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"The economics of the new figure release." Topic


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1,408 hits since 6 Nov 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 4:11 a.m. PST

A few of us have been asking on the Napoleonic Forum about the scale of investment needed to produce some new figures in metal.

TMP link

Fully appreciate may be commercially sensitive, but I guess the question is what sort of numbers are needed in sales for some enterprising manufacturer to break even with Swedish Guard Pontoniers in 28mm………?

Can imagine in plastics the investment is massively greater

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 4:42 a.m. PST

I have heard five-figure numbers tossed around for the tooling for a plastic kit, but of course the cost per figure once the tooling is paid for is likely lower than metal. That is why GW and on down will make plastic kits of popular figures but not of others, like specialty or command figures.

If you are REALLY curious, go hunt around Games Workshop forums for various discussions they have on this subject, because there are some very informed individuals over there as well.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 5:22 a.m. PST

Let's do some rough numbers.

28mm sculpt is going to run you in the neighborhood of $300. USD Assuming you need one grunt and 4 command, that's $1,500. USD But now let's also assume you can use dollies, so that the legs and torso are mostly the same for each figure. This cuts the extra sculpt costs in half. So let's say $900 USD for 5 sculpts (and that is cheap – top notch sculpts can go for a lot more).

You make a master mold for $50 USD and a production mold for another $50. USD All in you're at an even $1,000 USD (minimum) in costs.

Assume for arguments sake it costs $1 USD to cast one figure, and you can sell them for $2. USD (My casting costs are too out of date to be useful).

You need to sell 500 figures to break even.

Further, assume you will be selling units of 25 (easier to do the math than 24). You will need to find 20 customers who will each buy a complete unit to break even.

Also note those costs are heavily weighted toward the pack you'll sell the least of. 4 sculpts in a command pack for which you need one, one sculpt for a soldier pack for which you might need 5 packs.

If you look at how many of Eureka's 100 club never see the light of day you will realize how few people *really* go in for these obscure, hard to use units. Hence the popularity of kickstarter.

Meanwhile, this is all time, energy and investment you could have put in to a new figure that would actually sell regularly.

There's a reason *everyone* makes Romans.

This is also why the miniatures business is about loving it, not making money per se. There are a LOT better ways to invest your capital on a strictly ROI basis.

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 6:19 a.m. PST

I'm more than a bit spoiled. Most of miniatures I paint these days (Minden and Crann Tara) were sculpted by the incredibly talented Richard Ansell and very cleanly cast by Griffin Molds. If I could find a sculptor like Richard (who is on an extended hiatus) and have my figures cast by Griffin, I would happily invest in a set of unique miniatures, especially for my ImagiNation.

Dagwood06 Nov 2017 8:21 a.m. PST

Extra Crispy, your figures are 2x out. Using your hypothetical costs, you need to sell 1000 figures to break even, $1,000 USD for sculpting and moulding, plus $1,000 USD for casting, sell for $2,000. USD Therefore 40 customers at 25 each.

keithbarker06 Nov 2017 8:37 a.m. PST

@Dagwood I think you are right. He must sell 1000 figures to break even.

But if you do something like a pack of 5 artillery crew, civilians or (as the orignal poster said) Swedish Guard Pontoniers which have individual poses then you need to sell more just to break even: 400 packs, 2000 figures.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 9:05 a.m. PST

Even if the figures are out twofold, the great thing it does give us some insight into the economic challenges that the manufacturers face.

This is just the set up cost. Raw materials and production costs continue so long as one is casting new figures….and I suspect moulds decay with time?

These responses have all been superb.

Now there must be rivers in Sweden, certainly there are enough lakes. They cannot all have had bridges across them, so Swedish Artillery must have had pontoon builders (even if not Guard). I see a huge demand for these in 28mm……….a fortune to be made.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 10:42 a.m. PST

Ugh. Not enough coffee.

Yes, 1000 figures to break even, so 40 customers who buy a unit.

And it only gets worse from there.

Let's say you want more than a single pose for your troops. Even at the half price, you;re adding $150 USD per pose. And what if the unit has 3 uniforms (lights, center, grenadiers)? Now you;re up to 10 sculpts, only some of which can use the dolly approach.

EVEN if you can get $4 USD/figure (since you'll only eve buy one unit) you still need a lot of sales to break even. never mind make money.

Lambert Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 11:26 a.m. PST

Extra Crispy, many thanks for the detailed answer. That gives real insight to punters like me who don't have a clue about the production side.

evilgong06 Nov 2017 1:05 p.m. PST

And to Mr Crispy's sums, a commercial outfit will have to add a small component for the business' rent, power, insurance, admin, labour, marketing etc etc etc.

David F Brown

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 1:08 p.m. PST

I agree that Extra 's front end costs are too low. Having dollies does not cut your sculpting costs in half. Production and master Moulds cost more,than $50. USD Now a good portion of the master mould cost will be spread over 10-16 figures that are put in the master mould so there is some savings there.

Timmo uk06 Nov 2017 1:57 p.m. PST

@ Deadhead,

I've been told production moulds last for about 500 spins.

Personal logo BrigadeGames Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 2:05 p.m. PST

"You make a master mold for $50 USD USD and a production mold for another $50. USD USD"

Not even close anymore. That number is from over a decade ago.

And master molds are always more costly than production molds due to the time and skill it takes to make them.

Personal logo BrigadeGames Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 2:10 p.m. PST

"I've been told production moulds last for about 500 spins."

Yes, but the mileage can vary. It really depends on the poses/undercuts and how much stress it puts on a mold. It is also a function of the person doing the casting and how they treat the molds.

I have had some poses destroy the cavities quite quickly.

There are a variety of molding materials which are chosen depending on the undercuts, etc. Generally these can help with these difficult poses but then are more expensive not only for the mold itself but to actually make as they may take more time to cure.

altfritz06 Nov 2017 2:39 p.m. PST

Designing the moulds is an art in itself. Some would say one figure (pose) equals one production mould. So, four Pontooniers plus an officer would be five moulds. Others might say "Do a family mould" with three complete sets of five on it. But then what do you do if you need officers but not the rank-and-file?

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 4:12 p.m. PST

Just one question – and honestly not a facetious one – why does a sculpt cost $300 USD?

Just wondering how the likes of minifigs ever afforded a catalogue of several thousand figures – at todays money that would have been about a half a million of investment.

Is it cheaper if the sculpter and the caster is the same person?

Personal logo EccentricTodd Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 5:22 p.m. PST

So, help me understand the economics from a players perspective of pushing them around the table. How many would you field in a game. For infantry do you need different poses (meaning marching, charging, aiming). I don't have a finger in the pulse of 28mm Napoleonic (well any scale really).

I've kicked around making Napoleonic figures before, I didn't know if the market was saturated, or the best place to be in historic miniatures.

From my perspective,I like uniformed troops, as like in lead miniatures you can have dollies, and for me, being digital (ZBrush) I can just make some minor adjustments, and have another figure.

So, throw some figures at me here, so I can get an idea of what players need to field, as to get an idea of sets to build.

Bandolier Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 5:34 p.m. PST

Just one question – and honestly not a facetious one – why does a sculpt cost $300.00 USD USD?

$300 USD is an average amount for a 28mm historical figure for the present day standards. A fast sculptor would take at least 3-4 days per sculpt with curing time for the various stages. They would usually work in batches so they could invoice for $1,500 USD-$2000 at a time. That way they can pay their own bills with some confidence.

Is it cheaper if the sculpter and the caster is the same person?
Often its the only viable way if you intend to make a living as a solo operator. We all see how many nice small companies with good products get bought out or disappear after a few years.

d88mm1940 Supporting Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 11:21 p.m. PST

This must be a Western view of our hobby. The East Europeans seem to have good and cheap mold makers. And prolific. And they like to do obscure items. like a Moscow city bus. Maybe our hope is in them. If they could mass produce want we 'really' want. Wow.
Here is a recent new release, according to an email from Free Time Hobbies:

1/72 PST Models US6 Wheels
Price: $9.95 USD
1/72 PST Models KV / IS Track
Price: $9.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ZiS Fire Engine
Price: $15.95 USD
1/72 PST Models Soviet AA Gun 72-K
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1/72 PST Models Soviet SPG GAZ-MM/72-K
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1/72 PST Models GAZ-03-30 Omnibus (1945)
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1/72 PST Models GAZ-03-30 Omnibus (1933)
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1/72 PST Models GAZ-55 Ambulance (1942)
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1/72 PST Models GAZ-55 Ambulance (1938)
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1/72 PST Models GAZ-MMM (1943) Truck
Price: $15.95 USD
1/72 PST Models GAZ-MM (1941) Truck
Price: $15.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ZiS-44 Ambulance
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1/72 PST Models ISU-130 Soviet SPG
Price: $15.95 USD
1/72 PST Models Special Vehicle ZiS-12
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1/72 PST Models ?-44 Soviet Medium Tank
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1/72 PST Models 61-K SPG
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1/72 PST Models ?-54-2 Soviet Medium Tank
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1/72 PST Models ?-44? Soviet Medium Tank
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1/72 PST Models Ford G8TA with Semitrailer
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1/72 PST Models GMC CCW 353 Tractor with Semitrailer
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1/72 PST Models ZiS-10 Soviet Truck
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1/72 PST Models S300 PMU Multi-Functional Radar Vehicle for SA10 Grumble Air Defense Missile System
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1/72 PST Models ?V-220 Soviet Heavy Tank
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1/72 PST Models Spare Parts M-14A/Ford 6
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1/72 PST Models Small Arms Repair M-7/GMC
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1/72 PST Models Mashine Shop M-16/US6
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1/72 PST Models S-300PMU 5P85D Soviet AA Rocket Launcher
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1/72 PST Models B?R-50 Soviet APC
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1/72 PST Models P?-76B Soviet Light Tank
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1/72 PST Models PMZ-2(ZiS-5) Fire Tanker
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1/72 PST Models Ford 6 m.1943 Cargo
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1/72 PST Models S-300PMU 5P85S Soviet AA Rocket Launcher
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1/72 PST Models PMZ-2(US6) Fire Tanker
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1/72 PST Models PMZ-2(ZiS-42) Fire Tanker
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1/72 PST Models PMZ-2(ZiS-6) Fire Tanker
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1/72 PST Models ?-55 Soviet Medium Tank
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1/72 PST Models ?-54/54? Soviet Medium Tank
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1/72 PST Models GMC CCW/CCKW 353
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1/72 PST Models BZ-35S Soviet Fuel Truck
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1/72 PST Models B?-13(GMC) Soviet Rocket Launcher
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1/72 PST Models B?-13N(US6) Soviet Rocket Launcher
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1/72 PST Models ?-30 Soviet Heavy Gun with Crew
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models IS-2?? Tracktor
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1/72 PST Models ?V-? Tracktor
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1/72 PST Models Pz.Kpfw.754 ( r )
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1/72 PST Models ??-1? (m.1942) Soviet Heavy Tank
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1/72 PST Models ?V-9 Soviet Heavy Tank
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1/72 PST Models 61-? Soviet AA Gun & ZiS-42 Truck
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1/72 PST Models ZiS-42 Soviet Truck
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1/72 PST Models D-1 Soviet Heavy Gun & ZiS-42 Truck
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ?-30 Soviet Heavy Gun & ZiS-6 Truck
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ZiS-5V Soviet Truck
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models 61-? Soviet AA Gun & ZiS-5 Truck
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models Pz.Kpfw.753( r )?w? L/43
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ?V-8S Soviet Heavy FlamethroverTank
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1/72 PST Models ?V-1S Soviet Heavy Tank
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models PARM-2 Soviet Repair Shop
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models Studebecker US6
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models BZ-35 Soviet Fuel Truck
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ZiS-6 Soviet Truck
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ?-13(ZiS-6) Katyusha Soviet Rocket Launcher
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ?V-2 Soviet Heavy Tank
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ?V-1e Soviet Heavy Tank
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1/72 PST Models ?V-8 Soviet Heavy Flamethrover Tank
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1/72 PST Models ?V-1b Soviet Heavy Tank
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1/72 PST Models KV-1? Soviet Heavy Tank
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1/72 PST Models KV-1 Soviet Heavy Tank
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1/72 PST Models ZiS-5BZ Fuel Truck
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1/72 PST Models KV-122 Soviet Heavy Tank
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models KV-85 Soviet Heavy Tank
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ISU-152-1 Soviet SPG
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ISU-122S Soviet SPG
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ISU-122 Soviet SPG
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models ISU-152 Soviet SPG
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models IS-2M Soviet Heavy Tank
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1/72 PST Models IS-2 Soviet Heavy Tank
Price: $11.95 USD
1/72 PST Models IS-1 Soviet Heavy Tank

LeonAdler Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2017 11:28 p.m. PST

$300 USD for a 28mm sculpt? Take a bit more than that for me lol
L

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 2:06 a.m. PST

I think this has proved fascinating and I had no idea we would get such a response from the professionals.

A whole new insight into costs and economics. Quite frightening actually!

Personal logo EccentricTodd Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 5:28 a.m. PST

If those are the soft plastic, there is and easier way to make a mold. If involves using a mold base (out of metal) and casting the mold out of zinc over the parts. Zinc molds will work for soft plastic, but not for hard plastic.

I would wonder if all of those are all brand new, or if they are re-releases from an earlier time.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 7:37 a.m. PST

One note on 1/72 – in that case you are primarily serving the scale modelling hobby which is a HUGE order of magnitude larger than the miniatures wargaming hobby. And you've listed items from WW2 that are very main stream and popular. Simply *not* apples to apples. And I note: not a single infantry figure to be seen. Also, 1/72 molds get passed around and re-released over and over.

4th Cuirassier07 Nov 2017 10:00 a.m. PST

So if one wanted a unit of, say, 28mm Swedish cuirassiers in mullet-crested helmet and eagle-applique cuirass, and if we presume the production run is the 16 to 20 of these I will ever need, what's that going to cost me?

Lambert Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 11:25 a.m. PST

This is completely fascinating, and hope there are more replies. There is clearly a significant upfront cost in making a 28mm figure, which the producer needs to recoup and then hope to make a profit. I have no idea how big the markets are for scale modelling or miniature wargames, but would love to be enlightened.

Three Armies Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 6:30 p.m. PST

I charge £50.00 GBP GBP average per figure for sculpture, Done in singles it's a lot more. I'm fast and been doing it for a Long long time( And I work at minimum wage) and it dont matter if it's 10mm 15mm or 90mm. It takes the same time for all. Raw materials for moulds for metal casting will set you back £15.00 GBP GBP not including the 3 hours mould makers time. Commercially you could get a mould made for £60.00 GBP-90 GBP for a 9inch mould ( per 12 figures) but you cant just mould one of each figure, you will need to do production moulds for those. So for a 6 figure pack I have two moulds to build minimum. In short you will need £420.00 GBP GBP MINIMUM just to make a 6 figure pack. Bear in mind you would only get £3.00 GBP GBP per pack after metal and labour production costs, at best, so sales of 140 packets on an initial release at minimum. And that's not happening, so you're pretty much rely upon the whim of the designer like me or the Perrys or some mug who will front up money because they have been in the game too long or because they are raving mad or fanatical or both. Making HISTORICAL wargames figures is not commercially viable, it's a life choice. Plastics are a completely different ball game and unless you are going to start with £10,000.00 GBP minimum dont even ask.

AuvergneWargamer08 Nov 2017 1:36 a.m. PST

Thanks to all for a very informative discussion.

Makes me want to get involved and commission a small set of figures!

Cheers,

Paul

Three Armies Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2017 4:53 a.m. PST

Auvergne, if you have upwards of £1,000.00 GBP + ready to flush down the toilet, please feel free to give me a shout. You can find my email on the web page easily enough and of course examples of my work. https://www.threearmies.co.uk

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2017 5:38 a.m. PST

These replies have been brilliant…..

huge insight into the challenges faced now…

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2017 8:30 a.m. PST

On the other hand, I can see how a Peter Jackson—with tens of millions in net worth—could easily afford the cost of creating a custom range for his own enjoyment. It is large money for most hobbyists, sure, but not in any way prohibitive if you are a member of the 0.1% in wealth.

Wow, I might have tried harder at sports or acting when a kid if I had considered this.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2017 9:17 a.m. PST

Here's the deal. If you buy a Lottery ticket and win millions this weekend, you must donate a small fraction to make decent 28mm figures of the Grenadiers a Cheval and Dragoons of the Imperial Guard…..in the full dress coat with lapels and exposed waistcoat, not the horrible surtout…….and they will come with standing horses, or, at the very most, parade march.

I suspect you would double your money

Lambert Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2017 12:52 p.m. PST

There must somewhere be a lottery winner or otherwise fabulously wealthy person into 28mm Napoleonics? Hope they're reading this.
If my lottery numbers come up, I'll definitely be giving Three Armies a call.

Three Armies Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2017 4:21 p.m. PST

yes there are and they are called Alan and Michael Perry and they already do this sort of thing. ;)

Panfilov09 Nov 2017 1:52 p.m. PST

Anyone for Sub-Roman Orcs?

Three Armies Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 1:36 a.m. PST

lol you will find that sub Roman orcs will probably out sell historical Napoleonics ten fold and more, and I'm not joking…..

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 1:40 a.m. PST

I knew the Romans had a surface navy…..but this is news to me. I simply cannot imagine a bunch of Orcs running the ancestor of a Type VII U Boat, though.

von Winterfeldt10 Nov 2017 6:21 a.m. PST

also fantasy players most likely would pay 10 times the price as such a miniature compared to a historical miniatures.

Poor sculptors for historical figures, should do fantasy instead.

Lord Hill10 Nov 2017 1:52 p.m. PST

Maybe I'll have to win the lottery to get those 1815 British ADCs made then!

Personal logo EccentricTodd Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 6:52 p.m. PST

Ok, it's late in the thread to ask, but … is there and image of what Swedish Guard Pontoniers look like? My googleing skills are getting lots of different pictures, and they all can't be them.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2017 6:41 a.m. PST

Er…I must now confess.

I was trying to think of the most unlikely uniforms imaginable, for sales prospects. I do imagine that the Swedes had Artillery and Engineers and would occasionally have had need of a bridge or two.

I would imagine the former charged with the construction, following French practice. But not sure there was a Swedish Guard. Pre 1815 I am out of my comfort zone, anything north of the Netherlands and I am lost.

Three Armies Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2017 8:39 a.m. PST

I dont doubt it's rare Deadhead, but out there there will be some idiot who thinks they should be made "because no one else does them"

Personal logo EccentricTodd Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Nov 2017 8:43 a.m. PST

Got it. Same as Left handed Han dynasty conscripts riding penguins.

You had my hopes up, I was starting to look to see what they were.

DaleWill Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2017 3:19 p.m. PST

About 15 years ago I realized I has a some skill at 6mm sculpting and I had the location I could use for casting. I did a business plan to develop and cast these miniatures. I quickly realized the cost and possible return was WAY out of my comfort zone. I have great respect for anyone that produces miniatures.

My vision for the future is in 15 – 20 years, people will use 3d CAD to develop a figure. Design once then scale the figure to anything from 3mm to 54mm. If someone wants 100 28mm figures, the designer will sell the CAD file locked to produce only 100 of the figure in 28mm. The production will be pushed down to the users with 3d printers. If user wants 50 more figures, the design sells the user a key to unlock another 50 figures.

The aerospace company I work for already uses the 3d design to make to great stuff. Shapesway is the start of 3d printing, we just need the quality/price point of 3d printers to be affordable to most users.

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