Since 1968, Hot Wheels has produced more than four billion die-cast cars in more than 800 models and 11,000 variations. It's one of the only toys that can still be purchased for a dollar, and yet, while the basic concept of the 1:64 scale cars hasn't changed, the high-tech tools that power today's design process would make even Tony Stark envious.
The Hot Wheels design team has already jumped in to be a part of the Ford Fiesta Movement, sharing their visionary sketches of the three Fiesta Hero finalists' cars. Now, those three finalists take us behind the scenes at Mattel headquarters for an exclusive look at how Hot Wheels are made, from sketch to final painted prototype.
The process starts as it always has: with hand-drawn sketches. While designers of actual cars may work on a single design for multiple years, Hot Wheels produces about 240 models every year, including 50 brand-new designs. To hit those numbers, designers are constantly searching for new inspiration, which they find in everything from real cars, to superheroes and spaceships, to pop-culture celebrities.
Once they have a vision, the Hot Wheels design team busts out the high-tech tools to translate a sketch into 3-D. The digital sculpting team utilizes a Geomagic Touch haptic device to create 3-D files, a tool also used in scientific and medical simulations due to its speed and accuracy. The Geomagic Touch features a pen tip that provides force feedback to the user's hand, allowing them to "feel" the virtual objects as though they are sculpting clay.
The 3-D file is then sent over to Hot Wheels' in-house rapid prototyping facility, which features 30 high-end 3-D printers. Unlike consumer-ready Fused Deposition Modeling 3-D printers — like those made famous by MakerBot — these Stereolithography (SLA) rapid prototyping machines are capable of fast, highly detailed, smooth outputs that serve as accurate representations of the final product. Designers can quickly assess their work, make any necessary changes, and output multiple prototypes before sending the final files off to the factory for manufacturing.
Check out the video above to see the whole high-tech process in detail, and get a sneak peek of Shane Hartline's Fiesta Hero coming to life as a one-of-a-kind Hot Wheels car.
Ford and the Fiesta Movement are celebrating their love of all things comics by connecting you with some of the greats in comics today. Wanna learn more? Keep up with the movement here.
Mallory McMorrow is a writer and creative director with a passion for petrol. She is a regular contributor for Road & Track online covering all things design, and her writing has also appeared on Jalopnik and Popular Mechanics.