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The Threat of Overpricing

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Neil6721/11/2020 13:16:59
208 forum posts
4 photos

I have owned an Acrowot foame for several years and a few weeks back a fence wire cut it in two (yes it was the fence's fault)! Despite it's well know shortcomings I thought ok it has had its day I'll order another one.

Now as we all know our hobby is under threat from many sides, registration, loss of flying sites, shortages of balsa, batteries and engines to name a few.

Now we have, in my opinion, the greed of current manufacturers eg. the Acrowot Foame suggested price from Ripmax is £199.99 for a chunk of foam with small cheap servos, motor and ESC. Yes suppliers discount it but even at that we are talking from £160, £164, £1721, £189 plus delivery in most cases.

Anybody that knows anything about manufacturing will realise that these are simply silly prices. We need rational pricing if were to refresh the hobby and reduce entry costs not blatant greed, again my opinion.

I invested in a new tube of epoxy.

Scott Edwards 221/11/2020 13:42:53
230 forum posts
97 photos

If prices are too high, who is making all of the money ? The three people I know in the modelling trade barely break even, and Ripmax are losing money hand over fist. If prices need to come down - who is going to take the financial hit ?

Brian Sweeting 121/11/2020 14:12:39
25 forum posts
1 photos

Remember the basic premise of selling in the UK is not what it costs to make but how much the market will spend to buy one.

Erfolg21/11/2020 15:10:56
11863 forum posts
1374 photos

I suspect that a number of issues are coming into play. Possibly most based in the UK.

The first is the reducing number of aeromodellers, the BMFA now circa 30,000, down from about 34,400 a few years back. The second is that if a model is not flavour of the month, then the number sold nationally will be non extinct in many cases. Acrowatts are probably not in this category, but small non the less.

For the distributors these are probably not the best of times, it could be that they will have effectively not traded (to any extent) for at least a year before Covids effects can be forgotten.

Apparently there is a knock on effect to the international supply chain, that is according to the newspaper, that container ports (Felixstowe in the paper) are now chocker with boats waiting to berth, and storage on the quay now in short supply due to Covid distribution and Brexit preparations.

Although in general, foam models do seem to be over priced compared to the manufacturing cost. Yet free markets do self adjust, so time will tell if there is a cost issue.

Former Member21/11/2020 15:12:27
393 forum posts

[This posting has been removed]

Tom Gaskin 121/11/2020 15:45:54
50 forum posts
5 photos

I was speaking to Chris just before lockdown 2, and he was saying how the Chinese suppliers were ramping their prices up. On a separate note, the shipping companies have trebled their charges for containers to the UK in recent times.

John Stainforth21/11/2020 15:46:09
404 forum posts
64 photos

Compared with the old balsa and ply ARFs, the Wot E foam certainly seems big a rip-off. It is much like a cheaply made toy, worth about 20 quid at most. I won't be buying another.

Jon - Laser Engines21/11/2020 15:51:59
5737 forum posts
275 photos

There are a great many things threatening the hobby, and one of them is modelers who want everything for free.

Normally i would be the first to call out a crazy price, but i have to confess i am really not seeing it this time. £200 for a fully functioning model that is ready to fly is cheap and dont forget that at least 20% of that is tax.

When i used to work at a shop i can recall instances where you would sell something like a £500 starter pack of a 40 size trainer, engine, radio etc etc and the profit from that would barely fold. I suspect there is more value in change on the floor of my car if i count up all the escaped coppers!

People used to spend a weeks wages on one servo. Frankly, i dont know how they can make it for the money.

Incidentally, that tube of epoxy you bought probably has up to 10 times the mark up on it that your acrowot kit does. Even more if you got it from BnQ.

Edited By Jon - Laser Engines on 21/11/2020 15:52:44

Frank Skilbeck21/11/2020 15:56:55
4922 forum posts
114 photos
Posted by Tom Gaskin 1 on 21/11/2020 15:45:54:

I was speaking to Chris just before lockdown 2, and he was saying how the Chinese suppliers were ramping their prices up. On a separate note, the shipping companies have trebled their charges for containers to the UK in recent times.

Yep, recent news articles are showing big back logs at UK ports and ships not able to dock, a combination of Covid and companies trying to stock up before Brexit, so shippers have put prices for shipping to UK up to cover costs of delays to docking, apparently a container from China was less the £1500 a few months ago and now up to £8000.

Hopefully will settle down next year.

Erfolg21/11/2020 18:41:46
11863 forum posts
1374 photos

I am not sure I buy the idea that plastic moulding is expensive.

Fifty years ago I did work in the plastic moulding industry. We moulded using various techniques using a variety of polymer types. At that time the shot weight was definitely tiny compared to now, for injection moulding, Non the less much is the same in principle.

The client would be offered at least two options. The first they paid for the tooling, an alternative was that we supplied the tooling at our cost. Much revolved around the number of mouldings to be made, the cost per moulding, and the number per year.

In the case of our type of models, I suspect that the run would be limited, at a few thousands per year, in perhaps two runs. Typically this would be just a few days on the machine. There would be a storage charge when of the machine.

With such relatively low numbers (not talking hundreds of thousands as in the motor trade and some other industries) the cavity steel would not be Nickel Chrome, more a carbon Steel. This perhaps that successful models just disappear. With such cheap (relatively) materials, occasionally there would be remedial maintainance required.

At the end of the day we received Peanuts per moulding.

In the case of injection type moulding, it is cheap, if you have the quantities.

I cannot remember the material cost to us, other than the sacks ordered was related to storage and handling issues in addition to the cost of material.

Just another point, we contracted out most of the machining, although we designed the tooling using mostly standard items(from catguts, in reality just one).. I am struggling to remember how the bolster was produced, the cavities were mostly pieces

Back in the day it was a highly competitive business. The company I worked for is long gone.

Stephen Smith 1421/11/2020 19:28:00
273 forum posts
Posted by Erfolg on 21/11/2020 18:41:46:

I am not sure I buy the idea that plastic moulding is expensive.

Sugest you price up the tooling then work out how many you have to sell before you break even

Andrew Calcutt21/11/2020 19:46:08
75 forum posts
1 photos

Not just model materials,I am a timber merchant and wholesale timber prices are rising at an alarming rate.

Former Member21/11/2020 20:52:22
393 forum posts

[This posting has been removed]

Erfolg21/11/2020 22:53:41
11863 forum posts
1374 photos

The issue with injection moulding has always been about volume, that is numbers produced.

I vaguely remember that we produced the lens for one of the then BMC cars, from a vague memory it was a two cavity mould. I remember being shocked that we received I think a farthing per item. A half pence per cycle. The complete item sold for something like a fiver. On that basis something that possibly had 10 old pence of items , went up considerably.

I would be surprised that the tooling for a basic model such as a Ackrowatt would be even a tenth of £1.5m. Yet volume is the key. In an age where laser cutting is common place, the wrong process is being used if the benefit of injection moulding cannot be realised.

My memory is perhaps not great so far back, I do seem to recollect we did one tool for a enclosure for a battery charger for approx., one years salary for me, which was in the £1,000 per annum. I think it was the cheapest item I ever designed for the maximum shot capability of our machine.

. I suspect both cost basis in China is substantially lower. There will be Toolmakers who operate in a cost tier that is substantially lower than the now Motor Industry will tolerate, for a very sophisticated product like a hard shell, deformable core bumper.

I do acknowledge that the volumes have to right, that compromise is possibly required on the product specification.

The discussion has reminded me that even in the late 60s, early 70s that hard skin technology was just about available.Back then the common materials were Polypropylene, Nylon, PET and a few more that I no longer remember, certainly not the materiel that bumper cores, dashboards and many of the current plastic models are made from.

It does remind me of the angst of the first moldings ejected from the machine, the concern that at room temperature the dimensions were within spec.

It is also sad to reflect that all of the toolmakers that were almost on every corner have all gone, from the old church operation, to the then cutting edge operators. That spark erosion and ultra sonic machining were cutting edge at the toolmakers. As far as I am aware there is not one polymer moulding operation in this region. Every Machine Tool company gone. In the NW we are now an engineering desert, by and large,

Returning to the original post, if much of the cost is due to injection moulding process, it is possible it is not the optimum choice for the volumes being pulled.

Piers Bowlan22/11/2020 06:57:38
2344 forum posts
68 photos

I think it was always predictable that the uber cheap supply of modelling products from the Far East, particularly RTFs, would dry up sooner or later. The Chinese economy has been growing at a phenomenal rate for decades and although inevitably it has slowed in resent years, GDP growth has still outstripped the West by a country mile. Although wages are still low, this growth has produced millions of educated 'middle classes'. Ironic in Communist China. They still have the Oriential work ethic of working long hours, six days a week (or more), but wages have been driven up and with it and a domestic consumerism. So production costs have risen significantly to be passed on through the supply chain to the consumer, - us.

But production costs are only a part of bringing a product to market. The cost of development, transport, marketing, etc. have all risen in cost too, so with tight margins in a shrinking modelling market the future viability of our hobby is not looking too good.

Perhaps before long we will see a resurgence of a UK kit cottage industry (every cloud). No Balsa? We are a resourceful lot so maybe hot-wire cut foam wings will see a comeback? No Obeche? What about brown paper/PVA or laminating film? I am currently experimenting with a popular/liteply fuselage with many lightening holes! I have found it fun to try something new (to me). It's still a great hobby, it doesn't have to be expensive, and have you seen how cheap Laser Engines are these days compared with the opposition? smiley


Edited By Piers Bowlan on 22/11/2020 07:07:28

SIMON CRAGG22/11/2020 08:13:51
681 forum posts
5 photos

Ok, here's a way forward:

1: Go to your local "Poundstretcher", they sell excellent fast setting epoxy. While you are there, spend another pound on some chocolate biscuits to go with the tea in the model room.

2: Look on Facebook Marketplace. There is a never ending supply of rc models of all shapes and sizes, including a foamy Acrowot for £50 when I last looked. OK, the models are usually second hand, and you need to move fast. Sellers will usually take an offer as well. Obviously be careful on the "scam" front, but I have sold and purchased quite few model related items without any issues.

Most of the second hand / rebuilt models I have had, seem to always fly better than the brand new version for some obscure reason!.

A phrase I grew up with was "Make & Mend", seems particularly apt at the moment.

As has already been said......we are modellers, its still the best hobby known to man, lets get on with it!.

Good luck.

gangster22/11/2020 08:39:10
1083 forum posts
29 photos

Perhaps £200 is a more realistic price for a complete model like the Wot4 foam E. Why were the built up ARTF models so cheap a few years ago. Not just cheap labour. Perhaps we will need to get used to paying more realistic prices for food, clothes electrical etc.

gangster22/11/2020 08:42:12
1083 forum posts
29 photos

Good point Simon. Most of us modellers are of the make and mend generation. We will find a way to carry on with the hobby. After we are gone, well it won’t bother us

Cuban822/11/2020 11:05:59
3162 forum posts
1 photos

Our hobby will carry on as it has done in years past when hit by other problems. Usually, it emerges in a different guise and people then adapt accordingly. Pricing is an interesting issue in that our hobby has enjoyed the benefits of falling costs for very many years, certainly since I was a teenager in the early 1970s.

The trouble may be that cheaper manufacturing has led to a huge increase in supply across an equally enormous range of items. Take servos for instance - up to now an unsustainable range of items running into many hundreds of types of all shapes and sizes which when the hobby was really humming a while ago could be supported by the huge global modelling industry. What choice did we have forty years ago? The answer is a fraction of what we've had recently and at a cost that meant that one often saved up for four servos and moved them from model to model back in the day. I bet many of us have got a box of a dozen or more cheap servos that are languishing doing nothing now.

The market will readjust itself, choice will be reduced and prices will rise, but it's an ongoing cycle and will level itself out as time goes on.

Erfolg22/11/2020 11:16:52
11863 forum posts
1374 photos

With the advantage of hind sight, I now better appreciate that a lot of the comments are very true.

Constructional methods used to construct models has changed to reflect the cost structures as outlined.

I cannot but reflect that another disadvantage of Injection moulding is that not only has the model to be designed at least in concept by the client. Often it needs redesigning in detail by the moulders, for draws, parting lines etc. Then agreement with client is required. Now you design the tooling, all be it (in my day) from standard catalog tooling parts. The top and bottom plate standardisation helped in tool changing, in that setting up time is much reduced. The rest is pretty obvious. I seem to remember that tool change took a few hours of unproductive time. All of this is a lot of time , therefore potentially money.

In the UK tooling storage costs were high.

It could also be this aspect that explains why some popular models just disappear. There could be just one or two runs. To reduce costs it is possible that the same basic tool is used for a similar sized or just modified model.

I now wonder if many of the clients do think in terms of multi use tooling as part of a programme of models. Even doing this there will be some risk, even if the plan is a Spitfire, Hurricane, followed by a 109. Certainly no place for a MB5, or a MS406 or some such.

Back in the day, the moulding machines were expensive, in a world where the technology was moving quickly. In the environment, unless the owners could see a good return, relative to the risk, it did not happen. At the tome I railed against fat cat owners etc. Now I can see that even in China, it is the allure of becoming a fat cat that drives so many. So yes, I can see that some model producers could well look to other markets if the opportunities are, or seem better.

As an aside, I do remember that if something goes wrong, the rate of scrappage matches the opportunities of the rate of production. In short, many mouldings were dumped in the canal, to avoid the MD becoming aware. To the extent, that a barge ran aground. The blockage being cleared by the canal company. The desperation of the workforce to keep him and his other senior managers in their offices, at the time amused me. Being naive I did not even suspect that I with others would have been judged as guilty, as the search for the innocent always goes ahead by the guilty.

I can see the attraction of Expanded Polystyrene mouldings in the past, as the tooling was dirt cheap, just needing a bit of steam. As a durable model, rubbish. We also produced these mouldings for the white goods trade a pennies.

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