Help support TMP

"Will plastic miniatures eventually replace metal?" Topic

41 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the TMP Poll Suggestions Message Board

1,450 hits since 2 Jan 2013
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Don1962 Inactive Member02 Jan 2013 5:44 p.m. PST

Will plastic miniatures eventually replace metal?

a. Yes, it will happen one day soon.
b. It is possible.
c. Maybe a slight chance.
c. Never, metal miniatures will endure.

14Bore02 Jan 2013 5:52 p.m. PST

C, Not on my watch

Tuudawgs Inactive Member02 Jan 2013 6:03 p.m. PST

C, As I play 15mm the answer is probably NO, or at least until the price of metal makes it economically necessary.

tigrifsgt02 Jan 2013 6:17 p.m. PST

B: plastic 28's for me from now on. With the quality of GB, Conquest and Fireforge, if Dark Ages or Crusades is what you want they can't be beat. I didn't forget Perry, just they are out of my time period. And I am trying to forget the four boxes of WF I wasted my money on. TIG

Personal logo Miniatureships Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Jan 2013 6:48 p.m. PST

I find it hard to believe that plastics will eventually eliminate all metal figures in the area of miniature wargaming.

The wants of wargamers will make that impossible. Wargamers want a variety of units and figures, from the common to unique. The later is too much of an economic loss to be achieved with plastic figures.

And, before you say that the unique can be had by conversion, you need to remember that the majority of gamers are gamers, not model builders.

Plastics will have their place. Soft plastics didn't stop the production of metals or that growing business.

Personal logo Florida Tory Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2013 6:57 p.m. PST

For wargaming? For those of us who started back in the day with Airfix, it was metal that replaced plastic. We are not going to go back.


Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2013 7:06 p.m. PST

Barring any major developments in 3D printing or plastic moulding, plastic will provide the bulk of the rank and file. All specials will remain metals (or resin) for the foreseeable future.

Feet up now Inactive Member02 Jan 2013 7:32 p.m. PST

a. Yes, it will happen one day soon.

I have finished painting the librarian from the dark vengeance set and put some miliput in the base.
My missus can not tell the difference anymore.
The new high level of detail and depth that only metals could acheive in the past has changed. it will happen.
Perhaps metal will fade away while resin and plastics multiply?

corporalpat Inactive Member02 Jan 2013 7:34 p.m. PST

I tried to like 28mm plastic. I really did! I plan to end my approximately 5 year fling with 28mm plastics. I just did not work out. Long term I have grown dissatisfied with the quality and durability of them. I will keep the few LotR plastics I have, but with GW's current corporate agenda, I will not be buying any of their new ones. Don't get me wrong, I love my 1/72 stuff. Been collecting that since I was a kid and will continue to do so. I'm hoping this trend toward more plastic manufacturing turns out to be just a fad.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2013 8:02 p.m. PST

Get back to me when you get plastic 28mm Burmese armies, or specialized metals that you just "meed" 12 of.
Plastics manufacturers make their profits on selling mutiple boxes of the same thing to the same guy.

Will you ever see 28mm Hessian AWI jaegers? One very rarely needs more than 12 of them. Where is the profit in that?

How about 28mm British Light Infantry? Will anyone ever need more than 24?
Light Dragoons?

Sure, the AWI gamer might buy a lot of line infantry. Maybe.

but specialized troops will have to be generic, and then you miss out on the rich variety a gamer "needs".

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Jan 2013 8:20 p.m. PST

"How about 28mm British Light Infantry? Will anyone ever need more than 24?"

I just painted 84 of them in 28mm for an order.

Meiczyslaw Inactive Member02 Jan 2013 8:23 p.m. PST

A. 3D printers will be cheap enough that you'll pay for the .stl file, and print your own.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2013 8:56 p.m. PST

Right. Sure. Uh-huh.

Mako11 Inactive Member02 Jan 2013 10:42 p.m. PST


BrotherSevej03 Jan 2013 2:32 a.m. PST

I think they have their own roles, and I don't see this would change in the foreseeable future.

MajorB03 Jan 2013 2:43 a.m. PST


ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2013 2:47 a.m. PST

B. I for one rarely buy metal figures. Plastics all the way . The offerings are getting better & better, yes even WF which I like.

Martin Rapier03 Jan 2013 4:20 a.m. PST

Plastic is unlikely to completely replace metals due to the differences in tooling costs. Much easier to run a figure making company in your back room with metals. Plastics will undoubtedly gain a bigger market share in the immediate future though.

Long term, maybe they will all be replaced by 3D printing? Who knows.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2013 4:43 a.m. PST

A few questions regarding 3D printing :

1) How many manufacturers will jump on that bandwagon and offer their ranges in 3D ?
2) How many miniature CAD files will be original and how many "fell off the internet guvner !"
3) Now that Photoshop turned everybody into Michelangelo, CAD turned everybody into Gustave Eiffel and Campaign Cartographer turned everybody into Mercator, what piece of software will transform everybody into a Perry brother ?
4) What will be the price of a quality 3D printer that will allow us to produce miniatures that can stand next to existing plastic and metal models, at what cost, at what quality level and how many miniatures per hour ?
5) Would producing CAD files for home 3D printers be a sustainable model for companies ? Or is the use at company/manufacturing level more likely ?

3D printers will be useful for a lot of things and will have a huge impact on the hobby, but they will not be a magical box that will crank out 1807 Bognovian camel hussars in scuba gear by wishing real hard and pressing a button.

Dynaman878903 Jan 2013 4:57 a.m. PST

> but they will not be a magical box that will crank out 1807 Bognovian camel hussars in scuba gear by wishing real hard and pressing a button.

I'd bet that they will, within 10 years. What is needed is software that allows a normal fool (me for instance) to take a camel, a posable figure and cloth it, then add the scuba gear, and print it out. Not only would there be one there could be many if a head designer and multiple poses for the arms are available.

Mick in Switzerland03 Jan 2013 5:14 a.m. PST

Plastics have already replaced metal in several areas of 28mm historical gaming. You can do several armies in Ancient Grek, Roman, Dark Ages, Crusades, Medieval, ECW, SYW, Napoleonic, ACW and WW2.

I just built a medieval Burgundian army that is 90% plastic. Only the cannon & crews are metal. The Swiss that they face are circa 60% plastic but would also be 90% plastic If I had started from scratch in 2010.

Metals will continue for rare troops and some character figures but the bulk of the forces will be plastics. I do not know how this will impact on metal manufacturers possibly not at all if the hobby expands.


Disco Joe Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 7:47 a.m. PST

No plastics will not.

Longshot Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 8:02 a.m. PST


I tend to prefer the heft of metal minis. I'm sure plastic will continue to elbow it's way in and find a permanent home in the hobby. As others have pointed out though, I think the prohibitive up-front cost of the technology will keep metal as a "going concern".

The lack of "product line agility" and temptation to overcharge for plastics in attempt to pay off the fixed investment as quickly as possible (ala GW in my opinion) will make it difficult to serve the larger gaming audience, which can prove rather fickle.

I also believe 3D printing will eventually have to be given its spot. I can envision a time where the money made is on the design end, where the file costs a fair amount of money since it comes with unlimited personal use license. I can also see a DRM-like technology coming along that provides a limited license for the printing such that I buy the file from the designer but the file has some kind of counter that permits only 20 minis to be printed. Technology like this already exists for things like traininge materials in the corporate world. The bottom line is if people can't earn a living off it, it probably won't fair well.

If gamers have found their way to permitting unpainted minis on a table, I have to imagine putting plastic in the mix won't be the end of it all.

Personal logo The Tin Dictator Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2013 8:05 a.m. PST

D. No

Pastics have been around long enough to have "taken over" already if they were ever going to.

Soldat03 Jan 2013 8:11 a.m. PST

C. I buy metal exclusively.

richarDISNEY Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 8:56 a.m. PST

At some point.
But now soon.

There will be a time where both are accepted and in the same army. I see that day coming soon.

richarDISNEY Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 8:56 a.m. PST

And when you say 'plastic', I am assuming you mean both injected plastics and resins…

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2013 10:17 a.m. PST

I think they will, but not for another 5-6 years. For me personally, Ill take plastic/ resin any day over metal if possible.

haywire Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2013 10:53 a.m. PST

It all depends on prices

Plastic is winning right now because the price of metal has gone up a lot the last couple of years where oil has been kinda stable. When the price of oil goes up, plastic will lose and metal will return.

At some point some other material will be made available and it will be the new "IT" thing.

Personal logo flooglestreet Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 10:58 a.m. PST

I don't think plastics will completely replace metal if things continue as they presently stand. Most casters are small potatoes outfits that can't afford to get into plastics and the hobby will definitely suffer if they become extinct so I don't think consumers will let that happen. As someone mentioned earlier, many of us have gone from plastic airfix men to metals. I have gotten some p[lastics recently, but I am not rushing off to paint them yet.

I do like resin scenery very much, however and don't see myself buying much metal terrain or scenics.

combatpainter Fezian Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 11:05 a.m. PST

Last c

Personal logo brass1 Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2013 11:48 a.m. PST

I'm with the "plastic rank-and-file and metal specials" mob. Add to that, the smaller scales (15mm and smaller) have been largely ignored by plastic miniature manufacturers, which means my money will still go to metals, regardless of how many 28mm plastic Imperial Guard Grenadiers are on the market.


Rudi the german Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 12:11 p.m. PST

I collect TIN soldiers….

Timmo uk03 Jan 2013 12:13 p.m. PST

@ Mark in Switzerland
"Plastics have already replaced metal in several areas of 28mm historical gaming. You can do several armies in Ancient Grek, Roman, Dark Ages, Crusades, Medieval, ECW, SYW, Napoleonic, ACW and WW2."

They haven't replaced metal at all, you can still buy metals, all that has happened is there is now a choice between the two materials.

I think the next big leap will be when the companies producing hard plastic figures sell them ready coloured. The technology to do this has been around for years and years. I think we'll see plastics ready painted but still on the sprue ready to be removed and assembled. Then the hobby will have another thread: one of customising stock ready coloured plastics.

Tin hat03 Jan 2013 1:15 p.m. PST

I'm one of those strange gamers that doesn't judge a figure by 'how heavy it is' I think thats just absurd. I judge a figure by the quality of the proportions the accuracy the look en mass and finally price.

I do hope to see growing ranges of plastics over the next few years as this means I can dabble in ranges that I wouldn't consider otherwise. In fact I have already replaced my foundry ACW with Perry plastics.

My main armies however are 15mm and as yet I am not aware of any manufacturers entering the market. I would imagine though as the price of the metals continues to climb we will start to see some.

I think we are in for some exciting times ahead.

Wolfprophet Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 1:40 p.m. PST

I'm sure it will. But by then, 15mm scale figures will be a foot tall and I'll be long dead.

its only a flesh wound03 Jan 2013 2:34 p.m. PST

yes, but not anytime soon

Meiczyslaw Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 5:35 p.m. PST


We're almost to the point where niche mini producers will be able to print their models using a printer. The wife is a digital artist, and periodically looks at 3D printers as a way to expand her product offerings.

The last time she looked at it last year her answer was "almost". And she's a one-person shop!

Now, I might be jaded because I've gotten to trawl the professional conventions, but the software is already there anybody who's put the same amount of effort into Blender as the Perrys have put into mini-making can already produce comparable digital files.

So I conservatively expect there to be fully-digital minis shops selling figures by 2018, and a 3D printer on your desk in 2023.

Augustus03 Jan 2013 11:40 p.m. PST


Eventually, yes.

What follows is long, but I wanted to give some thought to the answer.

The question should perhaps be: Will Metal continue to have a future?

And the answer is: Yes, but likely in niche collections and small-run sets and/or specific purposes. For small run operations or for companies already largely in metal, then the equation may or may not make sense. It depends on the company's position. The overhead of metal is very considerable and seems to be getting worse the overhead on plastic is falling. Some companies may not have the market position or resources to jump in until the price falls further. But if they aren't even considering it…well, time tells I guess.

If I want to start up a miniatures line and it is for a topic like Napoleonics, then I know that plastic will be a major benefit because I can build the core troops that don't change enough that it makes investing in a plastic injection mold viable. In other words, I can make a set of troops and be confident it can be made to apply to multiple uses with minor changes. Metals are very difficult to convert if need be and just do not have the maneuverability of plastic.

However, metals will continue to exist in and around that plastic line as there is little business sense in making molds of regiments that are uber-specific or that are not able to translate to other uses (unless given multi-option sprues). In some rare cases it might be effective, but on the whole a generic multi-part plastic set is the easiest solution rather than making hundreds of different molds.

There are cases where metals will be superior to plastic injection. As alluded to above, some companies might not see plastic as cost-effective because they either lack the resources to make it happen, do not sell enough on new sets to make investing to plastic viable, and/or do not see, for whatever reason, any over-arcing benefit.

But those are very, very few as the technology gets better. There is no special barrier that metals inhabit that is not breachable via plastic injection. Very few metals out there can compete with a plastic detail set, assuming the plastic line does the homework.

The learning curve and investment is high in plastic. But once you learn and have the baseline investment made, well…the cost and effort is not as high as you might think.

Personal logo Miniatureships Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Jan 2013 12:19 a.m. PST

Forget the small niche units ever being made companies that don't do plastics, for the simple there is nothing to generate the capital to maintain the business.

A niche unit metal, made up of an Officer, Musician, Standard-bearer, and at least three good variants, including sculpting, molding, and casting, would still require a couple of 1000 figures sold at $2.00 USD a piece before even considering breaking even.

Remember, your dealing with a niche market to begin. The market starts with people who like to game with miniatures. Then it breaks down into the niche that likes to historical wargame with figures. Then the niche breaks down into scale, 6mm, 10mm, 15mm, 25mm, 40mm, and 54mm. Then that niche break down by periods, ACW, Napoleonics, WWII, etc. Then it breaks down again into large battles and skirmish games. Then it breaks down into which side you want to collect. Then it breaks down into how much of the various units to you want to build.

Thus a unique unit in the AWI, where you only need 24 to 48 figures, may only appeal to .02 percent of the people that game AWI in 28mm. Therefore, by the time you break even, you may have already reached the whole of those that would even want that unit. And, don't forget, if someone else made that unit, even years before, then consider your market just went down another niche.

Inner Sanctum Inactive Member04 Jan 2013 3:41 a.m. PST

A 28mm/"heroic" scale is rapidly becoming the toy end of wargaming while quality designs seem limited to 15mm (that are closer to the 25mm scale of my youth).

As such it is ideal for plastic, with a few metal officers and standard bearers, just like in the 60's & 70's.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.