ever considered moving away from the metal minis and moving to plastic/resin.
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Mazza
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2007 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is my understanding that it is more expensive to make moulds for plastic miniatures, although they have a lower per item cost, hence why Games Workshop has, until very recently, only made plastic models for the most common troop types which are bought for every army. More recently they seem to be making entire plastic armies, but I am not sure how they are making that financially viable. It is only in the last 10 years or so that their plastic 28mm models haven't looked like pants, too!

Most miniatures made by other companies, and even a high proportion of Citadel miniatures, are metal because there is a lower upfront cost to start making them. This is why things like characters or special/elite units in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 tend to be metal models - such units have a smaller run than the core troops and thus the special plastic moulds aren't financially viable. And that's for the world's largest miniature manufacturer!
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djdood
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2007 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Plastic figures are usually made by injection molding, which does indeed have extremely high up-front costs. Very very high, for many years.

Recently, Asian countries (China in particular) have developed the tool machining and injection skill base to bring the costs for high-detail plastics down significantly.

Even with that sea-change in the market, it's still not cheap to have some one do precision machining of a multi-part metal mold (often with slides and ejector pins, etc.) and then have someone else do high-quality injection molding using that tool.

Metal miniatures are usually made using high-temperature rubber molds, into which the molten pewter is poured (often in a centerfuge to force it into the mold's details - thus the term "spin casting"). Those rubber molds are made by pouring the rubber around a "master" model of the subject and allowing it to solidify (usually one half of the subject at a time). Multiple molds can be made of a single master and then cast at the same time.

Pewter mini casting is a pretty highly skilled art with specialized equipment, but it still involves a lot less investment to get into than plastics. While I'd love to see ADB doing plastic minis someday (since the detail can be pretty incredible if well-tooled), nobody wants to see them bankrupting themselves to do it.

Resin on the other hand has made some in-roads. The Juggernaut kits already on sale are both primarily resin. They are a unique case though. They're big enough for resin to work. Cold set resin like that used in those kits (and other "garage" model kits) is very, very brittle. Fine for display models, but way too risky for most game playing pieces. It also can't do small parts very well (like Klingon boom "necks).
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2007 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The last time I checked, it was "tens of thousands of dollars" to do the minimum product run of one set of five ships. I continue to look into other options.
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Starfury
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess if you charge the prices GW does for their miniatures you have the tens of thousands of dollars to create the molds.

Which is why I won't buy GW stuff new, I'll pick it up used at conventions/eBay.
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2007 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not just the molds; it's the minimum production run of zillions of pieces. We'd be buying more ships in one order (of five types) than we have sold in nine years (of over 100 types). I'm not convinced there would be a market, and don't want to cripple the company spending every time we can earn, borrow, or beg to produce a huge pile of ships that I just don't think we would ever sell.
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Mazza
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 4:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also, ADB does sell plastic Federation starships. They're great and they're in the same scale as the metal miniatures. I believe that they don't make them anymore, but they are still available to buy if you prefer to work with plastic models.
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OGOPTIMUS
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mazza wrote:
Also, ADB does sell plastic Federation starships. They're great and they're in the same scale as the metal miniatures. I believe that they don't make them anymore, but they are still available to buy if you prefer to work with plastic models.


What's the status on those anyway? Does "limited quantities" mean 10 billion still sitting on the shelf? In terms of miniature availability, do many people want/use these? Is there a plan to make rubber molds for pewter ships in Fed Box set #2 when the plastic ones run out?

I guess it might not be a big issue since 4 of the 5 ships aren't in Fed Cmdr yet. But two have been in Communique so far, and that "Early Wars" era battle pack idea floating around might need these ships (not like I WANT to use a first and worst Fed DN against anything but a D6 or smaller, but I like the FJ design with the 30 degree nacelles).

I just happen to like them, since the quality is generally slightly higher than pewter in terms of mold lines, and pithing etc. (nothing against ADB and Reaper, they both do excellent work, it's just pewter vs. plastic).
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djdood
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's my understanding that the plastic Fed ships all came out of one mold. None have been produced in many years, but due to those "minimum production runs" that SVC mentioned up-thread, many many were made at the time. Those that were molded have been slowly sold over the years. Obviously the Fed CA sold a lot (and are now practically gone), the Tug sold very little (and there are lots and lots of them left).
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The "Zocchi mold" had the five Franz Joseph ships: Cruiser, dreadnought, scout, tug, and destroyer.

Later, it was cut into two pieces, cruiser-dreadnought and the other three.

No new ones have been produced in a decade or more. I have bought (and sold) just about every "white plastic" one he had, and am working through the green and blue "glow in the dark" plastic, which I sell as "plastic".

Zocchi has told me several times over the years that he is on the verge of puting the mold back into production. I told him I would buy 500 sets and sell them as sets as an FC battle box matched to a set of FJ ship cards. I'm still waiting, and still have hope.

There are no more CAs or DNs. We have the last 50 or so of each and sell them only in boxes of five. The CA sold best, the DN second, and the tug worst. There are 20 boxes of tugs left (although we dump the parts of three tugs into a bag for $5 and sell them as "spare parts").

We have done a metal DNG (very similar to the DN) and a metal CA. We plan to do a metal DD next year. I don't know that we would ever do a metal Tug (and there are thousands of them.
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OGOPTIMUS
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve Cole wrote:
There are 20 boxes of tugs left (although we dump the parts of three tugs into a bag for $5 and sell them as "spare parts").


Love these. I've gotten 3 or 4 so far, and been able to put together several kitbashes based on the parts (4 or 5). Plus, I've got several plastic nacelles that are often easier to work with than the metal ones in terms of modifying them.
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Starfury
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just had a thought. Since the Tug models are plastic, you can get styrene parts and make up a custom freighter kit. Lots of possibilities there.

Might have to get some of the tugs now.
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djdood
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

" Since the Tug models are plastic, you can get styrene parts and make up a custom freighter kit. Lots of possibilities there. "

You pretty much took the words out of my mouth. Between cheap pods and cheap engines and saucers, those Tug bags are a kitbasher's dream.
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Mazza
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2007 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Plus the Tug is such a great model. I recently bought one of these plastic fleet boxes and as I was putting together the Tug just the model alone was enough to make me want to start a Prime Directive campaign set on one, as unexciting as it may be to be a tug crewman! Unfortunately it was too hard a sell for my players. Smile

Once I've painted my way through my modest backlog of models, I'll have to pick up some spare parts bags and put together some Tugs in different configurations, kitbashes, etc.
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