Getting the (Plastic) Ball Rolling


As many of you following TFM’s progress will know, Ed has been slaving away like a mad scientist in the pursuit of the elusive spin castable plastic. The final product is now ready, and we will be releasing the first box sets very soon.

Spin casting plastic is a bonkers idea, and only Ed has managed to pull it off – and I mean Ed really is the only person in the whole world to have achieved this! This new spin casting plastic technique is exclusive to TFM, and the material is called ‘Trollcast’.

Trollcast is a hard (75D) plastic, that is highly heat resistant. At 320F Trollcast will soften, but it will not be damaged (so you could heat, bend, drop in water and reposition it – but you’d have to be careful are these temps).

Trollcast has natural impact resistance, and will not shatter when dropped (or nick like resin). If a thin bit does break, it will snap off clean; which allows for an easy repair. Trollcast is easy to cut, sand, and carves very well even though it’s so hard. To glue Trollcast together we recommend Cyanoacrylate (super glue).

All commercial miniature paints seem to work well. Trollcast can be spray primed or painted on directly.

Edit – 24 June 2012: New Trollcast demo vid

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42 Responses to “Getting the (Plastic) Ball Rolling”

  1. Francesco Says:

    Seems a great idea and solution. It looks like Privateer Press plastic (I said so for the cyanoclylate glue, plastic GW can be glued with polystyrene glue, this one don’t work with PP plastic (or is more correct to call it resin?). In any case, I’m interested in it and would like to see the result and if you sell it.

    • The first box sets are going to be released very soon – next week.

      • Francesco Says:

        Thanks for your reply, but are you sure Ed is the first to experimenting these system? I think Privateer Press doing so its plastic piece. Really curios about the process, I image exist a great waste of material: in metal spincast the exceeding conduct metal is recyclable without issue, with plastic this is not possible (or it is a new type of material?)

      • Ed isn’t the first to experiment with plastic spin casting, many have tried, but I believe (and I’m open to being corrected on this) that Ed is the first to come up with a process that is commercially viable for spin casting plastic miniatures. Ed knows more about the specifics of all this, but he’s really busy at the moment!

  2. I hope youre goin for a patent… been doing a lot of theoretical work on this myself… im assuming when you say plastic you mean the sort found in commercial hobby kits…

  3. I think it’s great we have new materials being used for miniatures but you aren’t “the first person in the world to achieve this”.
    If this is regular polystyrene, you should be able to use polystyrene cement to put them together, I recall in an older post you said you have to use cyanoacrylate. That means is isn’t polystyrene but a mix, sounds more like a component resin than polystyrene pellets.

    We tested spin casting polystyrene pellets at GW for several years (when I worked for them) with some success but kept going back to a resin type mixture, not actual polystyrene by itself. Unfortunately the testing stopped when our mold room manager left to work for PP and took all the info he was working on with him. I’m not sure what he does for them but it wouldn’t surprise me if they came out with something similar soon.

    It looks like your models have better quality though than GW’s Finecast, and cheaper too.

    Are you going to be moving over all of your models to the new material or are you going to keep some as metal?

    • As I understand it Ed is the first to make spin casting plastic commercially viable. He is already blazing away filling orders for Defiance Games, and the first TFM box sets are coming soon.

    • Francesco Says:

      Your comment is very interesting SH. Can you elaborate your experience? So Finecast is practically liquid resin on spincast?

      IMHO PP has just used this knowledge, PP plastic is (again IMO) resin on spincast.

      • Did a copper-wire burn test, it looks like PP is using a PVC melt. This is fairly common for making action figures, or for miniatures being produced in China.

  4. This is pretty cool sounding. Is the material carcinogenic in the same way that resins are? It would be nice if this is something where one isn’t so worried about the dangers of inhaling shavings.

    • It’s not carcinogenic. I would advise you to avoid inhaling the dust, as I would advise you to avoid inhaling any material dust – as all dusts irritate the lining of the lungs. Fine dusts (even non-carcinogenic ones) can make existing lung conditions worse. Be safe and wear a mask.

  5. Privateer Press uses a PVC based plastic. If overheated, it can produce hydrochloric acid and free vinyl chloride. So handling PVC based melts at large scale requires air handling equipment to ensure plasticizer and other vapors are below OSHA limits.

    AFAIK, Eds mix does not use PVC, so combustion products from overheating are not as nasty.

    I need to do a wire test to confirm pp plastic is pvc based, but usually spincasting molten PVC is the other common option right now.

    • Trollcast is highly stable and does not need any special considerations when heating. It can handle 320F (160) with ease. Ed says that heating the Trollcast to this temp and dropping it into cold water is a way to reposition parts.

  6. Polite Commenter Says:

    How is this any different from what PP/Mantic/CmoN/AoW are already doing with their spin-cast plastic production?

    You say that “Ed really is the only person in the whole world to have achieved this!”, but those companies seem to be doing a pretty good job of “achieving this”, and making it commercially viable for several years.

    What makes yours better than theirs, in a nutshell?

    Will it be cheaper?, will it hold detail better?

    Will some of the negative things about spin-cast plastic (Often ends up warped to hell, mould shrinkage, loss of detail, hard to clean off the mould lines) be minimized?

    Request for some solid facts is all.

    How much for a mini, will it have better detail than the other companies? Will it not suck balls in comparison to a hard plastic sprue like the stuff from all the other companies does?

    • I think ‘the proof is in the eating of the pudding’. The Box Sets will be released soon, and I imagine that those who buy them will pass on their experience. TFM advertising is basically ‘word of mouth’, and to make that work the quality has to be paramount.

      • I’m actually going to take the time to answer this as it’s a good question. Detail is quality of resin, warping etc. does not become a issue because it’s hard and fast, 1 min demold time so I can produce thousands of parts daily by myself, that’s right by myself. It’s harder than fincast by a mile with less much less bubble. Easier to tool and cut than PP. As for AoW I kind of sent Felix in the right direction with his. I will not take credit for it but hinted at what he might try, etc. so I know a little about his own system but would never tell anyone that.

        Now the mold part as in lines and shrinkage are something that is the mold makers job and I take that very serious, mold line is next to none, you will see shortly. I believe most is so minimal you will never even need to clean it. People who have samples agree, I can even send you one as you seem genuine about your questions, ask Philip to get your info to me. Oh and shrinkage, I have a trick to reduce that period.

        All in all I’m a perfectionist and while it’s a really great system and product you can be sure I’ll push this even further in the future. Prices are dropping a lot, 10 figures for $10 will be a common thing and large stuff normally in the $40-$50 range will drop to $20-$30. I am very happy to give my customers the best possible product and service. Times are about to change.

        Anyway, thanks for the questions and great questions at that. Hope this might help?
        Ed

    • Most manufacturers are casting two part resin or hot-melt plastisols like pvc into spincast molds, or injection molding into epoxy based injection molds.

      • Polite Commenter Says:

        Thanks for the answers! Test shots of those goblins so far look very good for detail, and $1 is excellent, half the price of what Mantic sells their “resin plastic” models for (they almost never make hard plastic anymore because its too expensive to tool).

        I am generally highly sceptical of claims like these after finecast (crap, insanely overpriced) PP plastic (warped, overpriced). Warcast (overpriced) and Mantic resin plastic (poorly detailed, still kinda-overpriced)… but with this it does look like you’re on to something.

        Basically, just as good as hard plastic, only with undercuts, and $1 a figure (same price as hard plastic)?

        Sounds almost too good to be true, but the figure are up there on the store, so I guess you’re on to something here.

        I realise there are minimal mould lines, but what is this stuff like to clean with a file? All the other materials I mentioned above are an absolute bugger compared to metal or hard plastic.

      • This stuff is around a 75D hardness but it retains enough elastic quality that taking a knife edge and a scrape cleans it easy and similar to hard injection plastic. It’s not bad to work with. It took me since 2009 to get everything just perfect and I feel this is about the best you could give a customer. I say that because everyone is different and some people will not like it period. I also say that because I have a few more designs going to improve and create another type of process or mix that I can push. I will try and continue to improve it.

      • Again, since I can’t reply directly to Polite Commenter due to nesting limits…

        Warpage is likely gonna happen, as pulling warm plastics from a mold will likely warp them. Thats the nature of the beast. Spincasting is unlike injection molds where you can run water lines through the mold to ensure the plastic is cold before popping.

        That said, hot water should be enough to straighten them. And even metal figures can suffer ‘warpage’ from transport, but unlike metal, plastic won’t snap if you bend it back while its hot.

        ABS is an “engineering plastic”, with a mix of toughness and strength. Its not brittle. It won’t snap as easily as Polystyrene can.

        “Resin Plastic” I think is still a two part polyureathane resin. Its ‘plastic’ when it cures. Plastic is a descriptor of the nature of the materials, resins can be plastics. If its a two part ureathane, its tough on molds, and material costs are higher than thermomelt/set plastics.

      • Oh man perfect timing for this. This material due to the plastic has memory. I cast 120 charity figures for Frothers today around 1PM and bent one set pulling them out to fast. I figure no big deal heat them around 190F and bend them back. When I opened the oven they bent back into the original shape! HAHA, keeps getting better and better. Also should prove plastic has memory which is nice and at 190F that’s some good heat resistance. If your playing in heat like that your figures are going to be the last thing to worry about. Cheers guys.
        Ed

      • I’ll add that little snippet to the Trollcast info page.

  7. Francesco Says:

    The big issue in resin and mould cast is wastage of resin the mould ducts, also rubber moulds with resin deteriorating fast. I don’t think PP using PVC, their model are rigid like resin one, usually PVC are more flexible.

    • None of this is a problem with Trollcast. Ed cast 6,795 bugs in 2 days.

    • Actually, PVC can vary between soft and floppy, to very stiff and hard. It depends on the formulation. Same goes for various resins. Soft bait lures are usually soft pvc plastisol based, while the hardest PVC is the stuff your drain pipes in your house are made off. Also, oven-bake clays are pvc based as well, and can vary between rubbery to tough ( premo ) to brittle (Super Sculpey).

      So its a mistake to think that pvc is always soft and rubbery or bendable/floppy. It depends on the mix.

    • Resin is SO incredibly cheap, that wastage compared to tin is a non-issue. Its literally 1/100th cost of tin on a volume basis for two part resin. And even cheaper for true plastics.

      The big issue with two part resin systems such as Epoxy or Polyureathane is that they can rapidly break down molds.

      • Francesco Says:

        Thanks for your reply Daniel. Is an argument really interesting. I don’t understood why don’t use polystyrene (like GW plastic if I’m not wrong is pure polystyrene plus grey colour) directly in spincast moulds? Too dense?

  8. joyschoenberger Says:

    I can’t wait to see the new releases! I’ve been waiting AGES for Andy Pieper’s behold…er…eyebeast miniature!

  9. I’ve been following Ed for years, from the early days of his Trygon obsession. It’s great to hear of this potential breakthrough. If anything Ed is one driven dude. Interested to see the results.

  10. Scott Hancock Says:

    Great for you guys, this sounds exciting. You are the classiest miniature company I have ever dealt with well deserved. Cant wait to get my hands on some the Defiance Bugs love the sculpts and if its as durable as you say and I am sure it is I am not worried about the awesome thin carapace arms. If it was resin I would love looking at them on the shelf not on the tabletop.

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