Prototype accuracy: a mfr's viewpoint


Jim King
 

As a resin kit manufacturer, let me give my perspective on what can and
can’t be duplicated prototypically in scale.



First off, keep in mind that all of us modelers are trying to create the
illusion of reality using scale models. It is physically impossible to
reproduce every part .. to scale .. on any car, loco or structure and still
be able to manufacturer it, unless you’re working in scale where you can
ride the equipment! An example would be a free-standing piece of ¼” thick
plate in HO, which scales down to .0028” actual size. That’s about the
thickness of a piece of cellophane tape. Even with today’s rapid
prototyping technology (like I use) and fancy injection molding, getting a
part this small out of a rubber mold or injection mold would be nearly
impossible without breaking the vast majority.



Second, as for collecting info to make kits or RTR “right”, this is all a
matter of economics for the manufacturer. There are at least 2 very basic
differences between resin kit makers and mass-production houses like Athearn
and Kadee. (1) resin kit makers usually target prototypes that were
obscure, maybe ran on only 1 road or had several variations that could be
handled by supplying parts that the modeler chooses to apply and (2) the
amount of time and dollars invested in a project to design, tool, produce
and market anything can seem to be just as daunting for either kit or RTR
companies.



I’m sure credible manufacturers apply due diligence in researching a
prototype, such as buying drawings and photos, field research, book
research, etc. All of this takes time so having as many prototypes paint
schemes for 1 “basic” car is key to “the big guys” being successful. It’s
obvious to even the most novice modeler that the retail price is a direct
reflection on how much effort went into a particular RTR car. Compare a
Kadee boxcar at $30+ with separate everything to a Branchline “Yardmaster
series” with everything molded on at less than half the price. Designing,
producing and assembling all those parts takes a lot of effort and money, so
why shouldn’t the retail price be higher? This is also true for resin kit
makers .. the same is true for us “little guys”. I put just as much effort
in designing patterns as what would be required for injection molding but I
stop short of producing RTR models, else the retail price would far exceed
$100 … each.



If we lived in a perfect world, we’d be able to “dial up” some CAD program
with an infinitely large library of parts, combine them in the mixture we
want for our special XYZ-car or engine, send that info to a machine that
would build the shell and underframe and spit it out either painted/lettered
or unlettered for custom builders. All of this for $20. I doubt any of us
in the “50+” crowd (I’m 50) will live long enough to see that happen so, in
the meantime, let’s be happy with the HUGE amount of offerings everyone has
made available in just the past 5-7 years .. but also keep striving for
better. That’s just the American way!



Jim King

Smoky Mountain Model Works, Inc.

<http://www.smokymountainmodelworks.com>





[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Armand Premo
 

Assembling?Ah Ha,that's the rub.There are many of us who enjoy building kits.This accounts for the success of the resin model producers.Those with little time to build are in a different league.Many of us have few ready -to- run cars on our layouts for several reasons.Price,Accuracy and Selection .I would like to hear what others think on the subject.Armand Premo

----- Original Message -----
From: Jim King
To: STMFC@...
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 11:40 AM
Subject: [STMFC] Prototype accuracy: a mfr's viewpoint


As a resin kit manufacturer, let me give my perspective on what can and
can't be duplicated prototypically in scale.

First off, keep in mind that all of us modelers are trying to create the
illusion of reality using scale models. It is physically impossible to
reproduce every part .. to scale .. on any car, loco or structure and still
be able to manufacturer it, unless you're working in scale where you can
ride the equipment! An example would be a free-standing piece of ¼" thick
plate in HO, which scales down to .0028" actual size. That's about the
thickness of a piece of cellophane tape. Even with today's rapid
prototyping technology (like I use) and fancy injection molding, getting a
part this small out of a rubber mold or injection mold would be nearly
impossible without breaking the vast majority.

Second, as for collecting info to make kits or RTR "right", this is all a
matter of economics for the manufacturer. There are at least 2 very basic
differences between resin kit makers and mass-production houses like Athearn
and Kadee. (1) resin kit makers usually target prototypes that were
obscure, maybe ran on only 1 road or had several variations that could be
handled by supplying parts that the modeler chooses to apply and (2) the
amount of time and dollars invested in a project to design, tool, produce
and market anything can seem to be just as daunting for either kit or RTR
companies.

I'm sure credible manufacturers apply due diligence in researching a
prototype, such as buying drawings and photos, field research, book
research, etc. All of this takes time so having as many prototypes paint
schemes for 1 "basic" car is key to "the big guys" being successful. It's
obvious to even the most novice modeler that the retail price is a direct
reflection on how much effort went into a particular RTR car. Compare a
Kadee boxcar at $30+ with separate everything to a Branchline "Yardmaster
series" with everything molded on at less than half the price. Designing,
producing and assembling all those parts takes a lot of effort and money, so
why shouldn't the retail price be higher? This is also true for resin kit
makers .. the same is true for us "little guys". I put just as much effort
in designing patterns as what would be required for injection molding but I
stop short of producing RTR models, else the retail price would far exceed
$100 . each.

If we lived in a perfect world, we'd be able to "dial up" some CAD program
with an infinitely large library of parts, combine them in the mixture we
want for our special XYZ-car or engine, send that info to a machine that
would build the shell and underframe and spit it out either painted/lettered
or unlettered for custom builders. All of this for $20. I doubt any of us
in the "50+" crowd (I'm 50) will live long enough to see that happen so, in
the meantime, let's be happy with the HUGE amount of offerings everyone has
made available in just the past 5-7 years .. but also keep striving for
better. That's just the American way!

Jim King

Smoky Mountain Model Works, Inc.

<http://www.smokymountainmodelworks.com>








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StephenK
 

First of all, thanks for the insights. It is easy for us modelers to get a totally wrong idea on how things work, since we just see the finished products and not all of the design and research that went before.

Second, I have built a large number of resin, P2K, Branchline and flat kits. I enjoy building them, + painting and decaling as well. BUT,if I can get a ready-made car of good quality, I can spend more time doing other modeling tasks. Thus, I have a mix of kits and RTR cars,and will continue to buy that way.

Steve Kay

--- In STMFC@..., "Jim King" <jimking3@...> wrote:

As a resin kit manufacturer, let me give my perspective on what can and
can't be duplicated prototypically in scale.



First off, keep in mind that all of us modelers are trying to create the
illusion of reality using scale models. It is physically impossible to
reproduce every part .. to scale .. on any car, loco or structure and still
be able to manufacturer it, unless you're working in scale where you can
ride the equipment! An example would be a free-standing piece of ¼" thick
plate in HO, which scales down to .0028" actual size. That's about the
thickness of a piece of cellophane tape. Even with today's rapid
prototyping technology (like I use) and fancy injection molding, getting a
part this small out of a rubber mold or injection mold would be nearly
impossible without breaking the vast majority.



Second, as for collecting info to make kits or RTR "right", this is all a
matter of economics for the manufacturer. There are at least 2 very basic
differences between resin kit makers and mass-production houses like Athearn
and Kadee. (1) resin kit makers usually target prototypes that were
obscure, maybe ran on only 1 road or had several variations that could be
handled by supplying parts that the modeler chooses to apply and (2) the
amount of time and dollars invested in a project to design, tool, produce
and market anything can seem to be just as daunting for either kit or RTR
companies.



I'm sure credible manufacturers apply due diligence in researching a
prototype, such as buying drawings and photos, field research, book
research, etc. All of this takes time so having as many prototypes paint
schemes for 1 "basic" car is key to "the big guys" being successful. It's
obvious to even the most novice modeler that the retail price is a direct
reflection on how much effort went into a particular RTR car. Compare a
Kadee boxcar at $30+ with separate everything to a Branchline "Yardmaster
series" with everything molded on at less than half the price. Designing,
producing and assembling all those parts takes a lot of effort and money, so
why shouldn't the retail price be higher? This is also true for resin kit
makers .. the same is true for us "little guys". I put just as much effort
in designing patterns as what would be required for injection molding but I
stop short of producing RTR models, else the retail price would far exceed
$100 … each.



If we lived in a perfect world, we'd be able to "dial up" some CAD program
with an infinitely large library of parts, combine them in the mixture we
want for our special XYZ-car or engine, send that info to a machine that
would build the shell and underframe and spit it out either painted/lettered
or unlettered for custom builders. All of this for $20. I doubt any of us
in the "50+" crowd (I'm 50) will live long enough to see that happen so, in
the meantime, let's be happy with the HUGE amount of offerings everyone has
made available in just the past 5-7 years .. but also keep striving for
better. That's just the American way!



Jim King

Smoky Mountain Model Works, Inc.

<http://www.smokymountainmodelworks.com>





[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


Anthony Thompson <thompson@...>
 

Steve Kay wrote:
I have built a large number of resin, P2K, Branchline and flat kits. I enjoy building them, + painting and decaling as well. BUT,if I can get a ready-made car of good quality, I can spend more time doing other modeling tasks. Thus, I have a mix of kits and RTR cars,and will continue to buy that way.
Well said, Steve. My preferences, enjoyments and approach are essentially the same.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705 www.signaturepress.com
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@...
Publishers of books on railroad history


Mike Brock <brockm@...>
 

Jim King notes:

"Second, as for collecting info to make kits or RTR "right", this is all a
matter of economics for the manufacturer. There are at least 2 very basic
differences between resin kit makers and mass-production houses like Athearn
and Kadee. (1) resin kit makers usually target prototypes that were
obscure, maybe ran on only 1 road or had several variations that could be
handled by supplying parts that the modeler chooses to apply and..."

Just to avoid misleading those that might not be aware, and while some rather obscure cars may have been produced by resin makers, this cedrtainly is not the usual case. Westerfield has done both the USRA SS and DS box cars, several versions of MP and Frisco SS box cars, and various GN SS and DS box cars, and the UP B-50-20, Sunshine has produced the NP 40 ft box car with radial roofs, CB&Q SS box cars along with various SP SS box cars among the literaly thousands of cars they have produced, etc., etc. I mention only those that I have sitting on tracks within viewing distance.

To add to that, the Standard Tank Car models that SC&F is producing are certainly not obscure and to even suggest that the UP/SP Harriman headend cars that SC&F is producing are "obscure" is tantamount to referring to the the Santa Fe as an eastern RR...and we all know better than that now.<G>.

Mike Brock