Company for model kits

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Tomperys

Active Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Hi

this will be maybe a silly question but there are companies who make all kinds of thing for people - from photo etched details to own circuit boards but so far I have not seen a company which would make a model kit for you.... for example I have some 3D models in STL which are printable but let's be honest the price for each print is not very cheap so I'd rather find a company which would be able to produce a mold and then directly a KITs (from the STL or from printed model).

The reason why I didnt try (further) to do it myself is... well "simple":
  1. I tried reproduce it few times with "Mold Star 15" and later once with "Rebound 25" from Smooth-On but I have no pressure & vacuum container (and to be honest I dont even want to buy them because I have no room for such things nor money to spare right now for something that may not work out completely good for me) so its hard to make the mold and then the replica without some structure damage becuase of bubbles.
  2. I never really managed to make two parts mold. So the parts from one mold were too thick and it took a lot of work to grind them. The last time with the Rebound 25 I had just the small 1Kg package which was not enough so I had really thin layers and even when I used release agent the both halves of the mold was merged into each other on some places and when I tried to separate them the mold tore apart because it was too thin. But anyway Iam not sure why it merged....
  3. Even if I could make a good mold without bubbles the casted thing would have bubbles or missing parts because as I stated in point 1 I have no pressure & vacuum container.
  4. I would like to experiment more but unfortunately all the materials for making the molds and casts are quite expensive and if I mess it up again I will just lose my money and be again where I started...
So do you know about some company that makes the molds and model KITs?
Otherwise I guess I willI be doomed to continue printing the models which makes them hardly accessible due to price.

Thanks for any advice or ideas...
 

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basementdweller

Active Member
€3000K is the cheapest option I came across investigating this locally for a simple cavity mold. You can find cheaper options in China that put that down to as low as $300 (if memory serves, waded through so many weird posts) per 28mm figure mold. Cutting and engineering a proper steel mold takes a professional to go hands in and makes sure flows and everything works. The cheap price I am talking about is a compromise and meant for PVC injection molding of basically board gaming figures. Don't forget to add shipping, per piece price and taxes and major pains and headaches.

If you are talking about casting in resin - There are tons of production houses that do just that. Some do the printing in house as well as molding and casting and even distribution with the advent of resin printers being so common that sculptors and files are abundant, but not everybody has a printer. There are several professional outfits that do that. It depends on what kind of model you would like to make, what scale and what distribution scale you are talking about. GRX creations in EU has a good rep. Prodos Games does some truly mindboggling "unicast" figures. They have such a service - also EU. There are many companies that take care of the production aspects of Kickstarter boardgames - of which figures is one aspect. Don't know specific names. There are also a ton of shoddy places. So whatever you come across - check for reviews.

If you are looking to have your STL's printed as one offs for yourself (not clear on what exactly you want or need) you are better off checking the subreddit for 3Dprinting. You can also check prusa3d.com and find ppl in your vicinity on the map that offer their services with their resin printer.

You need to utilize your favorite search engine my friend. I was recently made aware of a business that is FB only that does stl resin printing. I think they mold and cast stuff as they license sculpts and sell them. Since I don't do fb I can't tell you anything about them. They were mentioned in one of Goobertown Hobbies videos.

US has a boutique garage kit producer that works together with artists to produce and distribute kits called "Industria Mechanika". That is more of a collaborative effort for proper artists and not the self publishing kind though. I don't know what level you are at and what you want to do exactly. You could still get in touch and check if they have recommendations.
 

basementdweller

Active Member
I guess I can't read. I just now noted that you do in fact 3D print your "kits" but that you find the cost prohibitive. Please share what kind of kit you are talking about and what size. I can't imagine a cheaper way of doing it than printing at home on a cheap resin printer. Actually I can. Printing at home on an FDM printer, but I don't think that is what you are talking about? 1kg of PLA I get for $15 on the cheap and that gets me ~6 statues in the 1/6 scale range. That is inexpensive. It's just not time effective and not nearly as nice as a resin print. With resin printing the time aspect would be your only real incentive to mold and cast your kit instead of printing. Cheap, but good quality resin is $30 to $40 per liter for the 405nm wavelength. There is no reason to print solid pieces if you are doing large pieces so I just don't get your price woes? Are you doing very large items? Casting resin is cheaper sure, but you need to account for molding materials and all that hassle too. If you are outsourcing it you've lost all your margin as it's manual labor in a western country. Hard to say without any real scope of your project though - I am just guessing here and flailing with my figurative arms.

As a comparison 1 liter of resin yields up to 200 28mm miniatures (best case scenario granted). There is no way you could ever buy 200 minis for $30 today retail or wholesale. The comparison is a bit unfair as your time is obviously worth something too, but still.

For those interested in current cheap high res resin 3D printers feel free to check the spoiler.
Let me add that resin printing by way of DLP has gone down in price significantly while quality is superb. The Elegoo Mars is about $250 and so is the Anycubic Photon. Resin is about $30 to $40 per liter, but then you have consumables like FEP film, nitrile gloves, IPA for cleaning and air filters etc. You might need to look into proper ventilation and a UV light curing station (cheapo nail salon stuff from Ali works) if you don't have enough sun. It's certainly very affordable to buy a printer like this and print yourself rather than use Shapeways. In some instances you can make up for the whole printers price with one print so it's a no brainer for the people that have the space and time and are into this hobby.

Plenty of nice free files and plenty of awesome artists sell files through their patreon pages. For those wondering what a liter gets you (Obviously it varies depending on size) but 120 to 200 28mm miniatures. That works out to 15 cents a piece at the cheapest to say 40 cents a piece. It's probably a bit more expensive counting other consumables and such, but still gives you an idea. Shapeways at this point is just nuts. Even the cheapest vendor of mass produced miniatures can not compete with home printed minis by a factor of 10 basically. Sure, some are boutique or the quality is not 100% there yet. You can also add the price for the digital files - but then you are free to print as many copies as you want. A lot of sculptors are releasing their efforts as digital files because it cuts out so many layers of headaches. If you are more of a garage kit enthusiast - the trick is to hollow out the print and leave a drain hole. There is no need to have it solid.

The future is here. :) If you are building vehicles and larger models you might need to spend more money, because these cheapo resin printers work with what is basically a phone screen and that is the limiting factor of the print bed size. Resolution is fine (45 microns in XY commonly). If you want larger ones - they cost more and you lose a bit of resolution as the screen is bigger with same amount of pixels. Unless of course you spring for a proper SLA one, but that's a whole lot more in expenses.
 

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Jedi Dade

Master Member
There are folks/small companies that provide mold and casting services. Most do not provide sales, and most will want cleaned up parts ready for casting.

The real issue is demand for the kit (s). You would needto determine how large a run youd need and how much it would cost. These casters rarely want anything to do with any of that, as their business is to mold and cast not market etc.

With 3d printing being more prevalent I've found there to be less casters out there but they still exist.

Jedi Dade
 

Targets R Us

Active Member
Have you investigated using Shapeways to host your STL files? Essentially let your customer buy your kit(s) through them and you collect your money from Shapeways....

-Jeff
 

TazMan2000

Master Member
I used to do a lot of casting at home, and yes, bubbles are a problem, but not one that is unsolvable, even without pressure casting equipment.
When making moulds, try using a brush to paint the RTV onto the master, then pour the rest over. When casting, microwave the mould for a few seconds and then dust in baby powder.
Getting a metal mould made is really only for something that will be moulded a thousand times or more, and is extremely expensive. As previous members have mentioned, you can probably get a resin caster to do the work, but he has to be efficient and have the ability to do quality work, but he is going to have to be compensated.
You mentioned that you don't have a lot of money to spare...and you're talking about kits...Is this going to be a business venture? I really suggest you rethink this idea. There have been a few people on here that thought getting into Garage Kit making was a get-rich-quick scheme. It's not.

TazMan2000
 

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