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135
A visit to Signifer

Designing a resin kit
To design a resin kit you need the following things: skill, passion and time. From the three, M. Meissonier wished he could have more of the latter!
Skill is needed to turn 2D scale plans and references into an accurate 3D model. For the references, M. Meissonier uses detailled books but sometimes also writes directly to the original aircraft manufacturer like he did for the Grumman "Goose".
The work on the master is very long, especially when you work without concession like M. Meissonier. The detail parts are made with various materials (plasticard, metal and photo etched parts, spare parts of kits etc...) and the main assemblies (fuselage and wings) with resin components. I saw some of the "masters" (original parts) of forthcoming projects and I can assure you that the quality of the finish is outstanding! Sometimes itīs as if the part was made by a computer controled machine. You must know that there is always a loss of quality when making a mold of a part and then a resin copy, so the better the original part, the better the final result. One thing M. Meissonier told me that I didnīt knew, is that you must work slightly over scale on the original parts (2%) as the pieces tend to shrink in the reproduction process.
To make the molds, silicone is used. It is very important to think ahead while designing the parts as molding can be very hasardous with complex parts. M. Meissonier told me he spends about 10% of his time in tests and researches. He tries several mixes and brands of resin to find the best material for the various parts. A fuselage is not made out of the same resin than detail parts. Some are matt and grainy while others are harder with a glossy finish. M. Meissonier also adds colors and additives to the resin to obtain a very unique product. He even managed to make flexible resin for some pieces of his 1/32 Luftwaffe oil cart kit.
If you work with resin you must be something like an alchemist. As M. Meissonier said, resin is a "living material" and you can achieve fantastic results with it... if you manage to use it properly. Resin is also a very dangerous and working with it requires some safety measures: wearing gloves and a breathing mask are the most important. M. Meissonier also makes a medical check every year.
If you want to know precisely how resin parts are produced, you can take a look at my Dübendorf Brothers feature. There is a step by step explanation for silicone mold making and resin pouring. Of course, the techniques used by M. Meissonier are much more elaborate than mine.

Producing a resin kit
Once all the silicone molds of the master parts are made, it is time to go into mass production. For this, there is no secret, all you have to do is... work, work, work! Especially when, like M. Meissonier, you are doing everything yourself! Signifer isnīt a big company with a dozen of employes. Basically Jérome Meissonier does all the production job and his father helps him with the packaging. I donīt know exactely how much time this represents, but I can tell you that in the last couple of month M. Meissonier didnīt manage to work on any of the masters of his current projects (some are "frozen" since a couple of years). Currently he is working almost exclusively on his Grumman "Goose" kit. This kit is, to date, his masterpiece, and the plastic parts of it were produced by MPM in the Czech Republic. The choice of producing a kit with plastic parts was an ambitious but risky one. Compared with resin parts, injected ones are much more cost intensive because of the industrial nature of the production. You will have a faster production rate, but you will also have to produce a high number of sprues to amortize the cost of the metal molds. For the "Goose", the initial investment was of 40 000 Euros. The plastic parts are all made, but M. Meissonnier is still working on the resin parts. To date, the "Goose" kit didnīt allowed the company to make benefits and the priority is to sell some more before designing new kits. M. Meissonier wants to enlarge his product range but he must also be productive and make sure the company generates profits before making new products.
Pouring resin parts is quite simple: you just have to mix the components of the resin (in general two), pour it into the mold and place all the stuff in the vacuum machine. The latter extracts the air out of the resin and avoids bubbles to ruin the kit part. Resin parts can be much more detailled and precise than plastic parts. The only problem with them are the pouring blocs wich require more cleaning work than plastic parts. Other than that, assembling a resin kit isnīt much work, in the contrary, as some sub-assemblies are often in one piece (fuselage and wings). The difficulty of a resin kit depends of the design of the parts. Some older resin kits are quite a nightmare to build but the more recent ones are much more user friendly. M. Meissonier says this "psychological" factor his very important as a lot of modellers are still afraid to buy resin kits. For him, a happy customer is a good customer. So he spends a lot of time trying to find the best solutions to produce parts wich will be easy to work with. Some manufacturers donīt have such scruples and do produce a high number of references, but of lesser quality and do leave the extra work to the modeller. Signifer is not one of them!
Once all the resin parts are molded, they are cleaned and packed into the box. For "all resin" kits, M. Meissonier only has a low number of stock and he even produce kits "on demand" like the Dewoitine HD780. For some others like the Sea Hawk and the Widgeon, he has a small stock while the most numbers of kits is logically represented by the Grumman "Goose". By the way, didnīt you noticed something? Dewoitine HD780, Sea Hawk, Widgeon, Goose... all are floatplanes! M. Meissonier is a fanatic of floatplanes!
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About the Author

About Jean-Luc Formery (TedMamere)
FROM: MOSELLE, FRANCE

I'm mainly interested in WW2 aircraft and I build them in 1/48 scale.


Comments

Jean _ Luc Thanks for bringing this to the light of day, very informative. I am familiar with resin casting and know Eric Hight from Copper State Models. I swear I have heard him make identical comments on the very same subject. It seems smalll business' like resin companies all face the same problems.
OCT 27, 2006 - 03:15 PM
Hi John-Luck Great read ... i like such stories! Some notes: Could you please change the bottom nav bar ...the numbers of the following sites are hardly visible. .... I saw Stephens comment and thought "what tthe heck he is talking about" .. I had to search a moment to find where I had to click ... that maybe does not speak for myself, so if I am the only one who gets fooled from time to time .. it is maybe lack of intelligence ... If you look for a subcontractor ... better do not give it to eastern companies, at least make sure you have a contract that assures your intellectual property ... I wonder how Jules Bringuier, Mr. Classic Airframes, protects his rights ... this is from experience (luckily not my own but from a friend) and is not aimed against anyone here .. In one of the cases I know the model was faster out under another label than the customer got the parts he had ordered (and he was providing all the research and so on) cheers Steffen
OCT 27, 2006 - 04:44 PM
Greetings Jean-Luc: A very interesting article, a good read, and well written. Thanks for taking the time to present it.
OCT 27, 2006 - 05:08 PM
Hi all! Thanks for your kind comments! Yes, the modelling business is a jungle. Sometimes one can live peacefully in it and sometimes one is eaten by predators. Always keep in mind, when complaining about the price of a resin kit, all the work involved in designing and production... Steffen, unfortunately I can't change the bottom nav bar. You must ask the Big Boss for that! If you have any contacts with small (or big) manufacturers, don't hesitate to write a feature about it... Jean-Luc
OCT 29, 2006 - 03:44 PM
Hi Jean-Luc thanks for the info .. i won't ask Mr. Starkweather, as we seem to collide always when we have a communication try .. I just will have to live with it and miss one or another page of the articles. best wishes from rainy Schwerin Steffen
OCT 29, 2006 - 06:13 PM
Nice article Jean Luc, interesting reading it.
OCT 29, 2006 - 06:23 PM
Great article Jean-Luc! Keep them coming, they're always a interesting read.....
OCT 29, 2006 - 07:30 PM
Hi all! Thanks again for your kind words! I just noticed the Signifer feature was the most read article in the past weeks (see here ). I think M. Meissonier will be happy to know that! Jean-Luc
NOV 13, 2006 - 11:20 PM