PDA

View Full Version : Plastic injection technology on factory scale - GW et al



prowla
30-06-2013, 13:10
This discussion started at the Apocalypse thread. Guesstimations about plastic injection molds - manufacturing prices, specs etc. - were introduced..

So what do we know about plastic injection casting and the equipment involved?

Last post on the Apocalypse topic:


Not really. Or, rather, that's like saying the basic process for etching circuit boards and CPUs is the same. Sure it is, except for those extra couple of orders of magnitude of precision. Hardly any different at all…
And GW do produce in-house, which is actually why they're so expensive, what with most of the cost still being the required skilled labour rather than the material for the dies. As an aside though, your guesstimates are more than a little off btw; injection mould dies are generally at least 6" thick per half and can be more.

For that last part, I'm not sure who Stryker was talking to or about what, but I am pretty certain that no-one uses aluminium for mould dies. Not ones they want to last past the first impression at any rate.

Seems that aluminium is a pretty common material for plastic casts, but they do seem to wear out after a few hundred casts. I guess it is the question which is cheaper to tool: one steel mold, or several aluminium. GW would probably use steel, due to the large amount of kits they ship - then again, the small plastic clamshells might be aluminium?

The reason I'm saying there's "not much" difference between technologies, is because (AFAIK) CNC routers are rather precise even on the cheap end. I doubt they use the cheapest machines, but I don't think a machine capable of GW accuracy would cost several hundreds of thousands. One reason being that two-part molds are made using standard 3-axis machines, which are not that expensive compared to the high-tech multiaxis milling machines.

Vet.Sister
30-06-2013, 15:59
For the general public's edification...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seZqq1qxW30

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUthHS3MTdA

Vet.Sister
30-06-2013, 15:59
Well, a quick spin thru Ebay gives us this;
http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?scp=ce0&_from=R40&_sacat=0&_nkw=plastic+injection+molding+machine&_pppn=r1&_rdc=1

Now the high end seems to start around $50,000 (US dollars). But desktop can be anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000 (USD). Not sure if these machines are 'used' or brand new, I didn't dig that deeply.

The molds themselves (usually made from steel) go from $500 to $1500 used, didn't run across new price so it is probably a 'custom made' aspect that I'm missing.

Plus there are dryers for you plastics once they've been molded, again around $900 used.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dryer-for-Plastic-Injection-Molding-Very-Productive-NEW-Double-/310685990605?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item485653fecd

Now I'm am assuming a single production line here, so one molding machine with how many molds it can use at one time and at least a dryer not to mention some type of assembler/packager & shrink wrap.

So now... off to look at materials for molds.

Cheers!

EDIT; a short article from wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Injection_molding#Equipment

It indicates that special grades of "hard aluminum" can be used to produce about 100,000 parts. Now, how to figure out how much these molds cost.

EDIT; All I get is pages of "fill out this form for your estimate". So I don't know if there is a cost savings in using special grade 7075 aluminum, and how much those savings are.... if there are any materials engineers reading this post, any help is appreciated.

Cheers!

Herzlos
30-06-2013, 18:46
There's no way it costs GW more to do this stuff in-house. If that was the case they'd outsource it immediately. It also doesn't make sense; if you outsource stuff the outsourcing company has to make a profit as well.

Omniassiah
30-06-2013, 19:33
Its about 5-8kUS per mold including labor and material for a 12"x12" final product. This then is good for usually 100k runs depending on the cuts on the mold. For Example, Secret Weapon studios needed 10k per mold, off the top of my head from their Kickstarter Video, to make their 12"x12" 3d terrain tiles. The machines themselves would have been a one-time cost and should be running full shift to get the most out of their cost and the skill requirement to run one is fairly minimum, less then a day if you don't need to worry about setup, a week if you do. Also the cost of those machines is considered an investment as you usually get a couple of decades of use out of them if properly cared for.

And as Herzlos said, if it cost more to do in house then it would have been transferred out of house in a heartbeat. GW is well above the level of production that they would be eating up a vast majority of an out-sourced companies work schedule which is why it is worth it to do out of house.

pudney
30-06-2013, 20:42
There's no way it costs GW more to do this stuff in-house. If that was the case they'd outsource it immediately. It also doesn't make sense; if you outsource stuff the outsourcing company has to make a profit as well.

That's rather simplistic, there's more to consider than just cost when outsourcing, e.g. by outsourcing they'd lose efficient quality control, lead times would be a lot longer, ethical manufacturing considerations to name a few.

Vet.Sister
30-06-2013, 22:42
Its about 5-8kUS per mold including labor and material for a 12"x12" final product. This then is good for usually 100k runs depending on the cuts on the mold. For Example, Secret Weapon studios needed 10k per mold, off the top of my head from their Kickstarter Video, to make their 12"x12" 3d terrain tiles. The machines themselves would have been a one-time cost and should be running full shift to get the most out of their cost and the skill requirement to run one is fairly minimum, less then a day if you don't need to worry about setup, a week if you do. Also the cost of those machines is considered an investment as you usually get a couple of decades of use out of them if properly cared for.

And as Herzlos said, if it cost more to do in house then it would have been transferred out of house in a heartbeat. GW is well above the level of production that they would be eating up a vast majority of an out-sourced companies work schedule which is why it is worth it to do out of house.

Omniassiah, is that $5000 to $8000 for mild steel molds or special grade (7075) aluminum molds?

Omniassiah
01-07-2013, 03:28
That was the price for steel last time I had to price out a mold about 2 years ago. That cost was for just for the manufacturing and production not including the mark-up if it needed to be sold. Aluminum is about the same cost but holds edges for detail a little bit better, and as such they wear out faster. I should note that for the work that GW is doing Aluminum molds are pretty much unnecessary as they still will handle the detail for a model. The only people I've personally know to work extensively with aluminum molds is the electronics/Connector industries, Tyco Electronics for example.

TonyFlow
01-07-2013, 05:21
A quick search on alibaba.com (Chinese sourcing platform) resulted in quite a large range of prices for plastic injection steel molds. From as little as a few hundred $ to 100,000$. I know nothing about this industry so I can't say which of these would be able to produce sprues with enough detail. Most prices are in the 3-10,000$ range, though.
Anyone experienced in sourcing from China would also be wary of outsourcing to Chinese manufacturers unless you have considerable experience in the industry and the right contacts. Still you need to be meticulous in outlining specifications and, if your product is famous enough, selling through the back door.

blongbling
01-07-2013, 06:57
IIRc GW's moulds came down massively in price when they moved everything in house, and they now cost about 10k a mould and then the actual production costs are tiny compared to the RRP

jtrowell
01-07-2013, 09:00
Interesting link about a retired Lego mould :
http://www.uproxx.com/gammasquad/2013/02/lets-geek-out-over-this-retired-lego-mold/

misterboff
01-07-2013, 15:46
I can't remember his name, but someone from GW did a talk a my local school club back when Cities of Death came out (2006/2007?). He brought a slide show and at one point said that the Leman Russ mould cost either 35k or 50k.

IJW
01-07-2013, 15:52
Sounds about right, but that's multiple sprues/moulds and the 'old' Russ was made in the early Nineties.

WLBjork
01-07-2013, 17:17
Although the cost of the mould spread over it's maximum lifetime is low - about 5 - 10p a casting, GW need to be making the cost of the mould back before then.

After all, the plastic Dwarf Lord mould didn't last long enough for the model to be released, and I've heard that the original Land Raider mould was damaged before it reached the end of it's designed lifetime. I've no doubt that there are others that have suffered similar fates...

Maccwar
01-07-2013, 18:50
Just in case anyone's interested, here is a WIP shop of the tool for Mantic's Dwarves.

173514

Poncho160
01-07-2013, 19:40
So the Wraithknight, with its three frames would cost in about the region of 30,000?

If so, GW would only have to sell about 450 kits to make their money back on the mold, obviously that doesn't include any other costs.

wilsongrahams
01-07-2013, 20:12
You have to remember that the mould is not the only cost that GW have, but the main one being it's staff and rent of it's stores. In any month, the new releases need to cover a high percentage of those overheads as steady sales of existing stock would remain relaticely low in comparison. Assume 2k per month for an average store at minimum wage, low rent etc, and then by 100 or so stores, you can see why a new release needs to make a lot of money to make it even viable in the first place - and why core and troop models tend to be slow on being remade.

The other factor to consider is that many of the larger kits use a larger frame size than the usual A5 sized ones for most boxes, and thus would have roughly double the material in the mould.

Kalidane
02-07-2013, 03:02
You have to remember that the mould is not the only cost that GW have, but the main one being it's staff and rent of it's stores. In any month, the new releases need to cover a high percentage of those overheads as steady sales of existing stock would remain relaticely low in comparison. Assume 2k per month for an average store at minimum wage, low rent etc, and then by 100 or so stores, you can see why a new release needs to make a lot of money to make it even viable in the first place - and why core and troop models tend to be slow on being remade.

The other factor to consider is that many of the larger kits use a larger frame size than the usual A5 sized ones for most boxes, and thus would have roughly double the material in the mould.

Hmm sounds like these 'stores' are driving up the cost of models.

Are they not able to stand on their own two feet and simply sell enough stuff to pay the bills? I've heard of other stores succeeding at this.

Omniassiah
02-07-2013, 03:41
You have to remember that the mould is not the only cost that GW have, but the main one being it's staff and rent of it's stores. In any month, the new releases need to cover a high percentage of those overheads as steady sales of existing stock would remain relaticely low in comparison. Assume 2k per month for an average store at minimum wage, low rent etc, and then by 100 or so stores, you can see why a new release needs to make a lot of money to make it even viable in the first place - and why core and troop models tend to be slow on being remade.

The other factor to consider is that many of the larger kits use a larger frame size than the usual A5 sized ones for most boxes, and thus would have roughly double the material in the mould.

The larger mold would increase the cost about $500. The cost of making a mold is not the steel or aluminum block, but the time in design and milling it which if they have the person/s on salary is a fixed cost. Part of the decision process for bringing the mold making in house is are you going to be able to get constant work out of the machine staff, or at least enough to justify hiring them on a purchasing the equipment.

As for the stores just like bringing the different aspects of production in house, if you can't do it for cheaper then someone else then you shouldn't be doing it. And frankly I think GW was more concerned with the hope of a possible monopoly to be bothered to look at the costs of it if they failed.

Hellebore
02-07-2013, 04:16
The defence for GW is always 'they're a business trying to make money', yet when this very fact is used to explain why they brought plastic production in-house in order to make the production cheaper and thus generate more money, there are always extenuating circumstances that somehow miraculously mean GW DON'T make money by doing it this way and have chosen this one area to inexplicably NOT be a 'business trying to make money'...:rolleyes:

Hellebore

WLBjork
02-07-2013, 04:31
I don't see anyone saying it didn't save them money, Hellebore.

What I do see is a lot of people simply thinking cost of product - cost of materials = profit, and that is ignoring all the other things that need to be paid for.

As for the stores, the last I knew they do indeed make a loss - or more precisely, things sold through a store make less profit than the same things sold to an independent or directly. Officially, this was to ensure all customers had somewhere to game.

Socaddict
02-07-2013, 05:01
The other factor to consider is that many of the larger kits use a larger frame size than the usual A5 sized ones for most boxes, and thus would have roughly double the material in the mould.


Pretty sure most of the "A5" sprues are actually larger A4 sprues that can be split in half easily, thereby using similar sized frames to most of the other models.

deathspank
03-07-2013, 15:05
I don't see anyone saying it didn't save them money, Hellebore.

What I do see is a lot of people simply thinking cost of product - cost of materials = profit, and that is ignoring all the other things that need to be paid for.

As for the stores, the last I knew they do indeed make a loss - or more precisely, things sold through a store make less profit than the same things sold to an independent or directly. Officially, this was to ensure all customers had somewhere to game.


Whats worrying is that people see stores as some form of money pit that GW is desperately hanging onto rather than the actual gateway for a considerable number of new gamers, plus ever wondered why there is such a huge difference in GWs sales numbers compared to say second and third place of wargames manufactures ? GW high street stores give potential gamers a genuine professional experience and a feeling of stability that other manufactures and kick starters simply dont have, there is a lot to be said about knowing that if you have a problem or need advice there is a local store that can help you as opposed to taking a risk on some online discount store thats popped up and offering a discount to gain your confidence, granted if you enter a GW you are likely to be talking to people dressed as Dick Turpin.

The cost of the moulds and such isnt really a factor we should be concerned about, GWs overheads for the entire company rely on them making a crap ton of plastic crack for as little cost to them as possible, we simply have to accept that GW is a huge bloated operation with a massive catalogue of products and people screaming for more new stuff and revamped old stuff and even retro stuff in some cases to satisfy our addiction and that operation needs its stores to encourage in new blood to replace the sad old negative gamers who have become disillusioned with GW and have moved on to other "cheaper better written" games/manufactures who also owe there very existence to GW and its store is king policy anyway.

Omniassiah
04-07-2013, 04:08
Whats worrying is that people see stores as some form of money pit that GW is desperately hanging onto rather than the actual gateway for a considerable number of new gamers, plus ever wondered why there is such a huge difference in GWs sales numbers compared to say second and third place of wargames manufactures ? GW high street stores give potential gamers a genuine professional experience and a feeling of stability that other manufactures and kick starters simply dont have, there is a lot to be said about knowing that if you have a problem or need advice there is a local store that can help you as opposed to taking a risk on some online discount store thats popped up and offering a discount to gain your confidence, granted if you enter a GW you are likely to be talking to people dressed as Dick Turpin.


Again this only true about GW stores in the UK. Last I checked (its been a while) the UK had close or over 50% of the GW stores. Most elsewhere you won't remotely see the kind of presence that the UK has. For example I live effectively in the state capitol of Pennsylvania with a million plus population including the suburbs. Nearest official GW store is about 2 hours away. So for me any amount of money used from my purchases used to support those stores was money down a pit. Not only was I getting no benefit from a store myself they weren't helping with bringing in anyone else. But this is way off topic, my suggestion is look up some of the other store threads with some great breakdowns from Reinholt and others on the money side of it.

Brother Asmodeus
04-07-2013, 06:46
G-Dubya 'vertically integrated' the company that did its plastic mold injection back in the late nineties. They brought the plastic injection set up to Lenton HQ in the early/mid noughties. This gave them more control and the ability to diversify, and vastly improve the quality of, their plastic range where they could make so much more cash than in metal too with less care needed to upkeep old rubber molds, employ a large casting team etc.

The ability to understand the technology more meant the full implementation of multiple kits from one main chassis (neatly fitting into the STC fluff too!).

Ultimately a sound business and hobby decision.

lanrak
07-07-2013, 10:22
I dont think ANYONE doubts the logic and benifits of GW plc investing in plastic manufacture in house.

AND if they held to their original motive for doing so '...to reduce entry cost in to the GW hobby..' then they would have a GROWING customer base and static- falling prices

However, taking a manufacturing process developed for high volume production .(Higher volume to allow lower profit margins.)
And cost it the same as low volume production methods.(Low volume high profit margins.)
Is very counter productive. Even more so in the age of the internet where other companies products can be used as comparisons.

According to my friend who works at GW Notingham manufacturing center.The actual cost of producing a plastic sprue is about 1.
This is JUST the over all production cost of manufacture and development.(EG recovering the cost of the mould- plant depreciation - wages -rent ect.)

This does not include the cost of packing the sprue into boxes , transporting it to a retail outlet or the costs of the retail outlet.

IF GW plc did not spend over 60% of their pre tax profit on GW B&M stores .They could cut retail prices by 50% and still make more profit.(Without factoring in the potential increase in sales volumes.)

So for every 100 you spend on GW product ,
About 52 is to keep the GW B&M stores open.
About 10 is to get the product to the right shop on time.
About 24 is the cost of producing the items and ALL associated over heads.
About 13 is the profit GW make and pay dividends out of.

THIS IS NOT A PRICE COMMENT , but using figures to prove how GW plc are mis using plastic production.
What should be high volume , low cost .Is sold as low volume high cost .
And requires insular marketing to make it succeed .And that why its been failing for the last 8 years.

IJW
07-07-2013, 10:42
Stupid question time - how would they see an increase in sales volume if one of the single biggest sales channels closed?

Omniassiah
07-07-2013, 14:08
Stupid question time - how would they see an increase in sales volume if one of the single biggest sales channels closed?
Well it is only the biggest sales channel in the UK, not the rest of the world. Even in the UK, if I remember correctly it was not a majority of sales as the webstore and independents still had very large chunks (close to 30% each). For the UK, GW would have to work at reversing their monopoly attempt and get more independents back again. The simplest way is to slowly cut out the stores leaving gaps in coverage that independents could start up in. In the US most of us wouldn't even notice them closing.

IJW
07-07-2013, 17:31
I was very careful to say 'one of', not 'the'. ;)

Omniassiah
07-07-2013, 17:44
well when there is only 3 methods of sale for GW "one of" doesn't work well. :D

Cergorach
14-07-2013, 11:07
IF GW plc did not spend over 60% of their pre tax profit on GW B&M stores .They could cut retail prices by 50% and still make more profit.(Without factoring in the potential increase in sales volumes.)

The problem with this analyses is that folks over simplify the matter. You need to see the stores as a separate business from the rest of the GW activity.

When GW sells to a independent store it only receives 50%-60% of the MSRP, the rest is profit for the independent store. The same standard should be applied to the GW stores, that 40%-50% that the store pulls in should is used to pay the rent, power & water, insurance, store salaries, etc. Running a (game) store isn't cheap (especially here in Europe), so most if not all that 40%-50% is probably spent on those things. Chances are that with certain locations more is going to be spend.

The question is that if there were no GW stores, would GW sell as much product as it does now, I have a very strong suspicion it would not. Again the question is, how much less would it sell. To date GW has had the opinion that the extra costs and risks associated with the stores have been worth it. I think that having the extra control in the store (how stuff is presented and sold) is worth the extra overhead for a company like GW. Apple had the same idea, but as Apple products get more mainstream, more stores will get closed. The same will happen with GW. And of course, they'll close the most unprofitable stores first and might reorganize the stores that have potential (enter one man stores left).

Smaller companies like Perry Miniatures or Dreamforge only see around 40% of each mini they sell through physical stores, maybe even less because they don't handle the distribution themselves. And they have other problems, Perry is using a UK company that has a huge backlog, I suspect that we would see more Perry plastics if that wasn't the case. Dreamforge is using a Chinese company, and while that isn't exactly perfect either, it's not the China connection that is giving the issues, it's one guy doing all the sculpts that's the problem. Now compare where you can get Perry/Dreamforge plastics with were you can GW plastics, that's a few very very specialized stores vs. bloody toy stores.

And let's not forget, Games Workshop was actually a game store company and not a miniatures company, that was Citadel, which they bought...

Plastic is only cheaper then the rest when you can sell enough of the stuff...

IJW
14-07-2013, 11:42
And let's not forget, Games Workshop was actually a game store company and not a miniatures company, that was Citadel, which they bought...

Minor quibble - GW helped financially with Citadel's set up and Ansell took over directorship of GW from Jackson and Livingstone when the companies joined - in practical terms you could say that Citadel took over GW. ;)

Omniassiah
14-07-2013, 18:17
snip for brevity

Most of that is again, UK Centric and to a lesser extent European Centric. For example the closest GW store to me requires roughly the equivalent drive across your country, by rough estimate, its probably a little less in reality. Now if what you are saying is about the lack of true GW stores was true, then the Central PA area should be a barren wasteland for GW gaming. We'd have minimum recruitment and the existing vets would eventually fizzle out; but, that is not the case. The LGS are able to promote just fine, recruit just fine, provide space just fine. In fact my LGS is solidly better then every non-battle bunker GW store I have been in on pretty much all accounts. They are able to provide this because unlike GW stores that are purely reliant on the sales of GW products my LGS can turn over dozens of different product lines to cover costs and make money. That diversity allows them to also tap into a larger customer market and with that help get cross over sales into other product lines. Right now GW stores try to recruit through cold pitches, people who have to be sold on gaming in general as well as doing miniature games. This is not easy and very expensive as it requires you to be placed in areas that have a very high rent namely "High Street" or malls.

One thing to note, as I used to work at ACD distribution an American game distributor, is that it is often more profitable to let someone else handle your distribution for you then to handle it yourself. They'll get better volume discounts from shippers, they soak the costs of personnel and storage, and they have the advantage of normally being more efficient then you as its their job. Companies like Wal-mart have their own distribution networks because when it comes down to it their sales alone would take up the entire work load of a distributor by themselves. GW is far from at that scale and as such would more and likely benefit especially in the US with being able to use the much cheaper freight rates and just ship to the distributor's warehouse and let them handle sending out to individual stores.