Quoted from Fytr:
This is all true. Except now we have 3D printing. Stern could make a big investment in commercial grade 3D printers and crank out whatever they want.
3D printing is amazing, it's a wonderful solution to rapid prototyping. See my example above about needing to adjust something because of a ball trap. Easy, tweak the model, print a new one, play test away.
But 3D printing is slow. FDM printers especially are too slow, and not high enough rez for final products. Not without a ton of post processing. Things like resin printers have the detail, but not the scale, and require post processing to cure and wash etc. And still slow.
Now something like SLS might be approaching more practical realms, but they're still expensive, and still require a lot of space and labor to clean, reclaim the powder etc. If I were to put bets on 3D printed parts being commercially viable for larger runs I'd put my money on SLS. But not yet.
When you need thousands of parts you're still gonna run into roadblocks with 3D printing, the volume part is always a stumbling block.
Quoted from pickleric:
Exactly this. I work for an injection molder. It is not uncommon for some of our larger molds to be six figures.
Yup, when I said tens of thousands I was being conservative, and while it's not likely a little Stern toy would hit that $100,000 range it can get wild. As with so many things, what makes sense in other commercial markets just doesn't in pinball just because of scale. Pins sell in the few thousands range, you can't leverage mass quantities to absorb those big up front costs.
I get that home collectors want 'collectible' quality on everything. Hot Toys level sculpts, and hidden screws etc. Pinball manufacturers have to make these games easy to put together, and can't have every part be a high labor, high cost, detailed piece. Not if they want to stay in business.
I enjoy the mechanical nature of the games. Seeing screws doesn't bother me.