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1/2 inch counter prototypes

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Desprez
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Joined: 12/01/2008

Hi all, I'm new to this forum.

I had a question about companies that can print 1/2 inch wargame counters for prototyping purposes. That is, low volume runs.

I did some searching of these forums first, but the solutions just made more questions!

Basicaly, I've been printing the counters on label paper, cuting them out, and then sticking them on sheets of pre-cut 1/2 counters. Even though I'm happy with the result, this is a very tedious process. It won't be very fun to have to repeat this a few times.

What would be real nice, is to send off a graphics file to a printer, and have the counters arrive at my doorstep a few days later. But maybe I'm living in a dream world here.

Reading some past posts suggests that what I need is a printer that does die-cut counters. I'm a bit confused about the cost of the die though. One post suggested that a die to cut 280 counters would run around $400, but that custom dies might be more or less. Many wargames seem to use what looks to be a standard arrangement of sorts. 140 counters in 7 blocks of 20. So, if it's a standard die, I wouldn't have to purchace a die? Or do I only have to purchase the die once? I'm not sure how this works.

I also came upon some posts that talked about some wide format printers being able to print on cardboard. Does anyone have any info or printer recomendations? I figure if geting small runs of die-cutting is going to be prohibitively expensive, I figure the money would be better spent on getting a new printer (which I need anyway) and maybe I could just run the blank counter sheets through it, and volia! Has anyone had any success with this? I'm not going to spend $1000 for prototype counters. But I might be able to justify spending that on a nice printer. (I do some design work)

Finaly, I saw something about personal die-cut machines.
Does anyone have any recomendations for making lots of 1/2 counters with these?

If it matters, the counters are double sided with only 2 colors per counter. (the background colors differ, but becuse I'll likely want to print as few sheets as possible, I'll probably end up having different background on the same sheet - So, I'll probably need full color counters)
There are about 130 unique counters at the moment. I'm not sure how many copies of each are required yet, that will become more clear with testing.
So, right now, I'm working with many more than necessary - around 2000, and I'm constantly reprinting veriations. It is very time consuming.

Ok, whew! Sorry about the long post!

Edit: typo, 140 counters per sheet, not 240

Johan
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Joined: 10/05/2008
1/2 inch counter prototypes

Hi

If you are doing prototypes I would suggest that you continue with what you are doing but change the work order:
- Print the counters on paper
- Cut the front of the counters (the whole block and not every single counter).
- Glue the front to a thick card board.
- Cut the cardboard around the counter block.
- Cut the backside of the counters and glue it too the backside of the cardboard. The lines between the counters should not be marked on the backside (you will have a precision of 0.2-0.3 mm and a wrong placed line will show.
- Now cut the counters (You will need a good paper cutter, there are several threads around that in this forum).

For glue I use a rubber glue. That is elastic and also works when I do the cutting (If you use a hard rubber, then will it not work when you do the cutting).
One double-sided letter with counters takes around 20-30 minutes to create.

// Johan

seo
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Joined: 07/21/2008
1/2 inch counter prototypes

Johan wrote:
(you will have a precision of 0.2-0.3 mm and a wrong placed line will show.

I guess you meant 2-3 mm or 0.2-0.3 cm

Seo

Johan
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Joined: 10/05/2008
1/2 inch counter prototypes

seo wrote:
Johan wrote:
(you will have a precision of 0.2-0.3 mm and a wrong placed line will show.

I guess you meant 2-3 mm or 0.2-0.3 cm

Seo

No. A line that are 0.3 mm wrong on a 12 mm counter will be very visiable (but it will just be a flaw in the visability). If you have 2-3 mm, then you can´t make proper counters (with information on the countes).
I have problems with my printer when I print double sided game cards and get them around 2-3 mm wrong and that is a problem when the cards are 40-60 mm wide.

// Johan

Hegemon
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Joined: 12/31/1969
1/2 inch counter prototypes

Quote:
What would be real nice, is to send off a graphics file to a printer, and have the counters arrive at my doorstep a few days later. But maybe I'm living in a dream world here.

I'm not aware of anyone who provides low-run countersheet printing, mounting and die-cutting services. Small printers usually can't die-cut, small die-cutters aren't printers (nor do they make the dies - you have to go to the die-maker for that). Large combo services exist but you want to be doing at least 2,500 to make full use of their facilities. Remember each vendor in the process will charge you a "set-up" fee of anywhere from $200 to $500 per job to cover their own overhead whether you make 1 or 10,000 copies.

Quote:
Reading some past posts suggests that what I need is a printer that does die-cut counters. I'm a bit confused about the cost of the die though. One post suggested that a die to cut 280 counters would run around $400, but that custom dies might be more or less. Many wargames seem to use what looks to be a standard arrangement of sorts. 140 counters in 7 blocks of 20. So, if it's a standard die, I wouldn't have to purchace a die? Or do I only have to purchase the die once? I'm not sure how this works.

I suspect most die-cutters would stare at you blankly if you asked for their "standard wargame die," as it is the publisher who owns his or her own dies, not the die-cutter. So you do have to acquire your own die or borrow someone else's. You only need one die, however and they're probably good for 50,000+ punches at a minimum.

jkopena
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Joined: 12/31/1969
1/2 inch counter prototypes

Desprez, if you're still changing your counters or changing the quantity, then you probably don't want to have them printed outside until you're really really sure you're done.

I think many of the approaches people have mentioned here and on other threads are slightly inefficient for doing double-sided chits. The basic problem, as mentioned here, is that there's too much variation for the sides to line up well. Johan's process (and others) has slightly too many steps, and the variation control's still a problem (either chits are mis-aligned, or it takes too long to line them up).

The big thing is that you need to print both sides on the same sheet of paper, then fold that over. This controls the variation. Remember that the back side has to be laid out in reverse of the front side (not a reverse image, but a reverse layout; right to left to match the front chits laid out left to right, for example). You'll only get half as many chits per page, but you'll use the same amount of paper. You will use more card stock, but you'll get thicker chits for the same amount of work (which is the more critical element).

This is what I do:

- Design the graphics & do layout so they all fit on the same page. For example, if I have big tiles 1--8, I would lay them out like so:

<br />
A1A2B2B1<br />
A3A4B3B4<br />
A5A6B5B6<br />
A7A8B7B8<br />

- Print the sheet and mount it out on some thick stock. If it's a quick draft I use old cereal boxes. If it's something nicer, I use matte board. I also use manila folders I steal from work, which come out slightly thin but are very workable and the price is right. Use spray adhesive like 3Ms---it applies fast and evenly (little effort on your part), and sticks forever. Don't worry about lining up exactly on the stock, as long as all your chits are on it. It's more important to save your time than be precise here, as time's more valuable and it's just going to get all cut up anyway. I do however keep the scraps to make extra bits in a hurry (e.g. the other day I needed a bunch of spaceships quick so I cut a bunch of triangles out of some scraps and colored them with colored pencils).

- Score down the center of the sheet. Basically, trace it with a hobby knife just deep enough to break the sheet and top of the card stock without going all the way through. Real easy with practice. This lets you fold the sheet without crinkling the paper/stock.

- Spray the back of the card stock with adhesive and fold together.

- Cut out your chits. I try to cut in whatever pattern will require the least amount of knife-lifting and straightedge setting. I usually cut along long edges first, producing fewer long strips of chits, which I found quicker to cut than more shorter strips, but it's negligible and debatable.

So, now you've got thicker chits with less cutting & mounting operations, which are really the time killers.

--------------------

As for actually printing chits, I've been working on similar issues for forever. The problem is the stock. I can find printers who can print 12pt at low runs for ok price, and can get that die cut for an ok price. This is all talking 1--2k pieces, it seems easy enough to do about $1US each for 1k 12x18 printed & cut sheets, including the die.

But, I can't find any way to get the print mounted on something thick enough that it will be fun to play with. 12pt's not quite thick enough for a chit that gets picked up a lot, though it works well enough for player consoles, maps, and such. If anyone has any input or thoughts on that, I'd be really appreciative to hear them. I've heard of some printers going directly to 24pt, which might be workable, but haven't been able to contact any and don't know what prices would be like.

Thanks!

Desprez
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Joined: 12/01/2008
1/2 inch counter prototypes

Thanks for the responses!
I noticed that alot of cutting and mounting was mentioned, and that sounds like it will actualy take longer and be more tedious than what I'm currently doing.
To clarify:
1. I print the counter graphics onto a full sheet of label paper (280 counters)
2. I cut out the counter graphics blocks (20 per block), not individual counters.
3. then I peel off the backing and stick the print onto a sheet of pre-punched counters (both sides), arranged in blocks of 20 (they're punched, but not completely detached, so they hold together.)
4. Then I completely punch out the block of 20
5. Cut out the counters with scissors, and it is easier because the pre-punched aspect will guide the scissors.

This is not production quality, of course, but works fine for testing.
I was just hoping for an even quicker way. I guess I'll just have to suck it up.

The folding idea is interesting, I'll have to think about that a bit.

Anyone have any experience with personal die-cut machines? Can you even cut things as small as a wargame counter with them?

Anyone have any experience with home printers that will print directly to cardboard?
The Epson Stylus Pro 4800 will print directly to 1.5mm posterboard, 17" wide even. But at $2000 it's a bit more than I wanted to pay for a printer.

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