Commissar Ploss and I where lucky enough to land a tour of the Reaper Miniatures plant in Denton, TX, northwest of Dallas TX. Bryan Stiltz, the Production Manager was nice enough to take time out of his day to take us on a tour of the facility and explain how things are done at Reaper. One things I did learn was Reaper also has a full fledged gaming store in the building as well with a compete line of Reaper miniatures, Paizo, and a large selection of Magic: the Gathering.
First thing he showed us was the greens and mold area. He showed us that they take the original green that they receive from the sculptor and make a master miniature out of that, removing any imperfection that they see. After they have the master made they use that to make their vulcanized rubber mold that is used to spincast their pewter models. Sorry we have no pictures of this area. We where not allowed to take any.
The next area that we went to was the production area where they actually make the pewter area. He showed us how a spincast mold works, how they fit together, and then put into the machine. For those of you that are not familiar with spin casting, in a nut shell they insert the mold into the machine and spin it at a pretty high speed and pour molten pewter into the machine and the spinning forces the pewter into the channels and the miniatures. From what was explained the facility makes 7000 spins a day, producing from 12 miniatures in a spin to a single piece of a larger model, such as their dragons. I did learn that Reaper uses talc powder as their release agent on their molds.
From the casting area the miniatures are then taken to their bins area and sorted according to what type of miniature it is. This area is amazing, rows upon rows of various miniature pieces. While we where here Bryan showed us some of the new Bones miniatures. Now the Bones miniatures, if you have not had a chance to handle any are not like the Finecast miniatures that Games Workshop produces, they are not made from a spincast resin, but rather a injected plastic somewhat like the plastic kits the GW or Revel make, but instead of a rigid plastic they use one one that is based on Vinyl that is really flexible and incredibly strong. All three of us tried to rip one in half with little to no damage or warpage on the model. These pictures are from after trying to tear it. Pretty amazing stuff.
After the sorting area we were shown the packaging area and shipping department. The machine shown below the plastic blister put into the machine first and then the pieces, and finally the card. It is then put into the machine and heated, melting the glue on the card, making it a complete blister. Then the labels are added and it is boxed up where it is moved to the shipping department where they are sported out for shipment or put on the shelves for future orders.
Now this part is something that I learned. All of the Reapers paints are made at their plants, unlike other modeling companies who have their paints made by someone else and then bottle it themselves. They mix the paints up in large batches, using their own formulas and additives, bottles, label and box them up, all in one area of their plant. They are quickly approaching over 300 different colors that will be available once the Bone promotion is complete.
Now some information I found out. Currently Reaper has only 3000 different miniatures in their line, ranging from mouse sized 28mm scale to 10 inch tall dragons. After the Bones promotion they will have around 250 of their miniatures in the new Bones plastic, a pretty small selection. They are also not planning on running a Bones promotion on Kickstarter any time soon as they do not want to burn anyone out (I hate this idea, personally once every six months would be great, email them!) They are not planning on putting their entire line into Bones but you can expect to see all of their popular miniatures to make the move. They do not expect to see their prices to rise much, if any at all. Surprisingly Bryan did say that he saw why Games Workshop did have to increase their prices due to an increased number of molds needed and equipment. He said that a pewter model only takes about 45 seconds to become solid, while spun resin takes 5 to 7 minutes to harden.
He did mention as well that they will be using Kickstarter to fund some other products that they have been wanting to make for years but would require outside sources, a few things mentioned where a collection of how to DVDs as well as boardgames, while these may never see the light of day, we can all hope. I also have a video but it will be posted up after the promotion ends more then likely so here are the key points of what we talked about, I hope you enjoyed this and learned somethings. I am going to be reviewing the video again and will add anything that I might have missed.
If you have any questions about what I posted, please ask, I might have forgotten something that you might want to know.