Welcome to “How I’m Starting a Toy Company” Blog. Where “I” is former tech entrepreneur D.S. I blog about manufacturing, start-up life, and my general day-to-day priorities.
This post is part of series on Manufacturing Plastic Toys.
If you are thinking about manufacturing something plastic, the first thing you will need to do is familiarize yourself with the various plastics manufacturing methods and the design limitations of each. For example, if you decide you want to go with injection molding, there will be design restrictions that you will need to consider when going back and designing your product. And, if you don’t abide by certain design limitations, then your costs can skyrocket.
I learned this the hard way. I started with a product design idea > hired a 3D CAD modeler to create a CAD file of our concept > approached a manufacturer > and learned I would need to go back to the drawing board and re-design the product.
For plastic toy production, the most common type of plastics manufacturing methods used are the following:
a) Injection Molding – Injection molding is a manufacturing process, the most common manufacturing method used today, which entails injecting melted materials into a mold to take the shape of that mold. A variety of materials can be used/injected: metals, plastics, glass, etc. Set-up or ‘tooling’ costs can be higher than rotational molding, but the cost per piece will be lower. One thing that we did not realize is the design limitations w/ injection molding. With injection molding, you will have an A side and a B side to the mold. One of the sides, the B side will have injector pins that will eject the finished part from the mold. Because the A side and B side will pull horizontally away from the mold, the part cannot have what is called ‘undercuts’. There is an exception here in that a manufacturer can accommodate undercuts by building out side cams. However, each undercut which requires a separate side cam will add several thousand dollars to your initial mold tooling costs.
b) Rotomolding or Rotational Molding (or even Rotocasting) – This is a manufacturing process for creating hollow parts that entails pouring liquid resin (AKA liquid plastic) into a hollow mold and then rotating that mold in an oven to allow the liquid resin to distribute across the mold and coat the inside of the mold cavity. Allows for lower set-up tooling costs, consistent wall thickness, and the ability to have undercuts in your design file (or combine multiple different plastic parts into a single molded part coming out of one mold).
A raw but accurate video of plastic doll heads being made using rotational molding:
c) Blow Molding – Like rotational molding, blow molding creates hollow pieces. But blow molding allows for very high quantities at costs that rotational molding is not able to compete with. The caveat is the upfront tooling costs required w/ blow molding can be 6x that of rotational molding (but the per unit cost drops).
Easy video to understand blow molding:
Some examples of what manufacturing processes different toys use:
Rubber Ducks – Rotational molding: http://www.adironduckrace.com/how-are-rubber-ducks-made.html
Legos – Injection molding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrzKih5rqD0
*Great! Video to understand end-to-end plastic toy making process and specifically as it relates to injection molding & making plastic dinosaur toys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5KRawOXy4U
Informational video re how the molds are made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3cKJpynX_c
Plastic ride-on toys for young children made via blow-molding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcRUE1MJE28
Simple round plastic toy balls made via blow-molding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sxxRF9XQAk