At the “plush hairdressers“
Human hair gets its bounce from a perm – plush can also receive a specific structure by means of warmth and moisture. When this last styling has been completed, the plush is rolled on bales and sits in the shipping warehouse waiting to be transported to the cuddly toy manufacturer.
In the factory, a specific production line has already been built for the upcoming manufacturing process.
Step no. 1: Quality control of the materials supplied
First of all, the plush fabric is pulled over a light table that makes possible production flaws visible.
Step no. 2: Punching
The fabric is, depending on the length of the fibres, layed on top of each other in up to ten layers and fixed with stitches by hand. The punching tools were specially made according to the patterns. The pattern parts are now punched out by hand and with the help of a special press. In order to improve further processing, the punched out parts are placed into something like a dryer. This machine cleans the plush pieces of fine, loose fibres.
Step no. 3: The sewing line
At each station of the production line a detailed description of the individual sewing steps and a sample are attached so that each worker can inform him- or herself about the upcoming processes. Thereby, several sewing lines can work on the same product. Immediately after the cover is completed, the (safety) eyes are attached.
Step no. 4: Filling
Now the animals can get into shape: Smaller products are still filled by hand, bigger plush animals are filled mechanically.
Step no. 5: Finishing and safety precautions
Now, the plush animals may enjoy a so called “air bath“. This wellness treatment of a special kind guarantees a preferably lint-free shipment. For safety reasons, the products run through a metal detector afterwards. This serves as a last precaution measure, as the course of production was already continuously accompanied by quality controls and strict safety rules ensuring the safety of our products: For example, a worker must immediately report a broken needle to the production manager. He or she then examines whether the needle has been wholly retrieved. If this is not the case, the entire production is stopped and only begun again once the missing needle part has been found.
Step no. 6: A final check before the long journey
The “NICI inspector“ looks at the animals one last time: Samples are compared to the original prototype and visually cleared for shipment if accepted. The passport of the NICI animals, of course, must also be complete: The manufacturer submits test certificates from independent, certified institutions. For the animals to be allowed to enter the EC, a great number of criteria must be fulfilled and confirmed with the CE-sign. More detailed information can be found under the heading “Quality & Safety“.
The Long Journey
The finished NICI plush animals arrive in the container port in Hamburg, Germany, by ship. Then they are transported on land to our warehouse in Altenkunstadt. Finally, lorries bring them to our NICI distributors. There, our animals wait for new loving owners and a nice new home!
From the First Draft to Final Production
Each NICI product begins with a primary draft: Selected designers draw a first sketch of the new NICI character with a great amount of love and commitment. On that account, they also refer to ideas from customers, who send them via our „Join in!“ box on our website or by (e-)mail. All of this happens in Altenkunstadt, a small town in Franconian Switzerland in Germany.
After the fine-drawing, the draft goes to Seoul/South Korea.
Together with the draft, we also specify the colours, the materials and the product safety requirements. The first prototype is then sewn in Seoul and sent back to us to Germany for inspection and acceptance. As NICI products not only distinguish themselves by means of their characteristic design but also due to their special plush, a visual and tactile control is of utmost importance. The product goes back and forth between Seoul and Altenkunstadt until the minutest detail is satisfactory and the prototype can be authorised for production.
Production of Materials
The authorised prototype is now sent to our manufacturer in China together with pattern requirements and other specifications. Our understanding of specifications is, among other things, the input regarding which supplier may provide the plush and which supplier other individual parts. This ensures a continuous high quality of materials and the adherence to our product safety requirements, as our selected suppliers are well familiar with them.Before the plush that mostly consists of 100% polyester can be dyed, small fabric samples, so called “lap dips“, are dyed on trial in a miniature dyeing drum. Mixing the colours is done by a state-of-the-art computer that mixes the colours exactly to the millilitre. The “lap dips“ are again accepted by the designer in Germany. When doing so, the entire collection needs to be taken into account, as the extensive collection of accessories for each character must correspond in colour.After this complex but absolutely necessary clearance procedure, the production of the NICI plush product begins.Presetting and dyeing
A so called “presetting“ prepares the fibres of the raw material ideally for dyeing. The dyeing process itself takes about three hours. Note has to be taken that only similar shades of colour may be dyed in the same dyeing drum.
For plush experts, this technical term refers to the “brushing“ of the fibres. NICI lays a special emphasis on a “standing“ fibre and therefore the process is sometimes repeated up to eight times. This effort is certainly worthwhile, because this makes our plush especially high-class and cuddly soft.
Finishing and shearing
Similar to the presetting, the fabric is once again chemically refined in a finishing process. After this, all of the plush fibres can be cut to the same length. For this procedure extremely sharp knife cylinders are especially important. Only these guarantee that all of the fibres are of the same length, as an unevenly shorn plush gives an impression of inferior quality.