Are you curious about how metal TTRPG dice are made? It's a wickedly fascinating process that requires specialized equipment and a lot of attention to detail, which makes it pretty prohitibtive as a homemade product. In this post, we'll walk you through the steps involved in creating zinc alloy dice and plating them with enamel. From designing the dice to quality control, you'll learn everything you need to know about this intricate process. So, let's dive in and explore the world of metal dice manufacturing!
Design the dice
Designing the dice is the very first step in the process of creating zinc alloy metal polyhedral dice. This step involves creating a 3D digital model of the dice using specialized software. The digital model includes all of the details of the dice, such as its shape, size, numbers, and any additional design elements.
The designer must have a good understanding of the TTRPG community and its preferences in order to create a design that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The design must also take into consideration the limitations of the production process, such as the size of the mold and the materials that will be used to cast the dice.
Once the 3D model is complete, it can be used to create a physical mold for the casting process. The accuracy and quality of the digital model is crucial in ensuring that the final product meets the desired specifications and is visually appealing to customers.
Create a mold
After the 3D design of the dice is complete, the next step is to create a mold for the dice. The mold is made using the 3D design as a blueprint, and it is typically created using silicone or another flexible material that can withstand the high temperatures of the metal casting process.
The mold is created by pouring the silicone or other flexible material over the 3D design of the dice, which is usually placed inside a frame or mold box to hold it in place. Once the material has cured and hardened, it is removed from the frame or mold box, and the 3D design is removed from the mold.
The mold is a crucial component of the dice-making process, as it determines the final shape and size of the dice. Any imperfections or errors in the mold can result in defects or flaws in the finished dice. Therefore, creating a high-quality mold is essential to ensure that the final product meets the desired specifications.
Prepare the zinc alloy
To prepare the zinc alloy, the metals - zinc, aluminum, and copper - are first weighed out in the correct proportions according to the desired alloy mixture. They are then placed in a furnace or other heating device, which is preheated to the required temperature.
The metals are then melted together in the furnace, typically at a temperature of around 700-800°C (1300-1500°F), until they form a homogeneous liquid alloy. The temperature is carefully monitored and controlled to ensure that the alloy mixture is at the correct temperature and consistency for the casting process.
The quality and consistency of the alloy mixture is critical to the final product, so it's important to follow a precise recipe and have careful control over the heating and melting process. Once the alloy is fully melted and mixed, it's ready to be poured into the mold to create the dice.
Pour the zinc alloy
During the pouring process, the molten zinc alloy is carefully poured into the mold to avoid any air pockets or other imperfections. The temperature of the molten alloy must also be carefully monitored to ensure that it is not too hot or too cold, as this can lead to defects in the final product. Once the mold is filled with the molten alloy, it is left to cool and harden.
The mold is typically held in a frame or mold box to keep it in place during the casting process. This is important to ensure that the mold is not disturbed or moved during the pouring process, which can result in uneven casting or other defects. The mold box is designed to withstand the high temperatures of the molten alloy and to prevent any leakage or spills during the pouring process.
After the zinc alloy has been poured into the mold, it is left to cool and harden. The cooling process can take several minutes or even hours, depending on the size and complexity of the dice. During this time, the molten zinc alloy solidifies and takes on the shape of the mold. Once the cooling process is complete, the mold is opened and the newly-cast dice are removed.
Allow to cool
After the molten zinc alloy has been poured into the mold, it is important to allow it to cool and solidify. During this process, the zinc alloy will harden and take the shape of the mold. It is important to allow enough time for the dice to cool completely before attempting to remove them from the mold.
The cooling process can be influenced by a number of factors, including the size and shape of the dice, the temperature of the zinc alloy when it was poured, and the ambient temperature in the casting area. It is important to monitor the temperature of the zinc alloy and the mold during the cooling process to ensure that the dice are cooling at a steady rate.
If the dice are removed from the mold before they are fully cooled, they may become distorted or damaged. This can lead to inconsistencies in the size and shape of the dice, which can affect their roll and overall quality. It is important to allow enough time for the dice to cool completely before removing them from the mold.
Remove the dice from the mold
After the cooling process is complete, the mold is opened and the newly cast dice are removed. The dice may still have some rough edges or imperfections due to excess material, so they will need to be cleaned or polished. The method of cleaning or polishing will depend on the type of mold used and the specific design of the dice.
If the mold has a lot of details, such as intricate patterns or designs, the dice may need to be carefully removed from the mold to avoid damaging the details. Once removed from the mold, any excess material or rough edges will need to be smoothed out using sandpaper or another tool.
In some cases, the dice may also need to be polished to give them a smooth and shiny finish. This can be done using a polishing machine or by hand with a polishing cloth. The goal is to make sure that the finished dice are smooth, free of imperfections, and ready for the next step in the production process.
Enamel plating is a process of adding a layer of enamel to the surface of the dice to add color and protect them from wear and tear. The enamel used in this process is a mixture of glass and metal oxides that can be fused to the surface of the dice at high temperatures.
To start the enamel plating process, a base coat of enamel is applied to the surface of the dice. This is typically a clear or white enamel that acts as a primer for the colored enamel layers. The base coat is applied using a spray gun or other specialized tool to ensure an even coating on all surfaces of the dice.
After the base coat is applied, one or more layers of colored enamel are added to the dice. Each layer is allowed to dry and cure before the next layer is applied to prevent smudging or blending of colors. The number of layers and colors used depends on the design and desired appearance of the dice.
Once all of the enamel layers have been applied, the dice are ready for the curing process. This involves heating the dice in a specialized oven to a specific temperature and time to ensure that the enamel is fully set and hardened. After curing, the dice are inspected for quality control and any defects or imperfections are addressed before being packaged and shipped to customers.
After the final layer of colored enamel has been applied to the dice, they are placed in a curing oven. This oven is designed to provide a controlled temperature and humidity environment, which is essential for the enamel to properly cure and harden. The dice will typically be left in the oven for several hours to ensure that the enamel has fully set and hardened.
During the curing process, the enamel chemically reacts with the metal surface of the dice, creating a strong bond that is resistant to chipping, cracking, and peeling. The curing process also helps to enhance the durability and longevity of the enamel plating.
Once the curing process is complete, the dice are carefully inspected to ensure that the enamel is fully set and hardened, and that there are no defects or imperfections. Any issues are addressed before the dice are packaged and shipped to customers, ensuring that only high-quality products are delivered.
Once the enamel plating process is complete, the dice are subjected to a thorough inspection process to ensure that they meet the required quality standards. This is a critical step in the production process, as it ensures that only high-quality products are shipped to customers.
The inspection process typically involves a detailed examination of the dice to check for any defects or imperfections, such as bubbles, cracks, or uneven surfaces. The size, weight, shape, and color of the dice are also verified against the original design specifications.
Any defects or imperfections that are found during the inspection process are addressed before the dice are packaged and shipped to customers. This may involve removing excess material, polishing the surface of the dice, or applying additional layers of enamel to cover up any imperfections.
The inspection process is a crucial part of the production process for any dice, as it helps to ensure that customers receive high-quality products that meet their expectations.
The production of zinc alloy metal polyhedral dice is a multi-step process that requires specialized skills and equipment. The process involves designing the dice using 3D software, creating a mold, melting the zinc alloy, pouring it into the mold, allowing it to cool and harden, and plating the dice with enamel. The final product is then inspected for quality control before it is packaged and shipped to customers.
Although the process can be complex and time-consuming, it allows for the creation of unique and highly-detailed dice that appeal to tabletop gamers and collectors alike. With attention to detail and a commitment to quality control, manufacturers can produce metal dice that are not only functional but also works of art.