Who am I?
Hi, I am Michael Sng from Singapore. You know? The place known for rich bankers. Unfortunately, I was trained in Advertising and Graphic Design and I accidentally found myself as the lead product designer for STIKFAS action figures, with our toys gaining a cult following. We had our highs and lows for 7 years and finally decided to wind down the business in 2008 because of the financial crisis in the US. We learnt many hard lessons about building a start up and the harsh reality that the mass consumer toy market is for the big boys, not small indie setups like ours.
After a number of years out of the toy industry, and armed with new tools that were not available 7 years ago: 3D printing, crowdfunding, a mature e-commerce ecosystem and social media, I was itching to get back. I created Machination Studio but this time, I did not want to be the slave to mass production, mass marketing, and big retailers. Designing and hand building my toys individually allow me to go wild and add a ridiculous level of craftsmanship, and many mechanisms that would otherwise never make it into a mass production toy. I can create something that gives a real sense of myself, and I wanted to make the best toy in the world.
Why am I putting myself through this? I believe, when embarking on any project, that I should know every single aspect of the project and go through it once even if I decide to outsource that function thereafter. I burnt countless weekends learning solid 3D modelling, simple electronics, programming the Arduino, designing for 3D printing, and countless little things and personally painted and assembled the hundreds of parts into the mechanized scale models to life. To build something unlike anything that has come before in toys and scale models.
What is Codename: Colossus?
By the time you will have gotten around to asking this question, you probably have seen photos or videos of the walking robot-like thing. Those are the first physical manifestations of Codename Colossus story. HMC Boudicca and HMC Galahad are hand built, fully 3D printed, hand painted toys. They were made from over 400 specially designed parts and is stuffed with many servos, motors and LED that gives it mechanical and electronic motion. And have crossed the Pacific ocean twice and had been on show at the New York Comic Con 2016, and on the main stage of the TED Conference 2016 with me in Vancouver.
I am currently working on a new series of toys. Cast in polyurethane resin instead of 3D printed, with a lower part count but no less detailed, smaller but by no means small. I would like to bring the toys to an accessible price so more can share in my strange journey.
The story narrative of the toy is set in Europe in an alternate history during The Great War. It is the result of a the combination of industrial design, simple technology and craftsmanship to create highly detailed big toys with lots of moving parts. I made them to push the limits of the definition of a toy and demonstrate what is possible.
My plan is to break away from the tyranny of mass production. To create kinetic art toys, and perhaps more traditional toys in the future. The Codename Colossus story world is also one that I hope to develop further, and would hope to attract other tinkerers, designers and artists to join me on my journey.
I did not do all this alone. I could have have done this without the following people and organizations.
WFRIC World is the Research and Innovation Centre for a major truck equipment outfitter in Singapore. They also run Reactor 79, a development space that I have used to help me with my prototyping. They have been extremely supportive with their time, resources and also with sponsoring my trip to NYCC 2015.
Rick Treweek of Trobok Toys, first introduced 3D printing to me way back when while we were both at an introductory Arduino workshop. The difference between him and everyone else evangelizing 3D printers at 2013 is that Rick actually spent like 2 weeks baby sitting his original MakerBot to help me print my first set of prototype legs. Any one who owned the original MakerBot knows how much work that is. Rick is now doing really well doing many art projects with 3D printers in South Africa.
David Teo is one of the brightest guys I have met and is responsible for many cool interactive projects for commercial clients in Singapore. But no one will ever know it because he keeps such a low profile online that there are no digital trail to the work he has done. He gave me a lot of help with the coding side of my project. And like all master craftsmen, are more interested in the work than being known for it.
Goi Chin Yee is the owner of Lucidity, a graphic design and branding company doing work for the top retail chains in Singapore. He was also my first employer, and I, his first employee. Way back when. He has lent his sense of aesthetics and design craft to the graphics of Machination Studio and Codename Colossus despite his extremely busy schedule.
Mike Brady composes the soundtracks to US localizations of Japanese anime series. Many people have heard his work, but most would probably not even think he exists, and that the music were in the original Japanese versions. Mike Brady is a really old friend of mine from back when the internet was young. He was kind enough to allow his apartment in Brooklyn to be my temporary base of operations during NYCC 2015, and helped me at the booth for two days.
Benjamin Hitmar has a freelance toy design outfit called Enjami Studios. I knew him back when he was at Hasbro working on the STIKFAS, Xevoz and G.I. Joe Sigma Six toys. Kids growing up in the last 15 years would probably have played with one of the toys he has done. He is not helping me with toy design, but Ben flew all the way from Pittsburgh to NYC to help me at the NYCC 2015 booth. He and his wife Kate also hosted me after the show when I made my way down there to visit them.