Archive for the 'Figurine Science' Category

PVC Figures Industrial Painting Process Unveiled!

Following last week’s unveiling of the PVC figure moulding and production process, Hobby Don’s episode now uncovers the secret behind the colouring of our Good Smile Company figures. Watch the video to find out how these flesh-coloured PVC pieces are painted and assembled!

Once again, I shall just summarise the clip for those who either can’t understand, can’t stream or can’t be bothered.

1. The unassembled finished parts are sent to the "Pen You Bu" (Mandarin for Paint Spray Section) for assembly and painting.
2. The parts that have been painted are painstakingly wrapped in white paper to prevent scratches and damage prior to assembly. The example shown seems to be Ureshiko’s skirt.
3. There is quality control (QC) at many stages of production. Each component is thoroughly checked before assembly. This probably contributes to the overall high standards of GSC.
4. The parts that fail QC are touched up with paint if still usable. Those that aren’t are discarded.
5. The painters use normal airbrushes. The type that hobby modellers use. The type depends on the painter’s role. For example, one who does the big parts like umbrella has a much larger airbrush than one who just does the graduations/tones/shadows. Yes, it’s all painted by humans.
6. Now this part is interesting. The mask techniques are surprisingly simple, depending on the type of mask required. Remember how in hobby painting, we use masking tape, which is so labour intensive? These guys use a cardboard box, cut holes in the bottom and stick the parts in, exposing just the surfaces which need to be painted. Ingenious.
7. As for more complicated patterns, for example, that woman’s umbrella, a specialised clamp-like device covers the piece and exposes just the parts which have to be painted.
8. The painters also apply pre-shading to give the effect of more tone. This was sort of made common by Watanabe Max himself, where he sprayed a part black slightly before applying the actual paint coat.

That concludes the spray painting part. The show moves over to the "Yi Yin Che Jian" (Tampo printing Garage). For those not in the loop, tampo printing is a method of painting which is just stamping an ink-covered soft silicone head onto the part. It’s cheap, fast and accurate. I recall having an early article on this.

9. The secret behind PVC figure eyes are revealed! It is not decals as previously thought, but rather multi-layed tampo printing.
10. The tampo presses look like breasts.
11. Almost the entire process is automated here, so the results are very consistent.
12. The eyes and other fine details are done here.

Now it’s the assembly stage.

13. The individual parts are glued here.
14. An extra layer of finish is applied to the panties.
15. Since the parts are painted before they are assembled, the presence of seam lines are inevitable. Here at the assembly stage, some painting is done on the seams to hide them.
16. Another thing is, the colour could be inconsistent for two separate parts. It is also at this stage that a transition paintjob is applied to reduce any obvious non-standardisation in colour.
17. The figures are moved from one station to another via conveyor belt. Like a true assembly line now.

The final stage is packing. Again, it’s all by hand. China does have a lot of people I guess.

18. Each person is responsible for only one step of the packing. Person A puts Takako into her plastic holder. Then conveyor belts it to B who adds the base into the slot. etc etc.
19. That’s all folks.

FigSci: How are PVC Figures Manufactured? Let’s Visit the Factory!

The not-so-secret production process of PVC figurines has been unveiled! By no other than boss of Max Factory, Max Watanabe himself during an online hobby show. In this short programme, he visits the China-based production line of Good Smile Company and goes on a tour of its facilities and processes.

The show is pretty comprehensive in its coverage and it’s great for us figure fans to finally be able to take a close look into how our favourite toys are actually made. The episode ends at the painting process, but watch out for the next episode (which will be out on 24 January).

It’s in Japanese obviously and there are no subs, so I’ll just briefly talk about the main points.

Max Watanabe looks like a friendly version of Hitler.
The boss of GSC is a funky young otaku! Or what appears to be a funky young otaku. Totally unlike the stereotypical Japanese company director.
The factory is based in China and from the exterior, looks like a typical Chinese industrial building.
The raw material, PVC, is packed in sacks of either white or blue, with the colour designating its quality.

Each of the parts are injected moulded. So there are mould lines, stems and other little extra bits that our friendly Chinese workers clean up by hand. In fact, from sanding to cutting, everything is done by hand. There are marked differences between cleaned up and uncleaned up pieces, the latter look like fucking Yujin’s. So we now realise the true reason why GSC and gang have such high quality products – they don’t scrimp on the processes. Up to a 100 people are involved in the cleanup stage.

A freshly moulded piece is placed into a support mould and watercooled for it to keep its shape and size. All done by hand of course.

Examples of pieces shown include the front hair plus ahoge of Swimsuit penguin Saber, the bubble chair of Mizuho and Elwyn. The chair is an ABS piece and doesn’t require much after work, save for one stem removal. Since ABS cannot be sanded (it’s a shiny clear plastic), the stem scar is still quite obvious.

A large chunk of the workforce maintains and creates the metal moulds which give birth to our babies. Using master blueprint pieces, they fine tune each mould to perfection.

Unlike a typical Japanese factory, everyone is in casual clothing here. Jeans, t-shirts and all that. It’s a good shift away from the disciplinarian, conformity-culture of old industrial Japan. I also see a lot of ceiling fans. The dining area looks pretty spacious (then again, everything in China is fucking spacious). Looks like work in a figurine factory isn’t that bad after all! Besides the mindnumbing assembly-line workscope of course.

I’ll be looking forward to future episodes of this webshow.