Monday, January 12, 2015

My Dog Ate My KS Funds (Part 3 of 10)

3:  Metal vs. Resin

     What exactly is a resin?  For the purpose of this article, it is a polyurethane product that comes in a two or more part mixture and cures into a plastic.  The resin can be poured in a variety of ways, but for mass production we would use the spin casting method. 

     What exactly is metal?  For the purpose of this article, we are specifically talking about a tin alloy that melts around 500-600 degrees.  

Costs per figure:  Resin is the most cost effective material versus metal.  Pricing discounts are minimal when purchasing metal in a larger quantity.  However, if you are able to afford part A and B of a polyurethane resin in 55 gallon drums, your savings are substantial.

Here is one example of a manufacturer of resins and silicone mold materials.  Feel free to comment below and link other manufacturers of resins.
Smooth Cast 300Q (5 minute cure time) 1 gallon purchase = 2 gallons total (A and B combined) $85 plus shipping as of this writing. Based on my past experience with resin pouring, I’m roughly estimating 1,000 to 1,500 human sized figures for $100 outlay in resin liquids (8 to 10 cents each) compared with metal (25 cents each).  This price includes resin waste.  (See Recycling below)

Storing the material:  Metal wins this category, because it can be stored at any temperature, comes in ingots that weigh between 4 and 16 pounds each, has no expiration date, and can easily be transported by hand in the casting room to the melting pot when needed.  Resin on the other hand must be stored at room temperatures around 70 degrees, has a shelf life which is greatly reduced once the containers are opened, is hard to handle in larger quantities (450 plus pounds for a 55 gallon drum), and must be mixed for every single casting.

Recycling:  Metal wins this category hands down.  When a metal figure does not cast properly, you simply throw it back into the melting pot to be reborn again.  Unfortunately with resin, all bad castings, large spru if you spin cast, and all mixing containers like paper cups and stir sticks, go into the trash.  As in part one of this series, pouring figures with resin makes it difficult to know exact costs per figure but is certainly the best option for large figures like giants, dragons, buildings, or vehicles. 
Mold life:  Metal wins this category hands down.  I use the hard rubber organic 700 series molds from

Mold life varies on the figures design and the mold maker’s ability.   I have owned molds that have generated over 1,000 spins and I would put the average life at 500 spins minimum.  Even with mold release agents, resins degrade hard rubber and silicone molds rapidly.  The average mold life using resins are 50 pours/spins.  In other words, the use of polyurethane resins causes the caster to create 10 times the number of molds, eating up valuable time and resources. 

Product detail:  A variety of resins allow for high detail yield, whereas metal castings have limits.  High resin detail is an appreciated advantage, but primarily caters to a small percentage of gamers.  Resin figures are easier to do conversions with too, but the metal figure has been around in the hobby for more than 40 years. 

Crowdfunders:  If you’re going to cast very small quantities of individual miniatures (500 or less), resin is your best method in a manufacturing set up and offers the least amount of investment.  However, if you plan on producing long term, with quantities exceeding 500 per figure, metal is my number one choice.  Metal is the simplest and fastest method of casting.  No hassle with shelf life, 100% recyclable, low mold upkeep, and offers plenty of detail for the average gaming fan.  Note that you will have to ventilate your casting area regardless of what materials you use.

Pledgers:  Resin figure projects may have longer wait time regarding shipping, because resin casting production is a slower procedure than metal.  Resin requires a mixing of liquid agents and a cure time that far exceed metals 30 second cooling period. Mold making is a very time consuming process.

Next Week:  The math behind rewards
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Johnny Lauck


  1. Hi Johnny,

    Just to add to the complexity, you didn't go into the different types of resins or metals. Some resins are very hard and - IMO - are definitely not that great for conversions. A pewter metal is very hard and difficult to drill compared to a softer alloy. The resin method I am familiar with has a vacuum step, which might I suppose be part of the curing; it does mean you have to have the equipment to get the bubbles out. An added expense. Some resin molds don't even get 50 pulls. Resin figures are - IMO - more fragile and prone to breakage. When you compared the resin figure to metal figure prices you are not factoring in the number of molds required to make those 1000 figures. Can you tell I'm "pro-metal"? ;-)


  2. I'm really enjoying this series, even just as a pledger. Only one of the campaigns I've backed has come in without a delay, and it's interesting to see how delays happen, and how to avoid and anticipate them. I'm feeling like a more informed investor already. Keep them coming :D

  3. Howard, I am certainly pro metal as well. After working with resin casting from 2006-2008, I got out of it completely due to the inefficiency and out right mess. Your right, I have had molds that failed below 50 castings with resin. Also, the low viscosity resins do not need the vacuum step and can be spin cast just like metal molds, however, you do bring up some interesting points because you can't spin cast a large resin model and the vacuum process would be beneficial increasing production costs. If you COULD get 20 perfect castings on a spin cast resin mold with 20 cavities, and you were LUCKY enough to spin it 50 times, then you'd have your 1,000 figures. I'm with you Howard, chances are there are going to be many molds produced to get to the magic 1,000 and higher. Certainly, we could easily devote 10 full pages just to resins and resin castings. Thanks for your input.