I got a chance to interview the creator of TeccoToys last year and I wanted to share his thoughts, as well raise awareness of his plans for future toys. These toys are done at Air Raiders scale and would work really well with the toys. Quite frankly, if the toys were ever reintroduced, I’d want them to look like TeccoToys’ product. Anyways, the first half of the interview is more background and technical because a lot of people (like me) are interested in the process, not just the results. The second half is more geared towards the toys themselves. Enjoy!
Airlandia: What inspired you to get into making toys?
TeccoToys: As a kid of the 80ies, I enjoyed lots of classic toy lines like Star Wars, Mask, MotU, Transformers, G.I.Joe and StarCom (which still is my all time favorite toy line). So It was always kind of an inspiration for everything I did, with my main focus becoming character design. After school I got into games and was working for a games company near Berlin for 2 years, before I went to university to study animation. After that I formed an animation studio and collective with friends and former students, which after about 5 years led to the founding of my own company LUMATIC ( www.lumatic.xyz ), where I do mostly character design, sculpting and animation.
A few years ago I got kind of tired of only having my work digitally and was looking forward to have something in the real material world. At that time I got in contact with Michael Fichtenmayer of Industria Mechanika who produces high quality resin model kits in collaboration with concept artists and modelers mostly with a background in the film and gaming industry. This led to the creation of 3 mecha themed model kits and 2 sets of 1/35 scale figures.
With always more of a toy idea in my mind, I tried to incorporate moving parts and poseable joints, but it proved kind of difficult since I didn’t have the possibility to test what I have done digitally and it is a long and costly process to create those kits, so I only could see if everything worked when the product was done. Luckily, It worked most of the time.
I developed the idea of this practical 1/35 scale mecha toy line after a while, since I was more into action figures than model kits and seeing that after StarCom there was kind of a lack of realistically proportioned toy lines of that scale and also a lack of piloted mech action toy lines. I thought that given the right attention to detail, it could also appeal to collectors and scale modelers alike and might be a possibility to bridge the gap between collectors (which are mostly around my age , 30-45) and their kids, being able to share their passion with their kids without the fear of breaking them (like with fragile model kits).
About a year ago, I finally got a 3D printer and started testing my ideas.
From my experience so far I can at least say that one idea already worked out: is is appealing to kids as well as adults.
Airlandia: Do you have a background in this or is this new territory for you?
TeccoToys: I don’t have an engineering or manufacturing background, so this is a new experience for me. Except for everything I learned while digitally sculpting for the Industria Mechanika model kits, I had to go through the trial and error process of 3D printing and I am still learning new things every day.
Airlandia: What kind of 3D printer do you use?
TeccoToys: I use a Formlabs Form2 because it delivers great quality on a small scale, and due to layer resolutions of 0.1 to 0.025 mm the prints actually don’t need surface modifications like sanding, so you get high detail/high quality right out of the printer.
Airlandia: Are you happy with the results? I’m curious because it seems to have broken down a couple times over the course of your work. Is that normal?
TeccoToys: As far as the results go, I’m very happy. I don’t have any experience with other printers, but people who do and to whom I showed the prototypes are always blown away by the quality. The printer itself has its ups and downs, probably like every printer, but when its working correctly, it produces awesome results. I’ve had some replacements and some repairs within one year. It’s a very complex machine and it has lots of automated features that work hand in hand to allow for the best and most easy to use experience. One has to keep in mind though, that some mechanical parts can fail after a certain time and depending on the amount of prints and mine’s been running practically 24/7. I don’t think it’s normal that this happened to me, maybe just a bit of bad luck. But throughout the year, Formlabs support has always done a great job to ensure that I have a perfect working printer. They usually reply to support requests within an hour and I got 2 replacements and 2 repairs free of charge, always within 2 weeks or less.
Airlandia: What about resins, does it matter what kind you use?
TeccoToys: Yes. I’ve tried many resins and found that the standard grey and white work best for my prototypes. Those resins have about the right amount of elongation and flexibility needed for the snap fit and ball joints of the prototypes.
Airlandia: What does the FormCure do for your work?
TeccoToys: I or my colleagues mostly use the FormCure for other prints we do, like some practical applications for which we use pro resins like the tough resin, which requires some time in the FormCure to develop final material properties and quality/strength. For example, my colleague Lars created a really cool angular design headlight fastener for his bike with the tough resin, which has been in use daily for almost a year now, still doing its job. The standard resins for my prototypes usually don’t require a FormCure treatment, except if something breaks and I don’t want to print it again I just dip the contacts into the resin tank and then put them into the FormCure for 30 mins to “glue” them back together.
Airlandia: Do you use any other programs besides Zbrush?
TeccoToys: I do use Maya a lot to create the basic shapes before I switch over to Zbrush for boolean operations for joints and detailing. After that I export the parts back to Maya for orientation and layout before I send them to the printer.
Airlandia: What kind of spray paints and paints do you like to use?
TeccoToys: Currently I’m using the Vallejo Model Air and Model Color paints. They are water soluble which makes it easier to work with the airbrush plus they don’t have the bad odor of standard acrylics.
Airlandia: You mentioned on your Facebook page how the snap-fit joint design didn’t work. What went wrong?
TeccoToys: For the action figures the snap fit design works quite well. On a small scale and without much weight to carry, they hold up pretty good.
For the mech vehicles however it’s a different thing. The first problem I had to solve was the tolerances of the joint sockets and strength of the joint pins. I had lots of broken joints before I found the right settings. They seemed to work well at first, but after some time, I noticed that they began to loosen and couldn’t hold the mechs upright anymore.
I then found out, that the material properties of the standard resins are changing over quite a long period of about 2-3 weeks before they completely settle (even after having been processed with the FormCure). So snap fit wasn’t an option anymore and I moved to small screws to hold the arm and leg joints together. After the limbs loosen up, you can simply tighten the screws and it works great. Fortunately, the balljoints are a bit more forgiving and still work well after loosening up a bit.
However, I hope that this won’t be an issue with the final planned product, since plastics used in toy manufacturing have different properties than SLA resins.
I will have this looked over and evaluated by an expert before the kickstarter campaign.
Airlandia: Do you have a world background or history for these toys or will you leave it up to people’s imagination?
TeccoToys: Yes, I have only a rough idea until now, since I put the design work first, but there will be a story, a timeline of events and heroes and villains (coming soon). To give a first hint: It all takes place in the 22nd century.
Airlandia: You gave the light utility mech a designation, FT-B01. Does the heavy mech have one?
TeccoToys: Not yet, but it is in the works and it will get a designation or name.
Airlandia: You mentioned three mech designs, will all three mechs be available in the kickstarter?
TeccoToys: Yes, that’s the plan. Maybe even a fourth one, but I’ll have to see if I can come up with the design in time. I don’t want my followers on social media to wait for too long.
Airlandia: Will an interested party be able to buy the mechs and pilots individually or is it just a package deal?
TeccoToys: I plan to offer each mech with at least one pilot figure separately, but also have the figures available each separately. I think there might be a demand for just the figures as well since they could also be interesting for collectors to use with other lines of similar scale or model kits/dioramas.
Airlandia: So the future kickstarter is a success! What’s your next step for Tecco Toys?
TeccoToys: If so, I would definitely want to expand the line. There are lots of things I have in mind.
Airlandia: Will you do any vehicles like tanks or aircraft or will you stick with the mechs?
TeccoToys: I have some ideas for the expansion of the line, including vehicles, aircraft, spaceships. Maybe some tanks as well. And some bigger stuff: those mechs could walk around the world, but there must be a faster way to deploy them, right?
Airlandia: What about buildings?
TeccoToys: That is the only thing I honestly haven’t thought about yet. But yes, if there’s a demand, why not offer a nicely crafted play set.
Airlandia: Do you have a solid date for the kickstarter?
TeccoToys: Unfortunately not yet. I can only give a very rough timeframe of early to mid 2019, since I first have to finish all the designs to have working prototypes ready to show for the campaign. I think I will be done with that just about January 2019, and then it gets complicated because I have to find experts, manufacturers, etc. and get some inputs on feasibility, get some safe estimates (mold tooling, etc,) and plan and calculate the cost of production including Kickstarter costs, taxes, packaging and logistics costs and determine a final price for each item. That will probaly take a several months. Since I don’t want to disappoint expectations of my potential backers/customers, I’d rather be safe and take enough time to get those things right, before I start the campaign.