How long does it take to make a run of vinyl toys?
Short answer… a very long time. Let’s break it down and take a look at each stage, keeping in mind that the “design and ideation” portions are flexible, while the factory production portions are not flexible at all.
The designer has an idea, maybe a sketch, possible even some nice control art. It’s entirely possible to initiate sculpting at this point, regardless of the level of finish of the drawings. Of course, it’s always better to have finished art rather than rough doodles, but either way, let’s get to translating the idea into a 3d model. Sculpting the toy can take anywhere from one week to three weeks or more depending on iterative revisions, client response time, engineering challenges, or even license holder approval (if it’s a toy based on a licensed character/property).
Once the sculpt is finished and approved, it’s time to print the prototype. While it’s true that the actual printing of the physical model of the toy happens in a few hours or overnight, there is often a “first-in first-out” queue at the 3d printing facility, and so your specific sculpt might take 7-10 days to print. Or you might get lucky and there’s an immediate opening.
It’ll take a few days for the physical model to reach you by mail, for review, and some hand polishing if need be. Then it will take at least a week for the physical model to reach factory where the vinyl toy manufacturing will be done. Once your 3d prototype is at the factory, you’ll be faced with the biggest hit to your schedule.
It will take 1-2 weeks to turn your 3d printed prototype into a usable wax master, depending on required tweaks, iterative revisions, etc. Once the wax is approved, most factories will schedule the completion of the metal molds over the next 45 days, more or less. The metal molds that are used for vinyl toy production are made using an electroplating bath, which slowly deposits layers of metal over the wax master. Each layer is only a few atoms thick.
At this point, once the molds are complete, the factory will present you with a set of proofs, actual vinyl pulls that you’ll be able to handle. Once you’ve approved the test pulls of your vinyl toy, it’s on to the manufacturing. Again, most factories will set up a schedule that will take a minimum of about 45 days to complete the manufacturing run. Like with the 3d printing, toy factories almost always have a queue of clients; it’s rare to catch a toy production factory having any downtime at all.
And now, hey, your vinyl toys are made, in boxes and ready to be shipped. Shipping, as a rule, takes at least a month. Yes, it’s painful, yes, it’s stressful, and yes, it’s worth it.
All that waiting from sketch to package adds up. Roughly, you can expect vinyl toy production to take approximately 4-6 months. If you see a designer or a studio producing new toys every couple of months, it’s because they’ve staggered or overlapped production, or they are reusing existing molds, or they are selling a colorway that was previously produced but kept secret.
If you’d like to make your own line of toys, we’d love to help you get the ball rolling.
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