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Whether you have a general interest in how toys are made or would like to learn more about collecting pre-production items, this glossary can help you better understand commonly used terms in the toy design and development process from the 1990s to present.  

Manufacturing Terms

  • Blister – A plastic tray used to secure an action figure and related accessories within a blister cover.  Blisters covers contain a flange that is typically heat sealed to a card back.  The blister and cover are often referred to as the "Bubble".

  • Castilene – A sulfur-free modeling compound that models like clay and works like wax. It is lightweight and compatible with silicones and other rubbers. The medium grade is great for detailing, and the hard grade is best for sharp detail.  See sculpting below.

  • Clay – Refers to a "Clay Sculpt", a modeling compound used by a sculptor (see sculpting below). 

  • Cromalin – (See proof below)

  • Deco Master – Also referred to as a "Paint Master", it is a painted hardcopy figure that was cast directly from the Wax sculpt.  Deco Masters offer a painted 3D representation of a figure used for licensor approval, advertising and Toy Fair displays.  They are also created to communicate proper paint color schemes to the vendor for final manufacturing.

  • Durometer – Used to measure the hardness of a material, typically of polymers, elastomers, and rubbers. Higher numbers on the scale indicate a greater resistance to indentation and thus harder materials. Lower numbers indicate less resistance and softer materials.

  • Dyna-Cast – A 2-part resin casting material used to make hardcopies.  Thy Dyna-Cast is mixed and poured into a silicone mold.  Once the resin cures, it creates a low cost fairly durable 1:1 copy of the original sculpt.

  • Engineering Pilot (EP) – A packaged sample used in the final packaging design process that involves using a production quality action figure and the development of the blister.  During this process, changes may be made to the blister to accommodate the figure's pose and placement.  Engineering pilots often include random scrap card stock for use of the card back and any blister inserts.  They also include the use VSPs such as a first shots or painted sample figures.  Therefore, loose paint sample figures are often referred to as Engineering Pilots as well.

  • Final Engineering Pilot (FEP) – Pre-production samples created in later stages of development.  Therefore, will most resemble the final product.  FEPs are often used for quality control and sales samples. 

  • First Shot – An injection molded action figure produced from steel molds.  Early first shot figures will often be found in odd colors and may lack copyrights and/or peg holes.  These are used to test the fit, form & function of the action figure from an engineering standpoint.  As product development continues, tooling changes are often made and additional “test shots” are produced. First shots/test shots are typically produced multiple quantity batches.

  • Hardcopy – A 3D casting of an original wax sculpt.  Hardcopies are made of a 2-part resin like material such as Dyna-Cast and cast from a silicone mold.  Hardcopies can be used to communicate sculpting design changes.  They are often painted (Deco Master) and used for internal presentations, advertising photography and Toy Fairs.  A "Tooling Master" hardcopy is used as a pattern to develop the tooling for creating the steel molds.

  • Hasbro Far East (HFE) – Vendor samples manufactured by "Hasbro Far East".  These examples will often include HFE written on the figure for plant identification. 

  • Injection Molding – A process that uses plastic beads that are melted down and injected into steel molds at high pressures between 10,000 to 16,000 PSI.  As the plastic cools, it tends to have some shrinkage.  Higher injection pressures tend to have reduced shrinkage.  This process is used to develop later prototyping phases and the final production of action figures.   

  • Kenner Standard – Vendor sample figures that are used to communicate quality control, paint/packaging design changes and final approvals.  It is the final process before the toy goes into production.

  • Line Look – When a new segment or line is created, the design team will develop a package line look with the help from the packaging department and studio.  "Line Looks" are presented to the licensor to hear reactions and comments to the direction.

  • Mockup – A general term used to describe items created in the packaging design and development process.

    • Conceptual Mockup – Early 3D packaged items created by a design team that are often handmade to roughly communicate a "Line Look" both internally and with the licensor.

    • Engineering Pilot (EP) Mockup – Used for packaging design.  See "Engineering Pilot" above.

    • Final Engineering Pilot (FEP) Mockup – Used for quality control.  See "Final Engineering Pilot" above.

  • Paint Master – See Deco Master above.

  • Paint Sample – A sample painted injection molded figure (AKA Engineering Pilot) designed to communicate the exact colors to be used for final production.  As changes are made, more samples are often created to reflect these changes until achieving final approval.  These figures may or may not contain copyright markings & COO.

  • Pattern Input Drawings – Drawings created to give general dimensions of the figure.  Once approved, a sculptor will create a wax sculpt for the figure. 

  • Pre-Production – This term generally refers to any item used in development of a toy prior to the final approved production process.

  • Proof – A printing process used to approval graphic design work, placement, color and text used for card backs, boxes, advertisements and more.

    • Cromalin Proof – Used to approve CMYK printing before going on press. Cromalin is a proprietary brand name and process created by duPont.  Cromalin proofs are overall useful for confirming correct sizing and position of page elements.  They are also used to confirm colors and check the registration of the color plates in CMYK printing.  They are also used to check for blemishes and marks on the plates/negatives that will be used to print on press.

    • Digital Comp – A low-cost proofing process typically using a laser printer to develop and communicate conceptual packaging designs.  Digital comps are often used to generate conceptual hand-made mockups.

    • Proof Card – An early test print of an action figure card back.  Proof cards in pre-1990’s were often found on thinner card stock, square bottom corners and non-gloss back. 

    • Proof Sheet – A digital printing process that uses thin sheet of photo quality paper.  Proof sheets offer a relatively low-cost, high-quality example that is very close in color accuracy compared to the final print on press.

  • Rotocasting – Also known as rotomolding or centrifugal casting, is a method for forming thermoplastic resins where the molten material solidifies in and conforms to the shape of the inner surface of a heated, rapidly rotating container.

  • Sculpt Input Drawings – Drawings used to communicate specific details to the sculptor.  This often includes special features, articulation, textures, etc.

  • Sculpting – The process in which a sculptor creates a three-dimensional model.  For many years, sculptors created models using modeling compound materials such as clay and wax.  Current sculpting is now often digitally in a computer program called ZBrush.

  • Silicone Mold – A 2-part molding mixture used to create a 1:1 hardcopy from the original wax sculpt.  The cured silicone mold consists of a flexible rubber-like material to easily remove the castings.

  • SLA (Stereolithography) – An early 3D printing process that uses a laser beam to build up the required object, layer by layer, from a liquid polymer that hardens on contact with the laser light.  This process is often used for non-organic objects such as vehicles and other accessories.

  • Sonic Weld – A welding technique that uses ultrasound to bond two pieces of plastic together.  The vibration causes molecules of plastic to migrate into the plastic it is in contact with.

  • Sprue – Refers to the passage through which the melted plastic is introduced into a mold.  Injection molded pieces produced are connected by unused plastic pieces and this is often referred to as a "Sprue Tree".

  • Steel Mold – The molds used to make the final production toy.  Small plastic pellets are melted down and injected into these molds to form the individual pieces that are assembled to make up the toy.  These molds are also used to create late-stage prototypes such as first shots.

  • SUB – An acronym that stands for "Support Under Blister".  This describes the pop-out located at the bottom of the blister cover.  SUBs were designed to allow a carded action figure to stand vertically without falling over.

  • Tooling Master – A hardcopy figure used as a pattern to develop the tooling for creating the steel molds.

  • Vendor – An outsourced supplier.

  • Vendor Supplied Prototype (VSP) – A generic term used to describe injection molded figures and prototypes created by an outsourced manufacturing plant as samples.   While this term is commonly used to describe painted sample figures, it can also describe first/test shots.​

  • Wax – Refers to a "Wax Sculpt" created by the sculptor.  See sculpting above.

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