by: Todd Michalak [ ]
3D in Scale is a designer of detailed interior conversions for the 1/35 military modelling enthusiasts. All of the designs are created by 3D in Scale and manufacturing and shipping is provided through Shapeways.com, an online 3D printing supplier with manufacturing locations around the world.
With forty-one conversions on their shelves already, 3D in Scale released number forty-two and forty-three to the growing list of items they sell; Interior conversions for the Meng and Hong ZSU-23-4 Shilka Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun vehicles. For the purposes of this review, I will look at the Meng version, Model No. 3DiS-43. I received the conversion for review not unlike any individual who orders these kits through 3D in Scale. In the case of my kit, manufacturing was completed through the New York base of operations of Shapeways.com. The parts were manufactured and shipped direct to me and were delivered in a standard cardboard box with the Shapeways logo imprinted on the side. Upon opening the box, the Shilka Interior Conversion was nestled in a bed of packing peanuts and sealed within a Ziploc-type plastic bag, again, with the Shapeways logo printed on it. Inside, the uniquely 3D printed item was wrapped in green bubble wrap to protect the parts even further.
After opening everything and unrolling the bubble wrap, I found the complete 3D printed conversion which had all of the parts associated with the kit printed on one sprue tree. The material Shapeways used to create the kit using FXD, or Frosted Extreme Detail, which is a clear and delicate material that allows printing finite details easier and crisper. Having a look around the parts web-type sprue, all of the parts appear to be cleanly printed and intact. It is hard at first to see the finer detailing at first due to the clear properties of the printing materials. In the correct lighting, the details do pop right out. One minor note is something that is indicative of the 3D printing process, which is the somewhat layered texturing to the flat surfaces. Since the 3D printing process is that of building these parts in layers, there is no real way to eliminate from the manufacturing process. However, these parts are in 1/35 scale and of course interior parts and I am sure this will not show up in the painting and weathering stages of the project. Due to the delicate nature of 3D printed parts, special care should be taken not only in handling these parts but with and cleanup such as light sanding if needed.
What do we get with this kit? Well, there are ten parts in total which replace all of the injected molded parts supplied in the kit. This is a plus since the kit has twenty-six parts including the lower and upper hull parts which the other twenty-four parts are attached to. The ten parts are a condensed version of the kit supplied parts but with numerous added details not given by the kit; details such as interior wiring, control bars located on the floor and various other surface details. From the ten parts included in the set, five are bulk sections to the interior; the floor, three sides and a trapezoidal section which mounts to the upper hull. There are five additional parts, the seat, two compressed air tanks and two small parts, one of which is an optional vision block attachment for the upper hull…the other, to be honest, I have no idea what it is…could be a small fan for the driver.
The instructions for this kit are actually supplied in .pdf format through 3D in Scale. Shapeways does not produce instruction nor do they include any with their manufactured products. There is a link on the 3D in Scale website located in both the Meng and Hong conversion kit webpages which can be either opened or downloaded to your computer. The instructions are clear and precise and presented in a color-view exploded format. Provided as well in the instructions are reference photographs of the parts.
I am going to jump right into construction associated with the ZSU-23-4 Shilka Driver Compartment. As I mentioned earlier in this review, 3D printed parts tend to be more brittle in nature than styrene, however, respond very similar to that of resin parts. Super glue is recommended for connecting the parts as is giving all of the parts a good wash with warm soapy water to remove and residue that may remain after the manufacturing process. All of the attachment points for the parts in this kit are located in areas that are not seen after construction. In some cases, the builder will want to make sure to cut these attachments as close as they can to the backside surfaces of the parts to ensure a lush mounting to the part inside the model.
A fine addition to this kit was the incorporation connectors on the large sections of the compartment. The parts have male tabs and female receptors for the tabs allowing a snug, virtually seamless fit for the floor section to the two adjacent wall sections, right side and rear. The only part of the Shilka kit that needs to be modified slightly before adding any parts, is on the upper hull section. There are three mounting posts molded into the face of the Shilka kit that need to be shaved off. After that, all of the parts basically fall into place. As part of the review, I did gather all of the Meng kit parts for the interior and mock up and installation to see the process and how difficult it was to install. Secondly, I of course constructed the 3D in Scale version for the same reasons. Construction of the 3d in Scale conversion is far less labor intensive. After what would amount to a half hour of cleanup of the styrene parts, the 3D printed version was basically installed in half that time…and I did not need to still glue all the separate tiny parts into place.
After taking a close look and installing the 3D in Scale ZSU-23-4 Shilka Driver Compartment, I do have to say this is a fantastic improvement to the interior of the Meng kit. I can only assume that the kit designed for the Hong Shilka would vastly improve the looks as well. The parts are cleanly made and have little to no cleanup involved. If the minor texturing to the flat surfaces is of some concern, a light sanding can be done, however, the parts are extremely delicate and special care should be taken as to not damage parts. Installation is a breeze compared to the Meng kit interior. In minutes, I was done with connecting the basic structure and it slid right into place ready for painting.
One minor note, on the 3D in Scale website, there is only mention to the use of enamel paints to finish these 3D printed parts. I do not see any reason that water based acrylics, such as Vallejo or AMMO by Mig, cannot be used. If the same surface preparations are followed and a base primer is applied, a water based acrylic will be more than adequate for a durable finish.