Would there be interest in producing generic blank figures?
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Would there be interest in producing generic blank figures?

Posted in Custom Workstation

Would there be interest in producing generic blank figures? I've been looking into rapid prototyper machines over the last year for making a series of generic blank figures. We are looking at 4 inch, 6 inch, and 12 inch figures. It is possible to produce them at least as cheap as store figures. I was thinking that the older figures become, the more expensive it will be to search down figures that have already been produced to use as a basic figure to make a custom from. The list so far is:
1) basic human female, 2) basic human male, 3) basic male child, 4) basic female child, 5) basic teenage male, 6) basic teenage female, 7) superhero male, superhero female, 9) massive superhero male (Hulk size), 10) massive superhero female. Using the rapid prototyper any could be produced on demand when an order comes in. We are also discussing producing other body types like very thin, heavyweight, overweight, etc. Let me know your thoughts. The material used will be ABS plastic. We could also discuss producing just parts and sell the figures unassembled. This is just a discussion to find out everyone's thoughts on the idea and suggestions for figures that might be offered. I may take the idea and 3D computer files to the local Fab Lab (Fabrication Lab) and see how feasible it is to produce figures on demand as ordered. The startup cost would be more but the production and material would be less. No mould cost all 3D computer generated.

Thanks for your thoughts and input.
Clif

Posted by Clif52
on Sunday, December 4, 2011
User Comments
Clif52 -
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Thanks for all the input. After continued research I've decided to drop the idea. Too many variables that make the custom blanks to time intensive to make it profitable. I'm concentrating on my original idea for creating custom displays for displaying action figure collections. Kind of like giant playsets for collectors. I'll post photos of the prototype that we are working on later in a new post. It will be customizable in size and layout. You will also be able to add your own logos for S.H.I.E.L.D., Fantastic Four, Stark Industries, Wayne Tech, Wayne Foundation, Daily Planet, Daily Bugle, Avengers Mansion, GI JOE, Cobra, Justice League, etc. You get the parts you want and lay it out the way you want it.

Clif
boxghost -
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Your concept sounds interesting but I don't know how well it would work realistically. Most 3D printed things I've seen are not smooth at all and show many lines from where the layers of plastic came together. That would require sanding over all of the parts which would be very tedious and time consuming. For instance, in the link the guy above me posted, that head looks like crap. In the closer up pics you can see how it isn't smooth at all. Now, I don't know what type of 3D printer you have access to so depending on how the parts it makes are, I may have to eat my words.

Second area that I could see being a problem would be assembly. Marvel legends style articulation would require a ton of pins. Would those be included along with the pieces you'd offer? Also, joints such as the hips and shoulders may require that the torso pieces be put together after the shoulder and hip balls are assembled and put into place. Whenever assembling parts like this is needed, the put together figure sometimes has extremely loose joints that don't allow it to hold poses. I could see this being a problem with 3D printed parts.

And this other thing isn't really a problem but more of a comment. I sense that you are trying to focus on way to many different items. Since this would be a very complicated process to go through, I'd say to just pick one item and focus on that exclusively (for now at least). Then once you got the hang of it and you've worked out any problems, broaden your scope and offer different items. Look at what GoNativeToys is doing for instance. They're selling only the 4" scale male blank body now and are gauging interest for what other 4" scale bodies people would want next.

Sorry, didn't want to sound like I'm being a mood kill but I was looking into doing something similar once upon a time. Found out just how complicated it was and it made me run away as fast as I could! There was a lot of work (not to mention time) involved in the process and it didn't seem economically profitable at all. Instead of 3D printing as a means of production, getting molds made of a prototype sound like it's much more economically friendly and easier to work with in the grand scheme of things. I'm actually still working on a well articulated sculpt of a 6" scale female body in hopes that eventually I'll have the funds to pay someone to make molds and cast multiples. (I'm talking high quality molds. Like the metal master molds that actual toy companies use.) Like 3D printing, theres a huge upfront cost that is into the thousands. Best of luck to you!
Shinigami -
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Shinigami -
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
As long as the hair pieces would fit any head, glued on are ok. Short to medium lenght hair probably would look better sculpted on, so maybe every/some faces would be available bald and with hair?
From there we also have lots of mask types: full head, full with visible hair, visible mouth (Captain America), visible hair and mouth (Captain Marvel), visible hair and face (Gambit, Angel), domino (maybe even different designs - classic, tied like Golden Age Robin, Nightwing, Kyle Rayner, Ms. Marvel's and Black Cat's wider masks with visible eyes), full mask similiar to Deadpool's - with the "drop" on the back of the head.

And for articulation, TB style is great to hear, though I prefer the Mattel WWE Elite style hip joints. I think they're the best looking, though their range of movement is limited.

I like that idea. You could have ready sets or a step by step shopping - first choose the body(bodies), then head(s), hair, accessories etc.
Clif52 -
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I'm not sure on the flexability of the plastic yet. I'm waiting for the FabLab to get opened so I can experiment. I'll try for solid and hollow parts to see how assembly goes. We are thinking along the same lines of the different "blanks". Do you think we need built in "hair", or maybe snap on, or glue on? The flexable clothes I mentioned will probably be a mould and cast process unless I find a more flexible plastic for the 3D printer. What I have used so far is pretty solid and would probably still require the heat and pop method on parts. I think each "blank" will have different versions with plain like the Silver Surfer, street clothes, business suit, maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. jumpsuit, possibly a military uniform. The possibilities are endless. Once I can get the basics down on the 3D maybe morphs in between body types. Maybe mix and match heads would work. Pick your body type and then choose the head of your choice. I would like to get the old classic Marvel Legends articulation if possible, not sure yet. I'm thinking about using one basic color for all parts depending how painting goes. That way you don't have to change colors during production. The working parts are hot enough to melt plastic. I haven't seen a flesh colored plastic available at this time, but they do carry a tan and an off white. They have just developed a glow in the dark plastic (green). There are basic colors like red, white, black, green, yellow, medium blue, tan, dark brown, silver gray, orange, fluorescent red-green-yellow.

Clif
Shinigami -
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
As for the color, I guess multiple would be best. Black, white, skin tone, yellow and other that are hard to paint. Maybe more if it doesn't cost too much.
I think there should be at least three body types for each gender and child: standard superhero buck, lean (Spider-Man) and extra muscular. You should be able to resize them as you want, so either of them could be a Hulk or a Puck, right? For women I'd go with: supermodel (pretty much no muscle definition), fitness instructor (think Ms. Marvel, Wonder Woman, so muscular but not overly) and again extra buff (She-Hulk).
But that's not all, we could use figures in looser clothes, but still muscular, like Deadpool and Fantomex in the current X-Force series; fat, thin, without visible muscles, rock skin, metal skin, scales, with and without wrinkled fabric.

Self assembly is a must in my oppinion, we won't have to damage the figures opening them ourselves. Is the material flexible enough to assemble and disassemble them at will, with or without heating? More like a typical action figure forearm or more like a torso?
Clif52 -
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Hey guys I'm still looking for input on this. The town where I live is opening a FabLab (fabrication lab) later this year. I'll be able to go in and use their equipment and buy my own supplies. I'm still looking for more ideas and imput from customizers on what they would like to see available.

I'm working on an idea for making replacement joints using the 3D printer. I wonder if that would sell for customizers? You make a cut and drill a hole in each part of the limb, glue in the replacement joint, and paint. I'm also looking at making custom figures in a variety of body types and sizes.

I want to throw out some ideas and maybe do a limited run at the FabLab to see if its worth buying a 3D printer later this year. I've been looking at different body types for male, female, child, and teenager, maybe creature types too. What sizes and types of figures would you like to see available. What color plastic would be best since most of you would be sculpting and painting? Would flexable coats and jackets be of interest?

So far in my research I think figures sizes could be done for 4 inch, 6 inch, 12 inch, and I've got access to a 30" Superman figure that I think can be re-engineered for more articulation and produced as a generic figure. The 3D printer I'm looking at will produce 9 1/2 inches x 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches in hollow or solid plastic parts. Weapons, accessories, vehicles, and diorama parts could also be produced. Since its a 3D printer I would produce a single prototype of each as a test and for photography, then produce on demand when the item is ordered. I'm working on the 3D models now and checking into a 3D scanner. If all works out I may also be able to reproduce copies from your original sculpted figure. Once scanned the figure could be scaled to different sizes to be printed out. I wouldn't do any assembly or painting, just the generic figures, parts, or copies. I wouldn't be able to reproduce copyrighted mass produced figures, but maybe a generic form of them. I won't know prices until we are farther down the line in the research. But unassembled figures will be cheaper than trying to find some of the discontinued figures that we are using now, plus you don't have to take them apart to get started. Its kind of like an action figure model kit. I would love to be able to create a blank 30" figure that we could make a Galactus, Giantman, X-Men Sentinel, or something else from. I think once the bugs are worked out any of the smaller figures could be scaled up to 30" or maybe larger and just printed out. I'm open to all comments. Good idea or bad? This would eliminate some moulding and casting and probably come out cheaper in the long run.

Thanks for your input and comments.

Clif
Clif52 -
Monday, January 16, 2012
Just looking for suggestions and other peoples ideas right now. Trying to find out what people might want in generic blanks to use for customizing. I'm still researching the 3D software and the 3D printer. It might become a reality and it might not.

Clif
BumAssAfro1 -
Monday, January 16, 2012
Thanks so are you going to start like your own businees or figure line or just blank figures and are like teaming up with people
Clif52 -
Monday, January 16, 2012
The basics on this is that most custom figures are created using a base figure. Since you buy the base figures at the store or loose at the flea market or yard sale. At some point in the future that base figure might get to be rare and too expensive or too hard to find to use anymore as a base figure. Like you want to make a really fat figure or a really thin figure and you can't find a base figure to use to make your figure. The only figure you can find to use as a base figure to sculp on is the Clown/Violater from Spawn but it was made over 10 years ago and you can't find one for sale under $50.00 so you can't make the figure you want to make.

I'm looking into a 3D rapid prototyper machine that would print action figures out of plastic from a 3D computer file. Since the machine prints solid figures or hollow figures it would be possible to create action figures in pieces at any size or shape needed. I would create parts one at a time so a single figure could be created on demand. A customer wants a superhuman male, a normal female, and a fat figure all in 1/12 scale or 6 to 7 inches tall. We pull up the computer file, print to plastic, ziplock bag the figure and ship it out to the customer. Then someone else needs a meta human size male like the Hulk, and a normal size teenager like Rick Jones. We pull up the 3D file, print out the parts and ship them out to the customer.

So far its just an idea we are kicking around to see if there is an interest. The machine is over $2,000 dollars and I'm working on getting enough working capital to buy one. I would also have to create all the computer files to make each action figure. I think it could be a possibility in the next year. We could not only make the figures, but also accessories, vehicles, and maybe diorama parts.
BumAssAfro1 -
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Don't Mean to sound stupid or anything but I'm new here...and I'm Kinda new to the whole action figure thing so if anyone wouldn't mind as to fill me in I would appreciate it deeply!!
Clif52 -
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I'm thinking about designing the figures with ball joint shoulders with a swivel on each end that will just plug into the upper arm and shoulder. Something similar for the hips. Do you think a single or double hinge is best for the elbows an knees? Swivel at the waist and ball joint at the neck. I would also like to engineer in the mid-chest hinge. Hinge for the ankles. I have an idea for a two-piece pin to use in the hinge joints. You stick the outer pin thru the joint and then stick the inner pin thru from the other side and then squeeze to lock it in place. A fully articulated figure. The 6 inch figure could be scaled up for a 12" figure. The 3 3/4-4 inch figure would have to be articulated like a standard Star Wars or GI Joe figure. They are just too small to try and fully articulate. I would like the make the joints and hinge pins available for repairing standard action figures. I'm still learning the 3D software and want to start design work in the next couple of weeks. I'm already starting up a custom toy business out of my home shop. So far I'm building custom dioramas to sell on Ebay to make enough working capital to purchase the 3D printer. I welcome any more ideas for products that could be produced with the 3D printer or suggestions for the generic action figures.

Thanks
Clif
Shinigami -
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Unassembled will spare us the time to drill holes, open a figure, glue it back and hide the holes with sculpt. It would be cool if they'd come with a basic instruction on how to assemble, though. Even if it would be only available online.
Clif52 -
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I'm still working on the research on this. It does look like it could work. Any more comments on what type figures should be produced? I'm looking at male and female, different ages and different body types blank. Its possible to produce different types of figures in several clothing types as well as different body and ethnic types. The latest 3D printer I'm checking into has a resolution that is 4 times finer than lines in your finger prints. So I don't think that the strata lines will have to be filled. Just sculpting in the detail that you want and painting should fill any of the strata lines formed in the printing process. I'm also exploring the possiblility of printing out vehicles in the different scales needed 1/18, 1/12, 1/6. Its also possible to design hundreds of models in different scales and store them as 3D digital files to be printed on demand when the order comes in. With this technology the order could come in and be produced within a couple of days for shipment. So far we are thinking that the figures will be produced and shipped unassembled. What are your thoughts assembled or unassembled?

Thanks
Clif
CB2001 -
Monday, December 5, 2011
To me, this definitely sounds like a good idea. But I'm just one person. So, I'll step aside and allow others to put their two cents in, so that you have a much wider opinion base (hopefully getting a few ideas on what items to start with).
Clif52 -
Monday, December 5, 2011
Thanks for the input. I'm still researching the 3D printer and starting to learn the 3D software needed to get the job done. Its down the road before I can get the funding for the printer but it does seem possible. I'm hoping that the local Fab Lab will become a reality soon and that I can get a head start on fabrication there before I can afford to buy my own printer. I'm already fabricating my own playsets and displays using the equipment that I already have. Maybe if I get them selling on Ebay I can get enough working capital to startup the 3D printing. I've been thinking that not only vehicles would be possible but also diorama/playset building materials as well. Doors, windows, support beams, catwalks, fire escapes, platforms, sidewalks, etc. I welcome any input as I keep working to get this off the ground and up and running.

Clif
CB2001 -
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Sounds like you came across a Maker's heaven.

I agree with the idea of the figures being offered in parts. And I agree with the idea of manufacturing parts, accessories, vehicles and playsets. Honestly, not too long ago I came up with an idea on an idea on a DIY Action Figure kit that sort of mimicked the model kits that are out (with a basic kit which has some pre-fabbed items, the "Skill 2" has parts that allow for more complex articulation and painting and "Skill 3" would come with casting materials and a DVD with instruction on how to sculpt and cast your own figure parts). But I think there's a big area that can be helpful in expanding customizing. I mean, for example, there are some figures that aren't as readily available anymore or of vintage styles isn't done anymore. Let's say I wanted to make a Devon Miles and Bonnie Barstow action figures to go along with my Michael Knight and KITT vehicle. Short of disassembling actual vintage figures from 1982, the odds of finding figures that old and same style as used by Kenner at that time are pretty slim. Another good thing about pre-fabbing like what you're suggesting is that people can be able to put together the figures they want and it be correct. No more having to guess on if you got the head with the face you're wanting at the correct size. Before people disagree with me on this, keep in mind, there are people who sort of do this on eBay already, where they make replacement heads for the 1/6 scale (12 inch figures). So, I think it's a great idea to do so.
Clif52 -
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I volunteered as a teachers assistant for a local event last week, and I will again this coming week. The event is called the "Fab Lab", short for Fabrication Lab. Its a mobile trailer lab, containing computers, a CNC router, a laser engraver/cutter, a mini CNC mill, a vinyl cutter, and a 3D printer. Our local government and colleges are using it to see if there is enough interest to build a permanent lab in our county. It will be for the use of local students, manufacturers, artists, and inventors. I actually got to see one of the cheaper 3D printers at work. Its not quite up to the quality for action figures. I did get the information on a newer and higher quality machine thats about to become available. It prints the parts out of ABS plastic. Do you think the figures should be offered as parts, as completely assembled figures, or both? A lot of other items could be produced as well. Flexable parts wouldn't be possible, but anything rigid like action figure parts, guns, knives, swords, vehicles in parts, etc. should be printable. Even diorama sheets like stone and brick would also be possible. I'm thinking outside the box, but it seems an easier manufacturing process than moulding and casting. The items to be printed would have to be designed in 3D, so they could be created to any size and scale.

Clif
CB2001 -
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Sounds like a plan to me. I came across someone doing something sort of similar a while ago, but they only have one size (G.I. Joe sized), but think it'd be cool to have something at 4 inch and 6 inch too. But I think he sculpts and casts the pieces instead of using a 3-D printer and so far he only has one size available.
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