I know many of you have watched this super exciting adventure we’ve gone on to make rubber pin backs. It is because of this I decided I needed to write a blog about it for anyone who has missed in the adventure.
Back in 2019, we had talked about it but it was super expensive and to get something branded was limiting in the sense that you’d need to be able to spare a few thousand dollars if you really were committed to such a thing. I was not and didn’t revisit the idea again until 2021 when someone was posting a Kickstarter. The Kickstarter had branded backs and I just wanted unbranded backs that I could change based on theme.
Unfortunately, I was quickly reminded how expensive making pin backs can be. This soon became a community venture with me doing a corgi pin back first since it’s relevant to my brand and I wouldn’t feel nearly as bad if nothing sold since it’s mine. I mean, I was going to be using it anyways so who cares?
Researching was important since there was something I figured out a little slower than I should have. Pin backs have variable sizes. For example, I bought some Sakura backs after I had already produced my corgi pin backs. I was not paying attention to the size of the backs until after I had received them.
My corgi pin backs are about 12mm x 10mm. I think they are more like 12.2mm. Anyways, I wanted a smaller back closer to the 10mm circles. I have bought a few backs that are 15-16mm and they seem too large to me.
- Electronic/Digital Caliper
- Pantone Book (Solid Coated)
- Vectoring Software
- 3D Modeling Software
Having gone through this process, you'll need the following items or people close by that can help with their items. You can pay someone to vector a design and model a pin back pretty easily if you can't do either of those. Some manufacturers can even model the pin backs for you, but I do not have experience with that myself.
Finding a Manufacturer
First you need to find a manufacturer that can make them. Not everyone can or will. If you already make pins, which I will just assume you do if you're reading this, you can ask your manufacturer if this is something they offer.
If they do, get the price for the size you're after. Pin backs tend to range from 10mm (the normal circles) to larger 16mm custom shapes (sakura flowers/maple leaves). I personally wanted to stick to the 10mm-12mm range for all my pin backs as many people make smaller pins.
You need to get several quotes. This may sound really stupid, but let's say you're working with Zenith Peak as a manufacturer. They are too expensive for me so I clearly don't use them, but they had the best price for molds. The problem is they get you with the cost per back.
My quote from May 2021 was $90 for the mold fee, the MOQ (minimum order quantity) was 7,000 and the price per unit/back was 0.18. So for reference, most places require 10,000 as the MOQ, so if this is the first place you have contacted this sounds amazing. Then you do the math.
$90 + (7,000 x $0.18) = $1,350
That is without shipping and only one color. MOQ tends to be per color. So a single design with one color costs you $1,350. That's not terrible since the shipping would likely be low. I paid $99 for air shipping for 29,000 backs for the recent moon backs to get to me sooner. I won't even pretend to know what the shipping for the above would cost.
Then you realize per color you're paying $1,260.
We wanted 14 colors for the corgi backs. 7,000 x 14 = 98,000 backs. 98,000 x $0.18 = $17,640. Suddenly that is expensive without shipping or mold fee included.
I noped out of there and got more quotes. The highest mold fee was $1,500 and the lowest was $90. The MOQ was pretty consistently 10,000 for most places but at least two allowed for a 7,000 MOQ. The price per unit varied from 0.18 at highest to 0.008 at lowest. I actually didn't find the 0.008 per back until way later which is unfortunate. It was a random Instagram manufacturer that reached out to me about pins and I just asked about backs out of curiosity.
The size of your backs will also determine the cost. Both backs we produced were very small, so I think that helped a lot.
We also opted to go with sea shipping since that was much cheaper than by air. I believe sea shipping was as low as $300 and as high as $600 so my manufacturer was kind enough to find us the best deal. We ordered 140,000 corgi pin backs and had another 27,000 shipped by air. I believe that cost me around $129 give or take. This would have been July 2021. Shipping keeps increasing so just understand my shipping costs are not even going to be the same each time I reorder or make new backs, so you'll want to have several hundred set aside for shipping changes.
Once we had prices we had to find out how long production time actually takes. Once your proof is made, you have about 20-30 days, depending who you use, for them to make the mold. Some can make up to 5 molds at once while others can't make more than 1-2 at a time. If you're submitting for multiple designs, this is something you'll want to keep in mind.
I would also like to note you can get price breaks on molds if you order several designs at once. I haven't gotten that far into pin back production yet, but it's good information to know. Low cost molds may not offer any price breaks there but instead in quantity of backs ordered. Everything is so variable it's hard to just be like "this is how it is" so you need to figure out what is going to fit best for you. I personally want cheaper reorders.
Molds do last through several hundreds of thousands to millions of backs and several years. I was mostly concerned about this as it would deteriorate over time and eventually be a recurring cost if I sold enough backs I needed reorders regularly. Small details on some designs may require a new mold sooner, but we haven't crossed that bridge yet or know anyone else who has.
I can't help you pick a manufacturer, but make sure you ask all kinds of questions about things you may not understand. From my experience, here are the times to expect.
Mold Production: 20-30 days
Pin Back Sampling: 1 week to 1 month
Pin Back Mass Production: 20-30 days
Shipping: 30-45 days (this varies and may change before ship date)
Covid-19 created extra shipping delays we didn't see in previous years, so keep that in mind.
Pin Back Size & Hole Size
I'll go ahead and share my proof for my corgi head. As you can see here, this is what they sent me to show what dimensions of the design would be. I had picked a basic size (the 10mm) and they determined the rest from that.
We took the 2D vector and converted it to 3D but we had to decide a few things before this stage. There is a hole that goes directly into the center of that handle so that has to be the correct size. It's not actually listed in that image either but I have some other images for you to look at that show it.
There are gates and ejection points that also have to be decided. Initially we had them on either side but moved it to the handle later. You have the option to do so.
So these giant blue dots, I believe they are called ejection pin marks. I may edit this later if I am wrong. You can see the center hole the post goes into in the image below.
The gate is where the red dot is. If I remember correctly, this is where the material is injected into the mold. The blue dots are where it connects and pushes out. The excess material gets melted and reused later.
Anyways, it's an injection molding process. You can read more about it here and here.
Things you can get from my notes for your project are the following:
Hole size: 1mm
Hole depth: 7mm
You need this for the handle. I think our handle was a little over 3mm wide. I should probably have measured this. My notes say 3.4mm. We'll go with that. The width of your handle will really depend on your size of the design.
So I didn't have a 3D printer at the time of this corgi head project. I'm not really sure we can say we have one until we get it working, but alas, if you have a 3D printer I highly recommend you print that 3D model.
Critzz Creations stepped up to help us with the 3D printing aspect of the whole project. He suggested printing to test it out and made a few resin test prints. This also made me really appreciate the whole concept of using a 3D printer to make sure the sizes were correct. He also inserted the tiny detail corgi ear cutouts last minute for me, so pay his site a visit. He's excellent. Anyways, back to the backs!
He used a transparent resin which was actually nice to see what we needed to think about. These were so pretty and it's a shame we didn't order anything in this color from the manufacturer haha.
One thing that was super nice was that he took some pics of the printed backs and put it on a pin. You can see here what size it was in comparison to the pin. He also measured some things for us to let us know any issues we'd run into. Having a 3D printer can help remove a few costly mistakes that could be made before committing to the mold.
I believe one issue we had was the hole depth and he fixed that as you can see in this picture above.
I feel like I have covered everything you need to research. If I remember anything later, I'll edit it into here and you'll never know. Bwah ha ha.
TLDR; Get quotes for general costs, determine size, and test print a 3D model if you're able.