What's the point of Finecast?

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What's the point of Finecast?

Postby Indy » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:41 am

Venting a bit here. Long-story-short, I've been working directly with GW Customer Service over replacements for some resin kits. They have replaced them multiple times and each replacement batch is just in horrid condition. Nothing is straight, I have to scrape the connection points out with a knife, the attachment points are either half-formed or unformed altogether, etc... Modelling as a hobby requires some elbow grease, don't get me wrong...but the sheer amount of work needed for these Finecast kits is becoming unacceptable from a customer standpoint, IMO.

Venting aside, I'm curious what purpose Finecast serves in the economy of plastic and so forth. What advantages does it provide vs grey plastic or other materials. Is it solely cost? Or are you able to do certain things with it that you can't with other materials. Trying to understand GW's perspective on it.
“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”

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Re: What's the point of Finecast?

Postby MrScotty » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:15 pm

To understand why they went for Finecast, you have to understand a bit about injection molding on an industrial scale.

Molds for creating the plastic sprues that make up GW's plastic models are pretty comparable to the kinds of molds I commonly work with in terms of tolerancing. The ones I use are for surgical appliances and prosthetics - the biggest difference is that GW's molds contain many, MANY more machining operations to create the mold. So I would estimate that creating a normal two-sprue plastic kit probably puts GW a couple hundred thousand dollars in the hole.

The way my company operates, we do sales projections to figure out how many units over time we're going to sell, and how long it is acceptable for the company to take to make back our money. Usually, we don't like to be taking longer than a month or so, because obviously you need liquid capital to invest in more molds to make more different products. That's what actually drives the list price of a part like that - the materials, packaging, whatever are only a fraction of the overhead, the bulk of it is driven by the price of the molds distributed by the projected sales volume.

So, when you have something like a basic infantry kit for GW, they know for a fact that if you want to play Tau, you'll need to buy 4-5 boxes of basic fire warriors. So their projected sales volume is high, and the distributed cost is low, so they can price those basic troop boxes comparatively lower. But if you have something like Commander Squa'Lo of the Bork'an sept, that's a character only a fraction of that playerbase would buy only one of, maybe. So even if he's only got half a basic infantry sprue worth of parts, his price per sprue is going to have to be MASSIVE to stay competitive with the Fire Warrior box. Say, 40$ for a two-sprue Primaris Marine troop box, 35$ for a half-sprue Primaris Apothecary in plastic.

Traditionally, metal molds (which are much cheaper two-part molds that work on a similar principle as you'd expect a mold to work, just take a sculpted master, dip it in some mold material, let it harden and cut it in half, voila you've got yourself a mold) let GW cheat that problem. The cost of metal minis was actually all in the material - take what the material cost, add a profit margin, there's your price totally independent of volume. But the White Metal blend miniature companies used became highly unstable in terms of pricing. I'm talking doubling and tripling in value on the market in days, then dropping back down. Can't base a business model on that, which is why GW, and practically every other miniature company out there, has moved away from it in the last decade or so and shifted to Resins or plasti-resins of various types. Because the old cheap meltable standby metal, Lead, is also out. for obvious reasons.

GW in particular though ended up in a bind: Resin isn't usually quite as simple a material as white metal to melt down and pour into a two-part mold...like all the molds for all the models they were currently producing. They needed a material soft and pliable enough to pour into those same molds so they could keep making the models in their range, and they didn't have to totally re-design all of them all at once. Finecast was a stopgap to allow them time to slowly transition their whole range to plastic. And you have to go slowly, for the pricing reason I was explaining earlier with the plastic. You can't just design a miniature and start selling him at a profit margin, you've got to wait for every sprue to recoup its mold cost. This is why we have every plastic clampack character they've been dropping at even a semi-reasonable price (30$ or less) gets its sales volume artificially pumped up by including it in box sets galore. Because if you release one-buy characters in individual box kits, they have to be like 45$ or more because the sales volume is so low.
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Re: What's the point of Finecast?

Postby Indy » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:21 pm

Great explanation, Scott. I remember you mentioning something similar back in the day.

It makes sense. I'm just caught off guard by how consistently bad the quality of the material/kits themselves have been. We're like double-digit efforts with consistently poor results.
“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”

-G.K. Chesteron
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Re: What's the point of Finecast?

Postby Draaen » Fri Apr 27, 2018 1:53 pm

I would also point out that the older metal models had their own issues. If you had large mold lines it took a lot of elbow grease and dulled knives to cut it off. Holding them together or make them fit nice if that was sometimes almost impossible if the pour was poor. If it was a larger model you had to pin it. Trying to get those fantasy S shaped old metal dragons not to have gaps and stay together was a real pain in the butt. Then after you've put in all the work one metal model bumps against another one just right and you've got some chips on the paint. So even just from a model perspective there are some benefits. I do avoid fine cast when possible though.
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Re: What's the point of Finecast?

Postby MrScotty » Fri Apr 27, 2018 2:16 pm

Indy wrote:
Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:21 pm
Great explanation, Scott. I remember you mentioning something similar back in the day.

It makes sense. I'm just caught off guard by how consistently bad the quality of the material/kits themselves have been. We're like double-digit efforts with consistently poor results.
oh hell yeah. Finecast is an absolute nightmare, and I will bend over backwards to avoid it (case in point, my repeated efforts to find the short-lived metal version of the new Lelith Hesperax sculpt)
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All current beta rules in effect unless opponent prefers otherwise
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