Yesterday, talking about my concerns about the technical limits of polyurethane resin, I anticipated how I would like to skip to plastic kits, for our (very) future releases.
Mighty Fabianowitsch, a member of our community (hi Fabian!), raised another concern about plastic pointing out legitimate reasons about the cons of plastic miniatures, and indeed I think that it might be interesting to discuss this further.
Are plastic miniatures really better than resin miniatures?
Are plastic miniatures really absolutely necessary?
I'm not an engineer nor a technical expert of plastic materials, so despite I've some knowledge about (and I'm happy to share them), take these lines as a personal opinion based on my experience as a hobbyist and creative.
I think that it's difficult, if not unfair, to claim one material better than another: it's all about context.
Resin is the best material to express our creativity, because of two main reasons:
1) This material keeps the detail of the original sculpt better than any kind of plastic or metal, allowing you to own a miniature as close as possible to the sculptor's original art.
2) Resin miniatures molds are flexible, allowing a certain level of undercuts: that means more freedom to create for the sculptor, which can make more elaborate and detailed sculpts without having to separate them into thousands of separate parts.
Resin is also enough workable, almost like plastic: it's easy to cut, sand, kitbash.
Moreover, for small manufacturers (like us), resin is economically friendly, because cost of entry is relatively low and, above all, it is perfect for limited numbers.
So you can't be surprised if almost any small/medium manufacturer produces is miniatures with this material: you can set an initial run investing a reasonable sum, and you can really enhance the quality of your creative department.
Unfortunately, it isn't all puppy and rainbows.
As I wrote in yesterday's post, the casting process of resin miniatures is highly artisanal and that means at least three things to consider:
1) times of production are really long: so for a manufacturer, especially a small one that can't invest too many funds on making a huge stock in advance, it means that you are not able to adapt to the demand of products efficiently.
2) quality standards are variable and may be affected by stupid, minor, issues that could mess up a whole stock: the mold of resin miniatures is not like that of plastic one, it is subject to a rapid wear and, for example, if the resin caster doesn't notice even small damage in the mold, all the successive copies will be damaged. I don't envy resin casters: there are so many things that might go wrong in the process, wasting hours of work and material (and money), and often is really difficult to detect them in time!
3) The economy of scale is almost inexistent. Entry cost is low, but, as any artisanal process, it doesn't get cheaper as numbers grow. If you order 30 copies, you would pay X for each miniature, and if you order 300 copies, you would pay...X for each miniature. Moreover, the more numbers you do, the more attentive you must be to point 2): quality control is crucial.