|Micro Collection Ben Kenobi Bench Shot Prototype|
|Upon first glance, this may look like an unpainted Micro Collection figure with dates hastily ground off, but the details spell out a different story. it takes a 30x jeweler’s loupe and an understanding of how a die is made and functions to help define what it actually is.
All Micro figures are made using the die cast process in which molten metal (zinc in this case) is forced into a steel die under pressure. It is very similar to how plastic injection molded parts are made in a mold, but using metal instead of plastic. Because of the high pressure, fine detailing can be achieved to produce a durable, small, intricate toy and probably its most popular use is to make small die cast (Hot Wheels type) cars.
The dies that made the Micro figures were in 3-parts which allowed for the bottom of the figure to have details like part number and copyright dates and to create the perimeter ridge. It is on this bottom surface where the ejector pins are located. These small steel dowel pins push the part out of the die once it has cooled and the 2 main halves open.
It is in the development of the die and understanding how the ejector pins function where we get an understanding of what this Ben Kenobi figure represents in the die-making process. But first, a little about die-casting and dies.
This animated GIF shows the die-casting process on a very basic level. Molten metal enters the chamber and is pushed into the die under pressure. Once the die fills and the part cools, it opens and the part is pushed out via ejector pins. You can see the small ejector pins on the left side of the opening. The tip of each pin is part of the die cavity itself and you can see their presence as small circles in the part.
The image above shows an actual ejector pin, but in larger scale for detail but the idea is the same no matter the size. A group of loose cylindrical rods like this are integrated into one side of the die and push the part out at the end of the cycle. In the case of Kenner’s Micro Collection, the die halves open the same way as in the animation but the ejector pins would be on the bottom surface (the 3rd part of the die). If Micro figures were made in a standard 2-part die, the bottom would have to be completely flat and smooth so that the part can be pushed out.
In the graphic above we see a very basic example of a die with the ejector pins present. Because the cylindrical ejector pins are integrated into the cavity of the die and the tips make direct contact with the material as it flows into the die and cools, we see their presence in the final produced part. The vast majority of die cast metal or plastic injection molded parts will have ejector pin marks on them and are visible as small circles.
This Ben Kenobi is interesting in that it might first appear as if the copyrights have simply been ground off, but under magnification we can see the real story. This item was created during the process of constructing the die and we can tell that because the grind marks on 2 of the ejector pins are at different angles than the surrounding grind marks That means the die was ground and disassembled and when it was reassembled those ejector pins were rotated slightly. It was after this point that this Ben Kenobi was cast and represents a brief snapshot in time from when the bottom of the die was fairly rough and still being developed.
After this stage the die-maker would polish the surface, including across the ejector pin tips, so that it was all entirely smooth then the copyright lettering for production would be added. It’s at that point where a typical unpainted Micro figure such as this unpainted Ben Kenobi could be created. This is because it's an otherwise production casting similar to every production figure.
Thanks to Paul’s eagle eyes and a sense that it was special somehow, we have this window into a little step in the overall manufacturing process.
|Description by:||Chris Georgoulias|
|Photo:||Chris Georgoulias, Paul Viggiano|
|From the collection of:||Paul Viggiano|
|Film:||Empire Strikes Back|
|Category:||Prototypes / Micro Collection|