Hundreds of model kits or scale models are made worldwide to give hobbyists hours of pleasure. These model kits are often sold in toy stores and specialized hobby and craft toys. A model kit or a scale model means that it is a miniaturized version of an object, such as a car.
There are about five different skill levels when it comes to putting together a model kit. There are the snap-together model kits that have tiny tabs and locks that fit perfectly with shaped holes. These snap-together model kits are also made in the same color as the object, and it requires no adhesives, tools, or paint to build them. The other three levels are beginner, intermediate, and advanced. These kits become increasingly complicated and require more steps when it comes to detailing and assembling. You can determine the kit’s difficulty level on the box. The last level is called the customized kits. What makes them different from all the other levels is that it comes with varying styles of bumpers, engines, parts, accessories, and other options that will make it a one-of-a-kind model that suits the builder’s imagination.
What are the Materials Used to Make a Model Kit?
Almost all model kits are made of a plastic called polystyrene. It is a raw material that is essential for nearly all scale models that are made today. Model toy kit manufacturers purchase them in bulk quantities, and they look like pellets at first. They often come in standard colors, and manufacturers add pigments to them while they melt and mold them.
Another material that is used in making a model kit is balsa wood. Sometimes, this kind of model kit has outlines stamped on them so that the builder could quickly determine where they can cut out the pieces. Balsa wood can be customized and detailed just like the plastic ones, and this kind of model kit is still being sold today.
Other model kits are made of metal, and some of them may include working parts such as gear-driven systems or a steam engine.
Besides these materials, other essential parts of the model kits are the instruction sheet, decals, and box. The box usually has a full-color photo or a drawing of the completed model. Layouts, images, instruction sheets, artworks, and designs are made by artists in a design studio, and they are printed using specialized printers.
How are Model Kits Designed?
Designing a model kit starts by taking hundreds of photographs or creating a visual example of the being modeled. These photos and visual representations include the object’s measurements so that the designer will make a precise scale design. This information is transferred to illustrations that will be used to make the molds. Artists will have to follow the designer’s image, and they will carve out a pattern model from softwood or balsa.
After this, the wooden pattern is coated using an epoxy resin that will help harden the material as it cures. When the resin has trapped the piece’s shape in a cavity mold, the wooden part is removed. The space between the core mold of the resin and the cavity mold will be the one that will help form the plastic model.
Most of these parts will be molded using a single form of plastic that manufacturers call a tree. They are usually rectangular so that they will fit perfectly in a box.
How are Model Kits Molded into Different Parts?
The steel tools for the separate parts of the model are taken into the factory. The workers will place these steel tools in a larger frame. Then this frame is lifted into the cavity of the injection molding machine.
On the other hand, the storage hopper located above the machine is filled with plastic pellets that look like confetti. When the molding process is about to begin, the machine melts the pellets to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The machine pumps it into the mold, and after several seconds, the tree will form. When the plastic cools down, the machine opens to allow the plastic tree to fall onto the conveyor belt. Toy model manufacturers recycle most of the waste when they are making plastic models. This is convenient because the plastic waste can be melted and remixed for other model toy kits.
After this, the assembly-line workers that are sitting along the conveyor belt will put the trees into plastic bags, add the decals, the instruction sheet, and close the bag then put it in the box. These boxes travel along the conveyor belt to be covered and shrink-wrapped.