Tooling (was Re: AAR Standard twin offset side hopper with oval ends?)

Dennis Storzek

--- In STMFC@..., "Aley, Jeff A" <Jeff.A.Aley@> wrote:

Which would be cheaper:
1: A full multi-slide injection molded plastic model, assembled with wire grabs, etc.

2: An injection-molded "flat-kit" model, assembled, and with wire grabs, etc. (Lower tooling cost, higher assembly cost).

3: A resin model, assembled, and with wire grabs, etc. (Extremely low tooling cost, higher molding cost (?), much (?) higher assembly cost).
--- In STMFC@..., "Dave Evans" <devans1@...> wrote:

A good summary of the options.

From what I gathered at Prototype rails, the lower tooling costs of door number 2 would provide total savings over method 1 at 20k units - I think extra labor assembly would be less than what sounds like $60k more in tooling for method 1.

Selection 2 also entails lower risk - because tooling is much less, if sales do not reach 20k units, the loss would be much smaller than if option 1 was attempted and sales fell short. If sales are falling short for option 2 then one can more readily limit their losses by simply making fewer models. That option is not as viable for option 1 - you are all in when the tooling is complete and test shots are approved.

Method 2 could also be sold in kit form, which might appeal to some of the members of this group, especially if key spotting features could be readily changed (for example, a flat kit of the PRR H21a hopper would not require a large cost in new tooling to make a PRR H25.)

For an alternate standard offset hopper that was at the start of this thread, the tooling cost for different height sides and ends would not be that severe if other mold parts could be re-used (center sill, bolster, hopper bottom). Other variations may also be possible at reasonable cost (which means smaller runs would be viable).

I did not have any discussions about option 3 - I just can't imagine that enough skilled labor can be found at low enough prices to make Resin work unless unit prices were high and runs were relatively small.

Dave Evans
Only if you have total control of your costs... and using contract shops, you don't. In that case, the shop drives your decision by the prices they quote... if they want to build tools, they'll quote that option cheaper, or conversely, they'll sign you to an initial order number that makes the total up front dollars of the "flat kit" version exactly the same as the other. I can hear Jason and Bill laughing in the background even as I type this :)

The other route would to be to contract the tooling and assembly separately, but... there is nothing saying you will find takers for both. Nothing like having a boatload of plastic parts, and no way to make them into complete models, kits, or whatever.

In addition, the deep draw shut-offs required to make the slope sheets on a separate "flat kit" hopper are likely beyond the average cheapie "I gotta CNC on my dining room table" kind of guy, and real tool shops cost real money, either here or across the pond. Think back to the wonderful experience of trying to assemble a E&B Valley cement hopper, and you'll see what I mean.

You are looking at the age old question that has bedeviled model railroad manufacturers since the days when William K. was an active player... how do I reduce costs and increase market at the same time? If you reduce costs by simplifying tooling and it makes the model harder to assemble, you drive up unit costs and lose market, whether you are asking the modeler to assemble them or having it pre-done. If you add tooling costs, you can lower the unit tooling costs, but only to the point that the market absorbs the product... unsold product that has to be put on clearance sale at or below cost doesn't do you any good, it only gets a part of your investment back.

Each manufacturer has to do this calculation at some point, and the answer they get is seen in the way they approach their market, but all have some element of risk... the only sure way to make a small fortune in the model railroad business is to start with a large one.


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