On the recommendation of a mentor, a few of us took a quick trip to a prototyping company called A-Tech. The company’s focus was building prototypes of toys. With big names for clients such as Hasbro, Mattel, Tiger Electronics, Hallmark, and Mega Block, the company’s show room looked like a toy store from the United States.
During the tour, the representative said the only time we were allowed to take pictures was in the show room, and he was very careful about security. There were cameras everywhere, and it wasn’t hard to see why. He said that they often worked on toys up to a year before their release, so it was essential that nothing leak about the design of characters or any details that could compromise them. One leak and a movie studio or toy company could break their business.
The facility itself had a few departments. There was the CNC milling area, where sheets of thick ABS were transformed into models. There was a room full of technicians with scalpels and other tools tweaking the models or assembling them. There was a modeling room with people forming wax molds of designs. There was a room with silicone molds and vacuum formed parts. There was a painting room. And then we moved into another part where there was a room of modelers creating virtual models from sketches using extremely expensive force feedback wands that moved in any direction and allowed the modelers to ‘feel’ their model as they manipulated it. There was another room with people working on CAD models of parts and assemblies. There was a final room with 3D printers.
The tour was shorter than the travel time, but it was fascinating nonetheless. I don’t think there’s anything they can do for me. As a toy prototyping factory they are accustomed to making small models, and they only develop one or two prototypes of something and ship it off. After that, they are no longer involved, leaving the client to take the model to another factory and find someone to develop the tooling. They also were very expensive. Probably still far cheaper than an equivalent U.S. company, but still way out of my price range for my current project.
If, however, one was looking for a toy prototyping facility where one could hand them a sketch and they could transform it into a beautiful 3D model and make it real, then this place is PERFECT.