Over on a site called thetoybox, they created a post that covered everything about the Air Raiders. The article was fine but what caught my interest was in the comments section from an anonymous poster:
As one of the engineers who developed these, the figures and the command outpost, they were pretty cool. One aspect of the toy was the level of crisp detail. We used jewelry techniques to bring this level to the figures. Remember this was back before high quality manufacturing methods such as CNC machining and EDM. We were still in the middle of master pattern making and pantograph machining.
As to the demise, this was the first shooting toy for Hasbro (not Nerf). Shooting toys were frowned on by Alan so support never really materialized. We were active into the second year when the line was killed.
I wish I could get the opportunity to talk to this guy (or any of the other Hasbro engineers) and ask some questions. Just to translate what he said:
- Master Pattern Making refers to having a master sculpt or model that is then taken and cast repeatedly.
- Pantograph Machining seems to refer to a 3-D version of the pantograph that allowed different enlargement or reduction ratios to be achieved. (A pantograph is a mechanical linkage connected in a manner based on parallelograms so that the movement of one pen, in tracing an image, produces identical movements in a second pen.) Educated guess, I think it allowed the user to make larger sculpts with intricate details that were mirrored by a smaller version that was made at the same time.
- CNC or Computer Numerical Control machining is a manufacturing process in which pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery. The process can be used to control a range of complex machinery, from grinders and lathes to mills and routers. With CNC machining, three-dimensional cutting tasks can be accomplished in a single set of prompts.
- The EDM or Electric Discharge Machining process is when an electrical current passes between an electrode and a workpiece which are separated by a dielectric liquid. The dielectric fluid acts as an electrical insulator unless enough voltage is applied to bring it to its ionization point, when it becomes an electrical conductor. The resulting spark discharge erodes the workpiece to form a desired final shape. Got that? Ok, here’s a video to show it in action.
What I really find fascinating is that the commenting engineer implies that Alan Hassenfeld, then CEO of Hasbro, never got behind the product. I’ve actually found several articles from the late ’80s discussing a wave of public protests and discontent over military/violent toys. I wonder if this caused Hassenfeld’s reluctance and led to the toys failing so quickly and maybe why a cartoon never got the green light either.
(FYI, the Nerf brand, existing since 1969 and owned by Parker Brothers and then Kenner, wouldn’t create foam dart shooters until 1991.)
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