Sure the Traveling Torchbug met many known and un-known relatives in The Hague some weeks ago. But I wanted to show him a bit about the birds and the bees, where do casts come from so to speak. So I took him to one of the few Dutch manufacturers of model cars in the Netherlands I know: Matrix Scale Models.
And if you’d ask me, Matrix has one of the best line-ups in the scaled models world. Often a bit obscure (check out an old post on this “Porsche” for example), certainly no casts you’d expect to get from Mattel. From a totally European Citroen Bijou to an all American Ford Mustero: Matrix delivers.
But one thing that’s different from the usual diecast is the material Matrix’s are made from: Resin. Using Resin has two significant advantages: 1. Better accuracy compared to metal casts and 2. The molds are much, much cheaper to create. Therefor resin models are great for small series.
So our beloved little bug got a little lecture on how these resin models are made. All this was taught him by the Director of Matrix Scale Models: Jaap van Dijk.
First all the necessary information of the 1:1 need to be gathered. This can be done by getting blueprints (if available) or extensive research on pictures. The color of a model is always based on a real 1:1. This set of data, the “deco info” is sent to the “shaper” of the production facility.
The “shaper” starts to create a “hard pattern”. The “Hard Pattern” is the outer shape of the body. This is done by hand and the “Hard Pattern” is made from an easy to adapt soapstone. The “Hard-Pattern” goes back and forth to Mark Asbreuk, Jaap’s business partner and developer who lives in China most of the time until it’s okay.
Using the “Hard-Pattern” a rubber mold is made from which the body can be made to create a “Mock up”. A “Mock up” is a complete model, both interior and exterior are clearly visible. Smaller parts like wipers, wheels and trimpieces are left out. To be able to judge the form of the model best as possible the mock up is finished in a matte grey color. Loose parts can be added to view the fit, usually the tape give away it’s prototyping phase.
Parallel to this phase is the development of parts that are attached to the body. Bumpers, wheels, all kind of small parts. Either made from ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a thermoplastic we all know from the use of it in the Citroën Méhari) or photo-etched materials (metal). Those photo-etched materials are being replaced by chromed decals rapidly though as the metal sometimes doesn’t stay put on the plastic. Chromed decals affix simply better.
After the “mock up” phase the rubber molds are created. Multiple molds as the mold will last only for 80 to 100 products. That’s a big difference with diecasts, the metal molds last for thousands of casts. Creating a rubber mold is about 20 euros. The first resin cast is called the “Deco sample” and this one still is created at a special department of the production facility. If the Deco Sample is approved production can be prepared. The Deco Sample itself often ends up being shown on fairs to show a new product while production is started.
Production is done in China. Most models are assembled by women as their smaller hands and better trained locomotion gives them a skilled advantage over men. Usually Matrix maximizes their production numbers to 408. Not just for keeping it a limited and easy to sell number as for that 400 would be sufficient. The reason for “408” is economical: due to the amount of products per outer box, 12.
Usually a timeframe of 8 months is needed to get from idea to production. Sometimes car companies do “requests” at Matrix. This really speeds up development as all information is at hand, even the blueprints. Not so much for an Aston Martin DB5 shooting brake from Radford though. Or that Jaguar XK120 Supersonic by Ghia…
But how on earth does Matrix come up with their amazing and obscure line up? First of all they produce stuff they like themselves. Stuff that they run into while doing the research, creating the “deco info” for a model they’re working on. Then there’s the opportunity by customers (both end-customers, retail and carcompanies) to do a suggestion that can lead to a new product. And then there’s the chance to re-use an existing model. A new color for example. Or a model with it’s doors open.
And to prove how “at home” the TTB was, Jaap showed us one of his own 1:1 classics. An exact copy of the first car he ever bought himself. A Beetle 1302. No doubt: The TTB will talk about this adventure for quite a while. Next stop: Breda. I suppose. Or maybe de Wolfsburcht.
Many thanks to Jaap van Dijk for having us over at his office and warehouse. And for telling us all about Resin and Matrix. We’ve gotten so much information it’s hard to put it all in one post. Information about selling 1/43's in the USA. About totally new brands -for me- he produces or distributes as well (AiQ, Kess, GLM and Cult). About carpet making it’s way into 1/43's and other new developments in both the car model market in general and in his own organization/product-line. Vielen Dank Jaap!
Das war es wieder, viele Grüssen von dem TTB!