I thought it would be fun to pull back the veil a bit on what goes into one of my days at DP9. It's always a little different but there are some essentials to my job when I am at the workshop.
This week was a little special because the box with the first ten test pops had arrived. Read on for some potential spoilers. There won't be any pictures in this blog post because the workshop is a mess as I turn everything upside down to make space and get ready for packing the kickstarter rewards.
So my days usually start by blasting the kid out of bed with dynamite, making lunches and getting him on his school bus on time. Then I head for the subway, which thanks to modern technology allows me to check facebook and the forums for anything that might have been posted overnight. Often there's an e-mail or twenty with questions, requests, ideas, model photos etc. I get to the Montreal plateau stop, switch to a bus and either read a book or keep answering e-mails until I get off the bus.
I'm usually the first one to arrive in the morning so I turn on the heat, lights, and get the pot turned on to start melting the metal to about 800F. The pot has a name; Melty the pot. You have to find amusement for yourself sometimes. Most of the equipment has a nickname now.
When I went in the other day I looked at the list for casting and double checked I could find all the molds that were required and then checked the spare parts bins to see if anything on the order sheet could be filled from there. The metal takes about 45 minutes to an hour to heat up and I can often prep about 25% of the order to only require a part or two before being packed. This involves laying out the parts so that they match the parts images you see on the online store when you buy. This way I know that no parts have been missed. I check the binders to see if we have backer sheets needed for the day's packaging and order up any that are missing.
Since today was a light casting day there was time to make a mold. I turn on the vulcanizer, who is called Squishy on account of the large pneumatic cylinder that is used to apply pressure the mold as it cooks. Squishy will get up to about 315F once it heats up to temperature. You would think that the workshop would get hot with all this heat but in actuality the ventilation system (which needs a name) was turned on with Melty to help with dust control and it being Canada the workshop starts at a basic resting temperature of 12C. Yes, I am mixing temperature standards in this article.
Then I prep the pieces for the mold. Since this is a replacement parts mold I specifically pick out the parts I want to make extras of – in this case the command pathfinder for the new Jovian Chronicals fleet scale exo suits and put four of them into the mold. The plasma lance in the main mold was miscasting too much so a new mold for that part is required. Since four exo suits don't take up a lot of space I also toss in some parts that I know are giving me headaches from a number of older molds. I check all these parts are prepped and cleaned and hive them a spray in the spray booth with some release agent.
Squishy is warmed up to temperature by then so it's time to prep the mold – there's a much earlier blog post you can read about the detials of that so I won't go into too much detail here.
Then Rob arrives with a box of plastic test pops from China. When the models are in full production it will be a company in Indiana casting them for us but the tests are made where the molds are being made in China so I get to admire all the various ways that they use to pack the sprues to send to us.
Getting casts from China is pretty unusual, in fact it is the very first time this has happened in the twenty year history of Dream pod 9. I get the mold loaded into Squishy and head upstairs to check out the plastic test pops with Robert. We've been waiting for this for five quarter years now and it's pretty exciting but there is work to do so that we can start ordering all the things that are required to pack and ship 1500+ orders. We spend the rest of the morning carefully checking parts for issues that we can see, measuring them for fit in the boxes, and weighing them for shipping costs. This is all pretty tedious but it's my first real look at the plastic parts and I get to enjoy geeking out for a bit as I check out the details.
After an hour that job is done and Rob takes off to start putting the models together to test the fits and send any last adjustments to the factory making the molds. I unload Squishy and prep the mold for casting. That takes about twenty minutes. I than spend the rest of day casting, picking parts, doing quality control and packing for the orders. Speculating on the armies that people are building is part of the fun. A Northern Paratrooper combat group here, a Southern Recon combat group there. Some heavy anti-air tanks and a couple of VTOLs to round out the mix of various orders. The day draws to a close and I'm pleased to strike the last models off my list in time to catch a bus. I shut down everything in the workshop and close out another Dream Pod 9 day.