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"So whats the cost of producing in plastic?" Topic

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2,004 hits since 18 Apr 2011
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Ashokmarine18 Apr 2011 4:23 a.m. PST

It seems a lot of companies are making a lot more sets in plastic. I have heard the set cost is not cost effective but this does not seem to be the case. So whats the avergae set up cost?

Armchair Assassin dotcom18 Apr 2011 4:59 a.m. PST

30,000 upwards, or so I've heard. And that's per mould.

ancientsgamer18 Apr 2011 7:05 a.m. PST

Oh, please! It is no where near $30,000 unless you are talking about some other currency. The old rumor used to be about $10,000 but apparently this was debunked a few years ago. Having said all this, I don't know what the current costs are.

elsyrsyn18 Apr 2011 7:26 a.m. PST

The cost has apparently been brought WAY down by Chinese firms which will CNC cut an injection mold from your CAD files. I looked into this briefly for a terrain project 5 or so years ago, and if I recall correectly it was somewhere in the $10,000 USD range ancientsgamer mentions. It will vary with the specifics of the item to be molded, though.


aecurtis Fezian18 Apr 2011 7:51 a.m. PST

So how many strings of wn, then?


Mick in Switzerland18 Apr 2011 8:22 a.m. PST

I think if you ask Renedra who are doing mould making from 3 ups in the UK, they are talking about more than US$ 30,000 for one full size sprue (circa 20cm x 15 cm). I have heard from reliable sources that including sculpting and the command frame, a box set costs about US$ 50,000 at Renedra.

I notice that the new Perry Zoaves are actually a half sized frame so presumably almost half the cost.

I think that Chinese made Wargames Factory tools (which are 10cm x 15cm) probably cost about US$ 5000 a frame. But you have to have your own CAD files which can easily double that.

Most of the successful plastics on the market are made by Renedra (Perry, Warlord, Mantic, Conquest, Gripping Beast).
I do not know who makes Valiant, Victrix and Plastic Soldier company.


Farstar18 Apr 2011 11:17 a.m. PST

It also varies with the type of plastic, as that determines the nature of the mold. FASA was able to do the Renegade Legion Centurion tanks on sprue back in the day because they used a softer plastic with a lower melting point and cheaper mold set-up.

Personal logo EccentricTodd Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Apr 2011 10:07 p.m. PST

I think that mold is at the end of a long road. I think a lot of the price depends on how much you're going to do yourself and how much will be done by others. I think that the more you need others to do for you, the higher the price will be, and not just for the obvious reasons.

If you or someone you pay sculpts without limitation, prepare to sculpt some more. Why: undercuts, parting lines that just don't work, detail too small to be machined.

If you or someone you pay CAD/CAM without limitations, prepare to do some more.
Why: you could design something that can't be machined

If you don't own your own molds. I've seen some mold shops that chard to too much for simple molds, but they sure made up the loss in the price per sprue.

There are also the other costs… getting wrapped up in all of the above and not having any free time.

To bring this rambling back in, if you look at some of the drama in recent times with WF, it looks like WF has 18 sets and it sounded like they owed someone 250k. Doing the math, that's something almost 14k per set, I guess that is mold and sprues (having to do a lot of guessing based what I read).

So how many "sets" snd how quick, before. you can make a career out of it? I think, that might be the real cost. One mold has its expense, but if you need 10 before you think you can do it full time, does that mean 100k?

I think I oversimplified soe of the steps, but I didn't figure we needed to get into every different type of mold and plastic choice.

GeoffQRF19 Apr 2011 2:08 a.m. PST

So how many "sets" and how quick, before you can make a career out of it?

$10k per mould? Hmm. That's a serious chunk of investment.

I cut down our costs by making a lot of our masters myself, but in 15mm we are looking at a comparative external cost of approx 100-150 per vehicle master and 20-30 per 15mm infantry figure. Extrapolating that to a full plastic sprue of 24 figures (we can get 24 in a mould) we could get the whole lot into production, traditionally, for just under 1k. To put it another way, we can afford 10 traditional metal masters for the cost of one plastic master.

At £2.40 GBP per infantry pack (retail) we need to sell a lot of packs to recover the costs. We always reckon on needing to sell about 100 vehicles or 100 packs (24 figures makes 8 packs of 3 poses, so that is split across a range, not an individual pack) before we start to see a profit at those lower costs. It would take a long, long time to recoup 10k…

I have heard the set cost is not cost effective but this does not seem to be the case

The drop in costs recently has brought it down from commercially impossible to potentially plausible. What you are currently seeing is one or two manufacturers with a very strong established base (eg. your GWs and Perrys) to be able to afford it and one or two who have thrown some serious investment into a single mould. Time will tell whether they are successful enough in the longer term to afford a second mould.

Of course the flip side is that the higher costings involved mean that you are less likely to see the 'rarer' options in plastic – it's just not worth the costs – and without the sales of 'bread and butter' items like Shermans, T-34s, Pz IV-VIs to fund the production of them in cheaper cost methods, they are less likely to be produced there either…

Mick in Switzerland19 Apr 2011 2:38 a.m. PST


I agree with you. I am already surprised by the variety of plastics available. I think that last year, there were about 30 new sets. I cannot believe that they are all making money.

So far, we have had only one "casualty" in the industry with the change in ownership of Wargames Factory.


GeoffQRF19 Apr 2011 3:32 a.m. PST

I am already surprised by the variety of plastics available

I'm not particularly surprised at the number that have cropped up. The relatively sudden drop in the initial costings involved mean that it has gone from horrendously expensive to just expensive, making it look far more feasible. As I have said before, it will be interesting to see how many of those are still in production in 5 years. We've been going for 15.

I will admit that we are finding costs to be problematic at the moment, and trying to avoid a serious step in prices, but I can see it happening in the next 12-24 months, and I can see one or two better know names giving up the ghost in the next couple or so.

Mick in Switzerland19 Apr 2011 4:26 a.m. PST


I work as a Purchasing Manager in the sports industry. We are seeing some huge increases at the moment. The worst of these are on Chinese made products.


GeoffQRF19 Apr 2011 6:43 a.m. PST

I was talking about domestic costs. UK costs are already rising. Utilities, labour, materials. Our latest metal bill was significantly over the previous order (although less than what it would have cost us a couple of months ago).

Production in China has been significantly cheaper than the UK/EU for some time, to the extent that a packaging company I did design work for found it was cheaper to send designs there, have them printed and shipped back than it was to have them printed in the UK.

However as the market expands and normal commercial and economic factors come into effect those prices are bound to rise. The question will be at what point it no longer becomes economically viable to work via China again, and what happens to those markets that are intrinsically linked.

jameshammyhamilton19 Apr 2011 7:50 a.m. PST

My understanding is that with plastics you pay a lot for the mould but then the actual product is very cheap. With metal and/or resin then the moulds are cheaper but the unit cost is higher.

Somewhere there is a point at which the plastic option wins cost wise and once that point is reached the plastic manufacturer is looking pretty good. The problem is that if they don't enough sell models to get to the break even point they are in a fair bit of trouble.

Soft plastic moulds are supposed to be cheaper and the large number of sets of soft plastics would suggest that this is the case.

ancientsgamer19 Apr 2011 11:40 a.m. PST

Soft plastics also sell to more than just the wargaming community. They have a larger selling base.

Like Geoff said, more variety available in metals because one-offs are a LOT more economical to get started. Unfortunately, material costs keep rising too. Metal has gotten way out of hand. I suspect fuel prices have mostly to due with this rather than scarcity. I would imagine it is machinery intensive and therefore fuel intensive to extract heavy metals.

What is interesting or will be interesting is the continued use of computers to model the masters. The Perry's still use the tried and true method or 3:1 or "3 Ups" which uses a pantograph etcher to "shrink" the designs to 28mm scale. The whole computer generated modeling eliminates this step but I would argue that the Perry stuff still comes out better so far.

I think that the higher costs in molds mentioned also have to do with production capacity/speed. I would imagine that molds could be made cheaper if less pressure were used in the injection process.

GeoffQRF20 Apr 2011 3:44 a.m. PST

With metal and/or resin then the moulds are cheaper but the unit cost is higher.

One advantage of metal is that any 'stock' is really raaw material in a different form, so can be melted down and recast. you can't do that with resin or plastic and a resin or plastic miscast is generally lost.

The problem is that if they don't enough sell models to get to the break even point they are in a fair bit of trouble.

That's why it will be interesting to see how much of that market has survived in 5 years.

I would imagine it is machinery intensive and therefore fuel intensive to extract heavy metals

Production of 1 kg of ABS requires the equivalent of about 2 kg of petroleum for raw materials and energy. The current drop in plastic production costs are more associated with cheaper labour sources and new technology in short-life tooling. The components in 'white metal' are traded as a commodity.

Tin: link
Lead: link

The Hound30 Apr 2011 1:14 p.m. PST

going to the third world for very skilled work does not always make sense and is not always cheaper if you want top product. DeBeers tried to start diamond cutting plants in african countries but it failed miserably, it was still much cheaper to have it done in Antwerp. Rendera seems like an expertin this field so it would be best to go with them

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