Miniatures Talk

How does the 1/72 production business work?

Posted by Brok_Santatusca on 08 Dec 2019, 22:09

Hey folks,

I'm just wondering how the production of 1/72 figures works :-D

Plastic Sets:
Do they use hot injection of the plastic into steel moulds?
How do they carve the negative of the figure out of the steel?
I guess it is cheap as fuck to produce an existing set and the price we pay is mainly for the modeling and the carving?

Metal Sets:
Is it true, that metal is cheaper for smaller runs? How does it comes? How does it work?

3D-printing:
Is 3D-printing the future?

thanks and regards
Brok
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Brok_Santatusca  Europe
 
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Posted by Bluefalchion on 09 Dec 2019, 00:07

The big plastic sets require the steel mold so sellers would need to sell a huge amount of sets to make it pay off.

For individuals runs, white metal is much cheaper. And the sellers can make a set when it is ordered.

3D printing seems promising, but it is an expensive process now. Perhaps the price will go down as the technology becomes refined and more available to a widespread audience.
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Bluefalchion  United States of America
 
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Posted by steve_pickstock on 09 Dec 2019, 00:34

Brok_Santatusca wrote:Hey folks,

I'm just wondering how the production of 1/72 figures works :-D

Plastic Sets:
Do they use hot injection of the plastic into steel moulds?
How do they carve the negative of the figure out of the steel?
I guess it is cheap as fuck to produce an existing set and the price we pay is mainly for the modeling and the carving?

thanks and regards
Brok


Traditionally the sculptor made a 3x model which was then pantographed down using a spark eroder which carved out the model from the steel mold. These days a lot more computers are involved both designing the model and cutting it from the steel mold. New techniques also involve sculpting the figures actual size and rather than making massive sprues of figures (like Esci/Italeri did) manufacturers such as Dark Dream Studios elect to make much smaller sprues with three horses on, easier to make.
The plastic is injected into the mold hot but the mold is cooled by water tubes in the block.

Brok_Santatusca wrote:Metal Sets:
Is it true, that metal is cheaper for smaller runs? How does it comes? How does it work?


There are advantages in making metal figures - the actual production costs are less. The master is made and then cast several times, these are then placed into a mold and a disc mold is made, heated so that it vulcanizes and it will last for quite a few castings. It will need to be replaced periodically and you probably get a lot less castings out of rubber mold than you do out of a steel one but the costs are quite a lot less.

Brok_Santatusca wrote:3D-printing:
Is 3D-printing the future?

Probably.
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steve_pickstock  England
 
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Posted by Taipeh on 09 Dec 2019, 09:35

Hi Brok_Santatusca,

first you forget another material which is also used in 1/72 figure production: resin
Interesting material which allowes undercuts much more then plastic or metal production.

I think the future will be more and more in 3D Technology, first part is the sculpting which become with
Computer programs used in "Games of Thrones" etc. very cheap, You Need only to sculpt a Basic figure , which than could be handled into different movements..
On the other side 3D Printer are becoming cheap. The Anycubic Photon you could get in the Moment from AMAZON for 320,- € and a figure printed in 1/72 cost ca 0,40 € . The only thing is you have to learn to handle the Printer.
More and more Company offer the so called Stl files (like I do) oder in Forum :
https://www.thingiverse.com/
https://www.cgtrader.com/
and than you could print the figure as much as you want , and additional in different scales too.

Ciao Michael

http://www.germania-figuren.eu
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Taipeh  Germany
 
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Posted by Brok_Santatusca on 09 Dec 2019, 19:09

thanks for your profund responses! :yeah:

I have some more questions:

    - How are resin figures produced? How do I recognize resin as a material?

    - How long do the steel molds for plastic sets live? If they last literally forever, then why do some manufacturers stop producing old sets? (especially sets, which climb on a very high market price like some old Zvezda-sets)

    - Isn't the print quality of 3D prints an issue? Or is it even better, because you dont have mold lines?
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Brok_Santatusca  Europe
 
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Posted by Erich von Manstein on 09 Dec 2019, 21:22

Brok_Santatusca wrote:
    - How long do the steel molds for plastic sets live? If they last literally forever, then why do some manufacturers stop producing old sets? (especially sets, which climb on a very high market price like some old Zvezda-sets)


Steel moulds can last for decades.
Airfix, Revell (Matchbox), Italeri (Esci), Hasegawa, Heller, Fujimi or Tamiya still utilise some moulds which are 40 to 50 years old now.
However, when constantly in use they will wear out as well.

Some of the bigger companies (like most of the aformentioned) tend to rotate the availability of kits within their own product range.
A simple & old marketing strategy. When the market is "saturated" with a certain kit, you create a higher demand by keeping it unavailable for a while. ;-)
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Erich von Manstein  Europe
 
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Posted by Graeme on 10 Dec 2019, 03:56

Brok_Santatusca wrote: How long do the steel molds for plastic sets live? If they last literally forever, then why do some manufacturers stop producing old sets? (especially sets, which climb on a very high market price like some old Zvezda-sets)


Hi Brok.

Not all 1/72 plastic manufacturers use steel moulds. Some use softer moulds which means that the figures can be made faster but there is a limit to the number of times the mould can be used.

Strelets certainly are producing a lot of sets in a short period of time but many of their older sets are now completely sold out and there's no chance of reissuing them because the moulds are worn out. I'm sure they would reissue sets if they could. This would also apply to some other manufacturers.

As I understand the situation at Zvezda, sadly the man in charge of the company died. The new management decided they were not interested in producing new big box 1/72, just the smaller "Art of Tactic" sets. They are re-running their old sets but as Erich said they are rotating through their range in sections. They re-released their Napoleonic sets, then 30YW sets(I think), and currently some ancients. the people who are paying huge amounts on e-bay for 'rare' Zvezda sets might see them on the market at normal retail price if they wait a while.

Italeri are doing a pretty good job of keeping their figures in stock. HaT reissue all of their sets but they have such a large range of sets that it takes a while to get round to everything. Airfix reissued their Napoleonics several years ago, then WWI, and currently WWII sets but I don't get the impression that they are hugely interested. Revell occasionally reissue some sets in a desultory fashion, e.g. they reissued half of their Napoleonic range a year or two ago (in a big box compilation set), but didn't bother with the other half. :eh: What's the point of that?

Some manufacturers just can't reissue sets, Some just won't, and some are making an effort to reissue sets but can't do everything at once.
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Graeme  Australia
 
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Posted by Taipeh on 10 Dec 2019, 10:36

Hi Brok_Santatusca ,

Resin is a two-component casting compound which is self-curing in the air. You could cast it in more flexible rubber mould than metal. Because of this you could cast figure in 1 piece which should be splitted by metal casting or Plastik production. You could cast it by Hand with open form, but than very often air bubbles makes big Problems.
Better to cast it under vacuum, and the best under vacuum with hight pressure. With this producing line you get hight Quality figures etc. but they are more breakable than plastic or metal ones. For Diorama builders they are perfect.
Exspecially as there is one more, the hot forming , if you put a resin figure into cooking water you are able to form it, making leg movement etc. when the figure cooling down it stay in the new form.

the first 3D Printers are Filament Printers which lay line above line , even if you make very very thin lines , you could see this. The newer resin Printers works on another way , and if you take some time and very thin flats, you get a perfect Surface.
One of the interesting Things is that with this it is possible to make pieces which are in no other priduction possible. For example, my Vietnam Hurricane Aircat have a Cage around Motor and Propeller. in 1/72 it is not possible to cast this in pewter or resin. the printing brings the complete Cage in 1 piece.
Image

Ciao Michael
http://www.germania-figuren.eu
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Taipeh  Germany
 
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Posted by MicroWorld on 10 Dec 2019, 11:23

A two photos from "Zvezda" (I was here on excursion in 2014):
Image
Image
Note: the main parts made from brass, not steel. Brass is easier to mill and thermal conductivity is higher.
BTW, this mould for a WWI british infantry - a set never was produced (AoT for WWI was cancelled).
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MicroWorld  Russia
 
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Posted by Bluefalchion on 10 Dec 2019, 12:44

Good input everyone. This has turned out to be a very fun thread. My understanding was that the Zvezda guy who directed all the big boxes switched it to 3D printing and small AoT boxes because of the possibility for better figures and a better profit that way. But then he died so the company basically stopped making 1/72 figures altogether.

There will be some new figure releases in 2020 but they appear to be projects started long before, just never finished, such as 120 mm mortar teams. But who knows, if they sell like hotcakes, maybe Zvezda will start making figures again. That would be a good thing.
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Bluefalchion  United States of America
 
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Posted by Brok_Santatusca on 10 Dec 2019, 23:17

thank you all for your profund replies already!
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Brok_Santatusca  Europe
 
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Posted by Andre on 12 Jan 2020, 15:35

Hi Michael,
This is very helpful and good to learn about. Do you have any advice on a 3d scanner that is suitable/able to scan 1/72 figures without loss of detail? I would be most interested in affordable and tried and tested scanners that can do the job. Thank you!
Andre
Andre  Netherlands
 
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Posted by Bessiere on 12 Jan 2020, 20:15

As a retired engraver I see the opportunity here for manufacturers to restore detail in the molds after using the c&c mill to resize the masters. I used to do signet rings and reverse-carved images so it would be a simple matter for a good engraver to clean up any fuzzy lines and add details in these steel or brass molds. Dunno if they do that but from the masters I see from Strelets to the end product I see they do lose quite a bit in the process. More expense yes but if you want a superior product there's a way to do it.
Bessiere  United States of America
 
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Posted by MicroWorld on 12 Jan 2020, 21:48

Strelets, Orion etc... uses another method - electrotype (copper galvanoplasty). It is better for a small manufacturers (cost is lower), but figures are rougher and moulds lives not long.

.
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MicroWorld  Russia
 
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Posted by Taipeh on 14 Jan 2020, 08:29

@ Andre
Sorry , by my Information there is in the Moment no scanner available which could do the Job. From
bigger figure you could try , but very often not 100% satisfying.
I think it is better to work with Freelancers and develope new miniatures.

Ciao Michael

http://www.germania-figuren.eu
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Taipeh  Germany
 
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