Biante Model Cars primary business is producing high quality, limited edition model cars. It’s a business that we have been involved in now for well over a decade to become Australia’s favourite model car company. The steps behind producing one of our model cars is a long and expensive process that many people may not be familiar with, so here is a quick guide into what goes on behind the scenes to bring you one of our high quality models.
Primarily we produce 1:18 and 1:43 Scale metal diecast model cars using factories throughout China. We also produce other products including 1:43 Scale Resin models (which is a kind of plastic polymer which we will discuss later), 1:64 Scale models, 1:10 Scale display bonnets and hopefully more in the future.
Generally the steps to produce any of our model products follow a similar path from concept to completion but for this exercise we will outline the steps involved behind producing a 1:18 Scale diecast model car with opening parts because this is one of our most popular products.
Step One: Planning.
To produce a 1:18 Scale diecast model requires a significant investment of time and money well before we’re able to sell the models in stores and on our website to get them into collectors hands. Because of this, we dedicate significant amounts of time in planning our development and production schedules to ensure we have a balance of new and existing projects that can reasonably meet collectors demands. This ensures we’re able to keep the doors open and that we can satisfy our various licensing commitments.
The planning behind a new 1:18 Scale project is very in depth because on average a project like this can cost anywhere between $100,000 - $250,000 and take between 12 – 24 months to complete. There are also numerous factors which remain outside of our control which also need to be considered and can greatly affect the cost and time required to finish a new model project. Some of these factors include the value of the Australian dollar, economic conditions and the manufacturing factors in China which relates to varying challenges producing products overseas.
Another issue that arises from the time and cost invested into new projects is that the subject matter needs to present many options for us in order to achieve a return on our investment, so we need to pick what cars we produce very carefully. This makes producing one-off models in diecast very difficult because the costs often outweigh the number of models we’re able to sell. The ideal new project offers a car that we can produce both road and race versions with many similar parts and have plenty of variations in both their road and race styles that we can produce. Generally speaking, if we can produce around 10 different models using the main components of a mould or tooling then a project will more than likely be viable.
So after we have concluded extensive planning based on a number of factors outlined above, we’re able to move onto the next step of the model making process, Research.
Step Two: Research.
Planning aside, the first real step in any new model project is the research phase. The process and length of this phase is very dependent on the subject matter. As a rule of thumb, the older the car we’re trying to replicate then the longer the research phase will take.
If we’re replicating an older car then the research steps are significant. The first step is to locate a pristine example of the car you’re looking to produce in order to study, measure and photograph it. This obviously involves countless hours searching for this “unicorn” - the best possible car we can use as a base to produce a model from. Once a subject car has been located, we will organise a time and place with the owner to visit the car with our Research and Development team in order to measure and photograph the car extensively. This can often take 1-2 days and involves thousands of individual photos of the car both inside, outside and underneath which need to be reviewed, processed then sent to the factory in order to produce a "Buck Sample". If it’s a later model car that we’re replicating and we can acquire 3D or CAD data then obviously the research phase and additional workloads are significantly reduced. However, the 3D data still needs to be reviewed and re-worked by our R&D team in order to remove information from the data that isn’t necessary for our factories to receive. The simpler we can keep things for our factories the better because a lot can be missed in translation.
Once the car data has been sent to the factory to process either through photos and measurements or through the 3D CAD data, we also need to provide colour references for exterior and interior colour schemes, logos and decals and if it’s a race car we’re replicating then the entire race car livery needs to be replicated by a graphic designer. This involves the artwork being produced for use across the sides, front, back and top views of the car that is an editable file that the factory can use as a reference point and to deconstruct in order to provide the decoration for the car.
Generally the research phase for a new model car project can take up to six months of work on and off and in some cases, even longer depending on the various complexities presented on a project by project basis.
Step Three: Development.
Once our factory in China receives all of the data required to develop the model, they start work. This is either achieved using all of the photos and measurements of the car or using the CAD data which are used to produce a range of samples of varying degrees of complexity as the project progresses.
Generally there are at least 5-6 different types of samples we receive and review throughout this process, each sample is meticulously studied, photographed and commented on by our R&D department and sent back to the factory to implement and correct in order to move to the next sample. In some cases, we may receive numerous revisions of the same type of sample in the early stages of development because this is when all of the major flaws and critical issues need to be ironed out before tooling of the actual moulds is carried out.
Buck Sample Stage:
The Buck is the first prototype produced. Larger than the final size, these are hand carved with the fine details such as window surrounds, wheel arches etc. These are made individually and glued onto the master.
Hand Sample Stage:
The hand sample stage is the next look at the shape and lines of the model after the Buck has been produced and as the name suggests, is crafted by hand. The first hand sample generally starts off using the Buck as reference and the factory then moves onto crafting a plastic resin sample which includes where the opening parts sit and basic levels of detail applied to the interior, wheels, engine bay and undercarriage. This is produced at the correct scale and is often a very time consuming process because there are so many components that make up this sample which need to be as close to perfect as possible because the tooling for the diecast moulds are essentially developed using the initial provided data and this sample. These samples are very fragile and are often held together by lots of little pieces of masking tape. Once the factory and the Biante R&D team are happy that this sample appears to be correct, tooling of the moulds can begin so the plastic hand samples can be turned into a metal sample.
First Shot Sample Stage:
The First Shot sample is exactly what it sounds like, the first attempt at producing the diecast mould. Generally this sample features a bare metal diecast alloy body, with the opening parts attached using the desired hinge mechanisms. The interior, engine bay and other detailed areas are all built using a plain plastic and form all of the components that will be featured in the end product.
The Biante R&D team generally takes a fair amount of time and care reviewing these samples because it is essentially the very last chance we have to review and correct any mistakes without incurring additional costs and delays. Normally the exterior and body are perfect as that has been perfected over the previous samples, the first shot sample is really about the level of detail, how the interior parts have been crafted and look and how everything fits. It isn’t unusual for random parts to appear or be located in an incorrect place given the amount of separate components used particularly because Australian cars aren’t very familiar to the workers in China, so the R&D department studies the sample, photographs it and send comments and digitally altered reference images back to the factory to correct any visible issues.
Painted Sample Stage:
The first painted sample is where the fruits of many months of hard work begin to shine. This sample features all the metal and plastic components of the car painted in varying paints using a range of techniques in order to replicate their various desired metallic, matte or chrome detail finishes.
The exterior diecast shells are sprayed in an industrial spray booth, similar to how a real car would be painted only on a much smaller scale obviously. From here the various parts are grouped and painted accordingly, chrome bumpers, wheels and trimmings are always interesting to see being painted while everything from the interior to the engine bay has a lick of paint applied to replicate a desired finish. Many of the plastic parts are grouped into "sprues" which need to be the same colour so they can be painted with ease.
This sample is studied by the R&D team to ensure all the colours appear correct and again to correct any issues that may be present. Many comments on the engine bay and interior finishes are often sent to the factory based on this stage in order to further improve the end result.
Decorated Sample Stage.
The decorated sample is often a short process if it’s a road car we’re replicating because often the only differences between the painted sample and this sample will include the logos, badges and decals needed to complete the exterior decoration of the car. Any detail comments provided by the R&D department will also be implemented by the factory and sent for approval.
If we’re replicating a race car however then the process takes more time obviously because of the amount of work required to replicate the race car livery or decoration on the exterior and in many cases, the interior also on areas like the dashboard, and sometimes underneath the bonnet.
The decoration is produced using the artwork files sent to the factory by the R&D team in the research phase. The factory uses these files as a reference for where each logo, stripe or colour is located on the car and each part and panel is decorated accordingly using various techniques including, paint, decals and tampo printing. Often the decoration samples for racing car liveries can initially appear quite rough given how logos are cut and applied to the models but the application and process is eventually finetuned to use the best techniques possible in order to replicate the livery. This is an area that has become more an more complicated in modern times with the advancement of fully vinyl wrap liveries being applied to real race cars, these liveries present many challenges to replicate in smaller scales and can take time to get as close to perfect as possible.
The decorated sample is generally the sample we would use to announce the model to the public and to call for pre-orders from our dealer network and through our website. Based on these orders we determine the production number for each model and proceed with production based on that number which is why pre-ordering our models is so important because essentially we build to order.
Once the R&D team has signed off on the final decorated sample (which in some cases can be two or three updated versions that they have studied), the model is then set to go into production. This is the point of no return so to speak.
Production Sample Stage:
The production sample is sent to us while the rest of the cars are on the production line for a final approval and to ensure quality control. These samples are also sent to separate agencies for approval to meet our licensing commitments.
Step Four: Production & Delivery.
Production of a model car is very similar to the process of producing a real car, except there’s less machines involved and probably not as much heavy lifting! Each 1:18 scale model car we produce would be comprised of between 125 – 250 separate metal and plastic parts which all need individual attention and in most cases, hand assembly. The paint and decoration steps vary from model to model but you can reasonably expect each model to feature well over 50 steps of masks, sprays, tampo prints and decoration. This number increases significantly if it’s a race car that we’re replicating.
Production essentially begins with the diecast shells and individual parts being moulded and removed from their injection moulds. All of the body shells and parts are then organised and sent to the paint shop on big racks and trays ready to be painted. When the parts are painted all of the individual components are organised and distributed along an assembly line with numerous stations are located. Each station is tasked with hand assembling a particular component of the model.
Two of the most detailed sections are the interior and the engine bay so they move along the line and are constructed piece by piece. Once the main interior shell and the engine is complete, they’re inserted into the body shells, which have been all been painted and decorated accordingly, along with having the windows, side mirrors, lights, indicators, bumpers, wind screen wipers and any other parts assembled. The wheels are then added and any finishing touches included before the model finds itself at the end of the production line to be inspected for quality control purposes and then hand packaged into a foam clam and the exterior packaging with the Certificate included in the majority of cases. These are then grouped into batches of six to be added to a carton and then prepared for dispatch.
Once production has finished, the model cars are sent to our freight forwarder in Hong Kong and are shipped to our warehouse in Western Australia where the models are distributed to our stores across Australia and New Zealand and of course, our website customers.
The End Result.
We pride ourselves on our attention to detail, our quality control and our commitment to listening to our customers and collectors to bring them the best models and related products we possibly can. When you receive one of our products we want you to be thrilled with the end result and eager to show your family, friends and display it with pride.
If you have managed to read this far, you can hopefully appreciate the amounts of time, effort and money that goes into producing our model cars and the care that we take in the whole process, it’s a passion of ours and one that we hope to continue to share with you for years to come.