GI Joe Production Process
This is a place holder until Hasbro finally reveas the full details of what goes into the creation of a GI Joe figure.
Phase I: Design and sculpting
Design phase: Sketches are drawn highlighting sculpt details, color preferences, and articulation points.
1st Mock-up: Essentially customs. They can even use parts from other toy lines from other companies. These are used internally to show the potential of a product or line.
Possible 2nd Mock-up: More refined, may include some of the engineered working play features. Costs of the figures parts and features will be discussed. Anything deemed excessive will be left out.
Initial sculpt: Usually of wax, a wax based sculpting material, or a product like Castelline. Modern figures are sculpted at 104%...just a touch larger than 1:1 to allow for some shrinkage as Plastics cool after molding.
- 2 up sculpt: These were once used to refine the sculpt and get more detail before it is downsized for mold creation. The sculpt was shrunk using a pantograph machine.
Phase II: Digital imaging and mold block creation
3D imaging: Every single individual part of the sculpt is laser scanned into a 3D CAD model in a 1:1 ratio. The data from the scans will be input into 3D C&C milling machines (like an industrial sized dremel) which will then carve out the injection mold tooling from sheets of metal. This process is also used to get a character likeness as close to a real person as possible.
Digital touch up: A digital artist will then go through the scan and alter it to match even closer to the real life person.
- * Rapid Prototyping Machines: These are sometimes used to take the digital image and create the sculpt layer by thin layer of plastic without the use of a human sculptor.
- Initial cast: These are usually a resin cast prototype that were once used to create the first mold.
The mold block: Metal tray with top and bottom. Has indents for most of the figures parts and a opening for the plastic to be injected into it. Parts molded in different colors or using different kinds of plastics may be in separate molds or have separate openings. Multiple cavities exist for the same part. A mold release lubricant is used to keep the plastic from sticking to the metal molds.
Phase III: Initial assembly and test shots
Sonic Welding: A machine that generates very high frequency FM radio signals is used to "glue" parts together. The signal generates heat at very precise locations and make the weld between two pieces of plastic. The waist piece that looks like one sold piece is actually two pieces sonic welded together. Figures with difficulty moving their biceps usually had the sonic welding used to hold the shoulder together interfere with the swivel joint as well.
Test shots: Production figure used to test mold, assembly process, and create samples of the figure. Usually done with scrap multicolored plastic. Changes are made to the mold at this stage to improve it for cosmetic or safety reasons. Package testing normally starts at this point to ensure the figure fits in the package and meets marketing concepts.
Safety testing: A sample of "test shot" figures are put through several stress tests to ensure they meet the safety standards of the countries they will be sold in.
Phase IV: Painting
Hand painted prototype: Either an early resin cast prototype or production sample will be used to hand paint to create a color sample.
Paint mask: Once a color scheme is chosen, the mask/stencil will be created using copper forms for each part of the figure. The areas to be painted are cut and removed from the copper paint mask. For a multi-colored paint scheme such as camoflouge, several copper paint masks will be used. The paint is then mostly done by airbrush machine with multiple factory workers painting where ever necessary. Most of the paint application limitations on figures come not from the cost of the paint, but from the cost of the copper paint masks. Copper is used because it allows for sharp, crisp paint lines against the plastic surface.
Additional paint prototypes: These prototypes will be factory produced samples using the paint masks and production paint. They are created to test alternate color schemes or to refine color choices.
Tampograph Stamping: A stamp that is used to create small highly detailed symbols or words. A plate is cut and etched of the design and put into the stamping machine. Paint is applied to the metal plate and a sponge on a robotic stamper picks up a precise copy from the plate. This sponge is pressed onto the plastic of the figure leaving a crisp copy even in seams and folds of the plastic sculpt.
Phase V: Final Assembly
Final Assembly: This is where the parts are combined to form the figure. Generally, parts like screws, t-bars, anodized rivets, o-rings, and friction pads are added if they haven't been already for the painting phase.
Phase VI: Final approval
Approval process: This is on going through out the entire process, but generally a few changes are made once the final mold and paint choices are made and a production sample is in hand.
First articles: First "finished" figures, that are sent to the company for final approval before full production begins.
Phase VII: Marketing
Catalog and inner packaging material may use early hand painted prototypes or samples from right on up to the final production figures.
Marketing research: Used to find out what kids and parents like and what price point would be acceptable.
Phase VII: Packaging
Packaging mock up: Sometimes used to test the shape and display of the product.
Layout mock up: Has most of the final detail of the final packaging, but does not yet have the right figure/vehicle. This is used as a test example of how the final packaging will lock with the toys in it. It will have art based on early production samples of the figures/vehicles.
- Production process no longer used today.
- * Not always used.
Alos be sure to check out JoeIntel.com's fascinating article with pre-production samples.