How to manufacture your own designer toy or start a new small business

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      I want to start with full disclosure. I am a trained and practicing industrial designer. I have spent the last 15 years deeply immersed in both traditional and cutting edge visualization and prototyping tools. This particular project was possible because of all that i have learned and the tools i have access to through professional relationships. However, because of this amazing time we are living in most of these tools are becoming easier and easier to get access to.

     This is my first Instructable, I am primarily interested in sharing my process because i had a lot of fun with it and also want to encourage more making. A second less intrinsic reason for posting is to enter the "make it real challenge". Although i have access to some amazing tools my personal projects are always limited by the boundaries of my professional relationship. Having unmitigated access to certain technologies would give me complete freedom to pursue projects of unparalleled absurdity.

   So, in a step by step personal diary format i present to you the Ice Scream Man or The Birth of Brutherford Industries.
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Step 1: Content

Picture of Content
I have a long history of goofing off and generating images, models and sometimes even products with the express purpose of making people laugh.  In august of 2011 i worked up a digital doodle and shared it on my blog which i thought maybe 8 people even knew about.

The model started with some basic volume created in Solidworks, I prefer to start most of my digital modeling in a program like Solidworks because as far as 3-d modeling goes it is my native language and really helps me understand the scale i'm working in.

Once i have a basic form and proportion i am happy with i'll transition to another more freeform type modeling program.
In this case that program is actually called Sensable Freeform. This program is operated by a haptic sculpting device that  allows you to "feel" your model and provides for a much more sculptural manipulation of your digital file.
You'll see the progression from step 1 which was a fairly controlled geometry through step 5 where i was pushing and pulling the model in to a more organic shape.

Initially i was only interested in a rendering and not an actual physical output, but once i decided to bring the product in to the real world the model made one more trip back in to Solidworks for some engineering details since i wanted to make the base and cone in two parts that had to fit together well.

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mhancock32 months ago

Great instructable! Did you have any issues with bubbles or other imperfections just using the rotator/heat? I've been researching producing character figurines and I was thinking I'd need vacuum/pressure to produce quality results at home.

bryanbrutherford (author)  mhancock32 months ago

it all depends on your design and materials.

Rotocasting wouldn't be the right choice for an action figure.

I did have to adjust the speed of rotation to avoid bubbles in the bottom edge.

I run a vacuum on my silicone before pouring it and I run pressure on my solid pieces.

Rotocasting works well for large volumes with broad smooth surfaces.

It does not work well if you have a lot of deep surface detail.

tysonvw4 months ago

This is amazing!!! I have some ideas I've been trying to figure out how to pursue and this tutorial filled in all the gaps for me. Thankyou for taking the time to put this together! I did have a question about your choice of coloring the resin and whatnot. Would it be a horrible headache had you decided to paint each one to emphasize the details a little more? If so what would the process be? I have a product that I could use this production process with; only they will probably require more complex colorations then just mixing the colors in the resin. Also where do you get your materials? I've been using Smooth-on for resin and mold rubber but I know there are probably cheaper options out there... Thanks Again!

bryanbrutherford (author)  tysonvw4 months ago

yes painting is a all depends on how much work you want to do.

I have done a few pieces that had painted details or were fully painted in solid color. I made paint masks and tried to make the process as simple as possible. I personally am not interested in designs that would require me to do a lot of paint work.

i use a lot of smooth-on resin and silicone as do most others working in these mediums. they are a fantastic company with knowledgeable and friendly employees.

all the materials in this instructable were from smooth on.

Well thanks again. Ill probably try to mitigate my painting labor as much as possible as well. You've been a huge help and best of luck to you!
jmsiefer4 months ago

I bought one of your small "Ice Scream Man" figures at DesignerCon last weekend. Thanks for autographing him for me and taking the time to talk. Keep up the awesome work!

bryanbrutherford (author)  jmsiefer4 months ago

thank you for the support

rickywheat415 months ago
I have a serious idea for a toy and would like to consult with you is that possible if possible

Great Article and very well written. We are also engaged in creating some cool Toy designs and would look forward in the tips provide in the article. We develop Cool Designs for toys and feel free to check out our website.


We have years of experience in prototyping and product design! Let us know your project detail and we can work out together

Maditri5 months ago
I appreciate your article. I'm interested in creating a model/prototype of a baby product. Although I invented/developed it I'd like to collaborate with someone more knowledgable regarding materials safety and engineering. I'm unsure how to proceed. Would you be interested in such an endeavor?
bryanbrutherford (author)  Maditri5 months ago
You can email me at if you want to discuss a project.

i have been in product development for 14 years.
I spent 10 years working in the pet industry where there is a huge overlap with infant toys in materials and manufacturing. Many of my factories produce both pet toys and baby toys.

I am currently making my living as a design/manufacturing consultant.

Super information, and congratulations on bringing your ideas and vision to fruition. I'll have to say I am somewhat old school and wondering are these pieces practical and have playful use or are they just decorative? We were all kids once and we love hands on creativity, and just wondering if I was missing something. Thanks for the step by step accomplishments, and good luck with your next project. If you have suggestions or advise about grass roots start up and any design classes that you might have taken, that would be appreciated. Have you ever created any wooden toys??

dap20121 year ago
cool! Since I am not remotely talented/skilled in anything engineer-esque, I will say you did a great job explaining this project to right-brained folks like me. That is no small feat!
My interest in "making a resin figurine/model" is quite recent. Searching online for some quirky, yet respectful, Christmas ornaments featuring U.S. Presidents, all I could find were ones with the picture, scene/quote on them. My vision in my head was quite different. I realize that there is not a hot demand for these items; well, in certain history buff circles, (haven't exhausted my search) but for this history teacher, I thought Really? no easy google search! Thank you for explaining the process and how incredibly awesome it must be to see that ice cream man come "alive" ! Any suggestions my way would be appreciated. My goal is not to start a company but who knows? stranger things happen everyday!!
bryanbrutherford (author)  dap20121 year ago
not sure about presidents, it would be a huge undertaking to sculpt them all and cast them. Maybe images engraved and laser cut out of wood or printed on something... shrinky dinks? Seriously.. i've made some pretty cool stuff with shrinky dink material.
danm_daniel2 years ago
legit. respect.
lbutcher12 years ago
Would you happen to know the names of some of the service bureaus you've mentioned before in a comment off hand? Sorry, this is new territory for me
bryanbrutherford (author)  lbutcher12 years ago
empire prototypes in Mass. or you can upload your model to end buy from there.
For the non-commercially-linked: Buy a makerbot or build a reprap.
how much does a 3d printer cost?
Depends on the printer. They can range anywhere from $300 upwards, but don't count on finding one below $600.
bryanbrutherford (author)  willrandship3 years ago
I'm not knocking either of those options,. They are both fantastic tools, But if you need a higher quality output, can't justify the expense vs. volume or just don't want to learn a new tool but would like to be able to use it there are also plenty of service bureaus out there that will print your models for a reasonable fee in a wide variety of processes.

Barrettkg2 years ago
I'm in love with the ingenuity, the drive and the whole story behind that handsome devil. Well done guys.
Idea for you though: How hard would it be if you instead casted wax and made candles. In my mind, wax is cheaper so you might be able to reduce the cost on the candle models and depending on the difficulty, add the scent of the icecream they represent.
Once again, beautiful execution start to finish
bryanbrutherford (author)  Barrettkg2 years ago
Thanks for the compliments.

It looks awesome, but what can I do with these? I might considering buying one, but it's too expensive for me.... What's it made out of. Anyways, Nice work. It would be awesome if we can eat it... OMG, CAN WE?!?! That would be cool. How big is it? Sorry for asking so many questions. By the way, I checked out your blog, and I really like it. Are you selling the knuckles APPROVED stamp? I would buy one of those.
patman013 years ago
how much would it cost for you to do a 3D "spider tracer" for me that i can have 3D printed :)
Have you tried Shapeways, they do 3D printing inexpensively.
hi! i am familiar with shapeways. i actually have access to an Objet 3D printer. unfortunately, i don't have the talent to design a 3D model hehe. but thanks for the suggestion.
bryanbrutherford (author)  patman013 years ago
sorry, i don't think that's a job for me.
Arleatir3 years ago
That's a realy inspiring story, thanks a lot for sharing.
bryanbrutherford (author)  Arleatir3 years ago
Thank you.
Very Cool Product and I like how you explain the making of a toy from begining to end and everything in between.
Beanbob2233 years ago
I have to sayquite hard to make
jtraub013 years ago
I am 50% complete in bringing a product online. Great ible!

I like the packaging solution! Very nice. Can you share how you were able to get your products in retail locations?

Thank you,

bryanbrutherford (author)  jtraub013 years ago
I'm both proud and a bit embarrassed to say that i have done little to directly initiate my retail partnerships. Once i started sharing images on instagram and twitter people started coming to me. I knew i wanted to move product through wholesale channels so i developed a wholesale model very early on and had it ready when people asked.
Dude, you'll get there. Soon people will come to you. Your stuff is definitely hot and people go crazy for it. Email me if you want to talk about, I have kind of been doing similar things for myself and while working at Pale Horse Design. Keep up the badass work!
L O L !!!!


...I bet nobody has commented 'cause nobody found this funny XD
yeah... i'm not sure whether it's good or bad that no one is commenting on it.

clearly... i think it's hilarious
Wow, this is incredible! I loved reading/seeing your process (I've always wondered about how to make my own molds/forms) and seeing the final product. Where are they available for purchase? I founded and run the Visalia Zombie Ball & Crawl in my city every year and these would make wonderful additions to the prizes.
Thanks!!! they would make awesome prizes.

They are available on my website

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