This was the business trip of Mikatan went to visit the PVC figure factory in China. I took this off the official Good Smile Company blog, Mikatan’s blog. All credit goes to Mikatan. Since the official GSC blog is being updated very frequently and it is really hard to find and keep track on the old news. So I decided to copy the whole “Mikatan’s Factory Field Trip” here as a record.

Time to continue our factory trip!

Yesterday I went through the making of the molds.

“So it’s pretty similar to a taiyaki mold!”

… if that’s how you’re thinking about it, then you’ve got the right idea!

Remember that there are two kinds of molds though, the iron plate that cooks the taiyaki and the taiyaki itself.

Today we’ll look more into how the final mold – the actual sculptures, are created!

This is the machine that does the work!

You can’t really see much from this angle though… it kind of just looks like a metal box…

There are actually a number of these machines all lined up in a row here.

But there is a little chimney thing on top of the metal box!

Here the raw materials are added!

For the taiyaki example this would be batter, but in the case of figures the main raw material is PVC!

So in other words, PVC is poured into this little chimney thing!

This is how the machine looks inside!

I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea to try putting your hand inside on of these. ^^;

Ah! A mold!

One of the molds from yesterday is placed inside the machine!!

At this point the different sides of the mold are placed on either side, apart from each other.

Just like a taiyaki mold would be before you pour in the batter!

Close up the yellow cover, and…

The molding begins!

I can’t take photos of it in action, so I’ll just explain it in steps:

1) The two sides of the mold connect together!
2) The PVC is poured into the machine, which pours it into the mold!
3) The mold is cooled, causing the PVC to harden!

Molding Complete!

“Eh? What the heck is that weird rod thing?”

The rod is called the “runner”, which is formed by the cracks that the PVC has to travel through!

When the two sides of the mold are put together and the PVC is run through them, the PVC has to travel between the red lines in the photo in order to reach all the different parts of the mold. The position of the runner can have an impact on where the PVC reaches in the mold, so it requires quite a lot of planning to make sure the figure comes out with all the right details.

These are all the parts after the runners have been cut off!

The factory workers use cutting tools to cut the runners off carefully. The parts are then placed in water…

This is to make sure they don’t melt or lose shape in the heat!

The PVC is melted at an incredibly high temperature and then cooled to make it harden, however it still comes out quite hot when the cooling process is complete! At the point that is has just been cooled the PVC is very weak to heat, so they are quickly placed in water to make sure they keep to the correct shape.

What do you think those parts in the top left container are…? They look a little bit like the hair that sticks up on some Nendoroids. ^^;

Here some figma stands getting cut!

The stands have finished the molding process and are now being cut out one-by-one. Be careful not to cut your hand!

PVC leftovers!!

“That makes one super surreal photo…!”

Complete!

Some brand new hair parts! (・∀・)ノ

But we’re not finished yet…

Little fixes with a craft knife!

Sometimes the cutting of the runner will leave little bumpy parts, so they are then carefully removed with a craft knife!

This worker even has a plaster on her thumb!

The workers really left a good impression on me – even after getting cut a little on the job they would plaster up and continue!

Onto the filing!

Even after the craft knife, the pieces still go onto a filing process to make absolutely sure there are no unwanted bumpy surfaces. There were lots of girls working in the factory, this was another one!

Then onto the cleaning!

The white plastic gets dirty very easily, so each piece is then wiped down with little swabs like these.

We have yet another girl working in this photo… I really didn’t mean to just take photos of the girls, but it somehow ended like that. There were a lot of girls working there, though!

All the figures you all collect at home all go through all of this! (`・ω・´)ゞ

They might be mass-produced, but they still go through a lot of manual work!

I’ll get into the painting at a later stage… it’s even more work…

As a figure lover it was really interesting to go through the factory and see just how much work is put into the figures.

The parts are each displayed on a board!

Some of the parts are absolutely tiny, so they are displayed like this to make sure that none of the pieces go missing! Smart!

Good work, molds!

After the molding process is complete all the molds are numbered and put into storage.

Names can even be written on the molds!

Any idea what this says?

It’s Chinese for “Black Rock Shooter!”

Although I’m not sure why there is a “Q” at the start…

And that’s it for the molding process!

So along with yesterdays blog I’ve now covered both parts of the molding process.

There are a lot of mechanized parts to the process, but I was quite surprised at the amount of manual work as well. It’s wonderful to know how much work is put into the figures that I display all over back home.

The next factory tour will cover the painting process!

I’ll continue these blogs on days that there are no new products to take a look at, so look forward to the next one!

Once again though, remember that this factory tour was looked at very quickly and simplified for me, and I’m sure the actual process involves a lot more jargon and specifics – I hope that my fellow workers and experts in the field will forgive the basic explanations.

That’s all for today!

I’ll see you all again next week! (・∀・)ノ゛

Mikatan’s Factory Field Trip! << Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 >>

1/8th Scale Senjougahara Hitagi << Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 >>