Our work

Prototyping Services

Hot Buttered Elves is a product development team consisting of projects managers that nurture your product through the process. Our digital integration allows us to work in all sizes, and in all programs. Our prototyping is a function of 3D modeling, hands-on modeling, engineering, and special effects. In the pictures above, you will see variations of these products.

  1. Working and functioning products.
  2. Large fiberglass sculptures, such as character sculptures or movie props.
  3. Court Case Models (Add Court case model pictures for this when you click here).
  4. Inventions – Test and prove your concepts, then build them out.
  5. 3D Printed Models – Full 3D printing services.
  6. Breadboard and Volume Studies
  7. Motorized and Mechanical products
  8. Products with programmable CPU’s.
  9. Functioning Special Effect Models and Set Design.

We manage your projects to coordinate timely delivery at cost. Our creative teams consists of production managers that supervise the project from initiation to delivery. Our in-house facilities are more than enough to handle most projects, and we have a network of outsources to accommodate larger projects

Hand sculpting

Our hand sculpting division is on par with the best in the nation. Our artists are known for capturing life-like detail, perfect 2D to 3D character matching, and we guarantee the approval of licensed characters. While most of the character sculpting is handled digitally, understanding how to clean the characters after they are printed or carved out of foam is very important. You don’t want to lose detail. Addition of electronics and moving parts requires reassembly with knowledge of character integrity. We also hand-sculpt for small production runs and premiums, breadboard models, pantograph models, character turn-around models and perfect paint models. The Elves are capable of sculpting in all sizes.

Large Product Sculpting

When larger sculpts or products are required, our digital process allows us to take the 3D modeled characters in the STL format, and use them to carve any size object out of foam using a CNC method. We will cut the character into smaller parts, and then CNC these pieces out of foam, and re-assemble. Once these parts are organized correctly, we will apply different hard coatings so that they can be used in commercial locations. Paint and finishings are UV stable, non-toxic, and very durable. Molds can then be made for further reproductions.

3D Modeling– Ergonomic, Engineered, and Surfaced to CAD.

At Hot Buttered Elves, our 3D modeling team is extremely proficient in licensed character, human-likeness, and all types of sculpting through to licensor approvals, and prototyping. Our clients are fine artists, professional sculptors, movie prop houses, and Toy Designers, Product Designers, Inventors, and Corporations. All products that require internal mechanisms, motors, mounting brackets, and full assemblies are designed with engineering programs to consolidate both the form and function of your designs. Fine art, character and human-likeness sculptures are easily printed in our 3D printers, and can be made at any size.

Our workflow is structured to work with a large variety of programs, both sculpting programs like Z-brush, Maya, and Freeform through to CAD programs such as Solidworks, Rhino, and Pro-E. Our modelers are both hand sculptors, engineers, and model makers that understand the full nature of 3D. Some of the solutions that we provide are as follows:

  1. Sculpting 3D digital characters for licensor approval. We guarantee approvals for licensed characters.
  2. Sculpting ergonomic characters onto CAD engineered products
  3. Turning 3D characters into CAD for tooling, for example, from STL to IGES, or STEP.
  4. Characters with articulated movement requirements and engineering assemblies, like action figures, gear assemblies, …
  5. Establishing material requirements for manufacturing, like wall thickness per material strength, living hinges, …

3D Printing / Rapid Prototyping

Depending on the project requirements, Hot Buttered Elves utilizes a number of rapid prototyping methods and machines. This is a matter of finding the “right tool for the job.” While models and structural parts require strength, characters and small ergonomic parts require high detail. Some parts must be printed in clear, and others will take paint. One project may require a combination of different rapid prototype methods to resolve a solution. We print in many different materials, such as:


The 3D printer jets and instantly UV-cures tiny droplets of liquid photopolymer. Fine layers accumulate on the build tray, and quickly build into precise 3D shapes. Where overhangs, undercuts, or complex shapes require support, the 3D printer jets a removable gel-like support material. (Durable functioning parts with excellent detail)


The SLA process is performed in vat of liquid photopolymer resin where an ultraviolet laser is projected into the resin vat. The UV laser solidifies where it is projected, and it moves to follow the pattern, solidifying layer by layer to create or “print” a solid 3D model. Typical SLA Standard tolerances are ± .015″ or ± .002″. Along with Polyjet, these are of the most accurate tolerances on the market today. (Medium Strong Parts with medium detail).


SLS involves the use of a high power laser (for example, a carbon dioxide laser) to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass powders into a mass that has a desired three-dimensional shape. The laser cures each layer in the vat, then the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness, a new layer of material is smoothed over the top, and the process is repeated until the part is completed. (Very strong parts with medium detail).


Fused Deposition Modeling – Engineering grade thermoplastics are extruded from the bottom to top of the part, layer by layer until the part is complete. These materials are already production grade, so they have the chemical and mechanical strengths that allow parts to be physically put to the test. While the aesthetic details are not as clean as the Polyjet process, these parts are much stronger, and are used to create parts that require physical strength. (Very strong parts with medium detail).


Direct Metal Laser Sintering – Metal parts are created in the additive manufacturing style where the laser beam melts the powdered metal composite together layer by layer. These parts have great strength, and are very accurate. The parts demonstrate the properties of metal parts, however not as strong as CNC cut metal parts. (Extremely strong parts with poor detail).


When your parts are printed and assembled, painting them is the next step. The Elf Workshop is designed around the Pantone color system, and has been painting and matching colors for over 25 years. If you spend the time building something great, then the final painting application must be professionally done to achieve perfection. The Elves are masters of painting, and meet all of the expectations for licensed color-matched approvals. Our paints range from Acrylics to Automotive.

3D Scanning

3D digital scanning is an effective way to capture 3D digital data from existing prototypes or models. Products that need re-designing, re-sizing, or improvement can be scanned into the computer for further modeling. Once scanned, the models can be re-engineered to meet the required specifications. Once the changes are implemented, the model can be printed at any size.


Our packaging designers work in close proximity of the product designers to create a package that tells the right story for your product. We focus on both the allowable plan-a-gram footprint, and the sustainable footprint, and work closely with the licensor assets to create packaging that makes your product “POP” on the shelves. HBE coordinates full package die lines, artwork, blisters, and tooling materials to coordinate the production of your packaging materials both domestically and overseas.


Our molding facility has been built with years of experience. We have designed our own machines to adopt our special method of molding and casting parts. We work with the most advanced silicones and molding techniques, and have been teaching them for years in the Toy Design Program at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Pressure and vacuum environments are used to control materials and eliminate defects. Multiple cavity molds are designed to control undercuts and achieve perfect reproductions.


Gold, silver, chrome, and copper are electroplated over plastic and metal parts. This process is common when making awards or statues that need to have that “Academy Award” finish. Real 24 carat gold.

Laser Cutting

2-Dimensional laser cutting is an excellent way to create gears, lettering, signage, and create model parts with accuracy and precision. Illustrator files can be imported to cut your patterns out of wood, acrylic, and metal in thicknesses up to 3/4 inch thick.

Vacuum Forming

We are capable of vacuum forming a wide range of shapes. Models are created either digitally or by hand, then are modified and set up for vacuum forming. We can work with large 4 x 4 foot and 4 x 8 foot models and vacuum form over large foam sculpted characters, or can arrange for blister packaging. We support many different materials from PETG, ABS to Acrylic and styrene.


Starting with the 2D design, our experienced pattern designers create a 3D plush white model for size and pattern evaluation. Then the correct fabrics are isolated, and the final plush is created. HBE can engineer internal mechanisms, gears, and housings to support movement or character action per your imagination and budget. Overseas sourcing is available for plush programs.

Categories: Prototyping

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