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Tile based board games - Manufacturing contacts?

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Jeremy
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Joined: 04/07/2009

Hi Folks!

Does anyone know any companies which can die cut custom shaped tiles? Anywhere in the world, though I am UK based.

For example, who prints and cuts the edging strips for Settlers? I'm sure there must be a company somewhere which can do a range of volumes with an automatic process.

Thanks!

adagio_burner
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Joined: 07/30/2008
I think most of the board

I think most of the board game manufacturers can do that. If they have a die-cutting machine (to do boxes, for example), they can make a die for whatever shape you need.

Being able (and willing to) handle small volumes is a different matter.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
small runs

adagio_burner wrote:
Being able (and willing to) handle small volumes is a different matter.

Yes, it is. Any advice for small runs?

AlexWeldon
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Joined: 04/06/2009
Small runs just aren't

Small runs just aren't cost-effective. Maybe you could get a run of 1,000 done locally, but you can get 2,500 done in China for a much better per-unit cost. You might have a hard time selling your game at a competitive price and still turning a profit if you got a minimum run done locally.

Under 1,000 copies, or bare minimum 500, offset printing becomes really cost-inefficient, and you have to go digital. That's feasible if none of your components are larger than, say, a Legal-size sheet of paper, or preferably Letter. There's still the problem with die-cutting. Getting a die made can be expensive, and again, isn't cost effective for small runs. If your tiles are all square or rectangular, and you're getting them mounted on a relatively thin gauge of cardboard, then maybe you can get them guillotined instead of die cut, which would be much cheaper.

Finally, there's the issue of the box. Again, that requires die-cutting and offset printing, so you're looking at a minimum run of 1,000 to be cost-efficient. You might be able to find plain-colored boxes and affix a Letter-sized, digitally printed label to the front of each. Alternately, you could package your game in a bag or something of the sort, with a single-colour silkscreen on it or something.

Hope this helps. If you decide to do a 2,500+ run and want to look into getting it done in China, I can put you in touch with my contact there. If you do a small run, I think you have to regard it as a vanity project, or a loss-leader to get your name out there before getting serious about making a commercially viable product.

ReelHotGames
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I will chime in to slightly

I will chime in to slightly disagree about digital printing for small press runs. My company has set up our own print shop to manufacture our in house games, and during our down time we plan to run POD style and short runs for other companies.

We set up to do laser die cutting, which essentially knocks the set up fee for die cutting to $0 - there - of course - are limitations, but for most projects we can do boxes, cards, components on our cutter at no extra charges for set ups.

And the digital press is really high quality - they've come along way. You are limited in sizing but usually it's going to be 12x18 (for most digital presses)

I can;t say for certain when we'll have all our information finalized, so I am of course jumping in and shouting HEY!, without being able to back it up, but you can find short run presses and POD style presses who can do smaller runs at rates not far off from larger runs offset.

So, keep looking around, there are several companies in the short run area with reasonable rates and the ability to do custom die cutting etc... Cheers and good luck!

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
burns

I've tested laser cutting 2mm cardboard here and it burns the sides of the tiles, so it stains when you touch it.

How do you solve this issue?

Néstor

AlexWeldon
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Joined: 04/06/2009
Synthetic "cardboard"?

coco wrote:
I've tested laser cutting 2mm cardboard here and it burns the sides of the tiles, so it stains when you touch it.

How do you solve this issue?

Firstly, thanks to ReelHot for his response. I did my prepress classes about five years ago, and have been doing mostly either really small copy-shop jobs, major send-them-off-to-China jobs and digital-only stuff since then, so it's entirely likely that my info about ~250-1000 runs is out of date. Listen to him instead.

Regarding your question, maybe he'll have a better answer, but my intuition would be to look into synthetic papers. I guess once you get up to cardboard thickness, maybe they'd just be called plastic sheets, rather than synthetic cardboard. ;) But anyway, with a bit of research, I'm sure you could find a type of 2mm thick plastic that a printed sheet of paper could be mounted on, and then laser cut. I'd be worried about die-cutting or guillotining plastic sheets, as you might be left with a sharp edge, but presumably here the heat of the laser would work in your favor.

gameprinter
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Joined: 08/06/2008
Settlers, diecuts, and lasers.

Settlers diecutting is done here in the U.S. (as is the whole game except for the plastic or wood parts), so it can be done.

We do diecutting, but not Settlers (although I keep nagging them about it). For *just* diecutting though, you can probably find someone local. The specific equipment you need to do it varies based on how thick you want your pieces to be and their size, but someone in the UK will have it. For a complete game with diecut components, you should talk to someone like us (Imagigrafx) in the US or Ludofaq (sp?) in Germany.

Small runs of less than 1000 are not going to be feasible. Why? The die charge on the piece is going to be $500 or so. That's $1 per sheet just for the one time die charge if you only run 500 pieces.

For short runs, you might be able to laser cut. BluePanther should correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought you could lower the intensity of the laser to avoid burning the paper label. We were working with Dragonfire Laser on a project to drill holes in thick diecut pieces and that's what they did. It might be different for long cuts instead of simple holes.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
existing die

What if using an existing die? Could this reduce the cost?

AlexWeldon
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Joined: 04/06/2009
coco wrote:What if using an

coco wrote:
What if using an existing die? Could this reduce the cost?

I don't think many (any?) places do this. They make a new die for each job/client. They can't use an existing client's die for your job, as dies wear out after a while and need to be replaced, at the client's expense (I think it's usually like 5,000 uses, but I'm not sure about that, and it depends on the material being cut, of course). Maybe if you knew the author/publisher of an existing game that used exactly the same die as you were looking at, you could negotiate something... even then, I don't know if the printer would be down with that.

bluepantherllc
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Laser cutting

You can vary the thickness of what you cut with a laser from paper thin up to several mm. The material you start with will have an impact on how much the "burn" on the edges that remains. It can be minimized, but not completely eliminated on paper products. When we laser cut a deck, and you pile dozens of cards together, it's possible to see a slight brown It's certainly possible to laser cut cardboard without leaving a residue that rubs off with handling. You could also choose a darker material as the backing that simply hides minor blemishes.

Another possible approach is to get a steel rule die and a manual rotary cutter - this works on thinner cardboard and custom dies go for about $200. Then you would get a volume equal to the life of the die.

There is a third option we use on our high end games that works without any residue, but we only use it on high end games for a reason...

bluepantherllc
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Another thought

If you can find a cheap source of acrylic as a backer, there would be no residue, no burn marks, etc - but you would have to find a way to reliably laminate your graphic onto the plastic.

Jeremy
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Joined: 04/07/2009
Thanks

Thank you everyone for your thoughts. It really is a minefield so feel free to continue discussion. The company gameprinter is referring to is 'Ludo Fact' if anyone was wondering.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
acrilic

bluepantherllc wrote:
If you can find a cheap source of acrylic as a backer, there would be no residue, no burn marks, etc - but you would have to find a way to reliably laminate your graphic onto the plastic.

I will try this next week to see how it works. I've got a local acrilic distributor next to the laser cut company.

I'm going to print the tiles on a A4 sticker sheet, stick it to the 2mm acrilic (PVC or methacrylate) and add a transparent plastic latimation sheet. Then cut it with the laser.

Néstor

gameprinter
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AlexWeldon wrote:coco

AlexWeldon wrote:
coco wrote:
What if using an existing die? Could this reduce the cost?

I don't think many (any?) places do this. They make a new die for each job/client. They can't use an existing client's die for your job, as dies wear out after a while and need to be replaced, at the client's expense (I think it's usually like 5,000 uses, but I'm not sure about that, and it depends on the material being cut, of course). Maybe if you knew the author/publisher of an existing game that used exactly the same die as you were looking at, you could negotiate something... even then, I don't know if the printer would be down with that.

You can use an existing die, but more often than not, there isn't one in the size you need. Dies do wear out, but slower than you think. Mostly, they just need to get sharpened periodically.

Even if there is an existing die, however, the printing costs will still be astronomical on a 500 run. Figuring 6 8.5 x 11 inch sheets out of one press sheet, you're firing up the press to run 83 sheets of paper. Given 200-400 sheets for warm up, and you see that the setup costs alone are going to make this expensive.

Mounting charges (to mount 2 or more sheets of paper or chipboard to get thick tiles) vary less based on quantity as there's less setup involved. Then there's setup on the cutter (to cut those 6 sheets out of the one big sheet) and setup on the die cutter (to punch the tiles). Unfortunately, all of it adds up quickly when you're only dividing these fixed costs by only 500 units.

BTW, Jeremy - thanks for the spelling correction on Ludo Fact.

MichaelM
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Joined: 03/09/2009
I was thinking about my own print shop... once upon a time

This is something I would like to learn more about. I think it would be interesting to make a short test run for Tasty Minstrel Games in the future as market tests. Depending on the costs it may become standard practice for us.

I would also be interested in learning about your experiences with your print shop. Are you using an HP Indigo Press? What were the difficulties in setting it up?

Also, you should put your website on my game directory MeepleSearch which I personally use when making some of my publishing decisions.

Michael

ReelHotGames wrote:
I will chime in to slightly disagree about digital printing for small press runs. My company has set up our own print shop to manufacture our in house games, and during our down time we plan to run POD style and short runs for other companies.

We set up to do laser die cutting, which essentially knocks the set up fee for die cutting to $0 - there - of course - are limitations, but for most projects we can do boxes, cards, components on our cutter at no extra charges for set ups.

And the digital press is really high quality - they've come along way. You are limited in sizing but usually it's going to be 12x18 (for most digital presses)

I can;t say for certain when we'll have all our information finalized, so I am of course jumping in and shouting HEY!, without being able to back it up, but you can find short run presses and POD style presses who can do smaller runs at rates not far off from larger runs offset.

So, keep looking around, there are several companies in the short run area with reasonable rates and the ability to do custom die cutting etc... Cheers and good luck!

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