Friday, May 4

In-Boxed: 1/12th Scale Imperial Probe Droid from JPG Productions

Jpg Productions new resin kit from the world of Star Wars, the Imperial Probe Droid that will suit your other 1/12th figures in scale and size. Tirydium Models has sent one to Andy, complete with their new lighting kit inside for him to review for you. Then to make and paint up. See what is in the box first before it gets built in his review...

In-Boxed: Imperial Probe Droid
Manufacturer - JPG Productions
Scale - 1/12th
Original Master Model - Nicholas Sagan
Type - Resin Casting
Price - £45 available from Tirydium Models
JPG has followed up their Gonk, Mouse and Chopper droid kits with this new release of the Imperial Probe Droid that first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back, searching for the Rebel base on Hoth. 
Ralph McQuarrie's concept art of the Probe Droid.
Despite a fairly minor role in the film, the Probe Droid seems to come up on many Star Wars modeller's wish lists, so I'm sure this will be a popular release. We'll have a look at what comes in the box in a moment, but first a little background from a Galaxy far, far away.
The Viper Probe Droid, also referred to as the Probot was a deep space reconnaissance and exploration droid manufactured by Arakyd Industries. They were 1.6m in height and were equipped with five manipulator arms attached to the main body of the droid. 
The head features several sensors including motion detectors, acoustic and seismic monitors, a radiation meter and magnetic imager.
The Probots were launched from Imperial vessels in hyperspace pods which would ferry them to their destination. Once on the ground, the robot could traverse the terrain at up to 40kph via a repulsorlift generator. 
Although only lightly armoured, the Probe Droid could still defend itself with an integrated blaster cannon and also had a self-destruct system to prevent capture.
The Kit
The kit arrives in a simple cardboard box with a printed label to let you know what's inside.

 Once opened, you'll find the parts bagged up and protected with polystyrene chips and bubble wrap.
Once out of the packaging, you'll find five main castings for the head, body and base. These are already removed from their casting blocks, and will just need cleaning up before they're ready for assembly. The remaining parts are the manipulator arms and one small detail part, all of which will need to be carefully removed from their casting blocks, an operation best done with a razor saw.
The two main sections of the probe droid, the head and the body, are each split into two halves. The head is made up from a main upper section which carries all the detailing, and a lower section which attaches to the bottom of the upper half and acts as the attachment point to the droid's body.
The main structure of the upper head looks to be based on a 3D print to which further detail parts were added to make the original master model. There are a few remnants of what looks like print lines left on the head but they're very faint and don't really affect the look of the piece. The large sensors are provided as glossy black plastic domes. They're the same kind of thing that's used for eyes on teddy bears etc. and they work very well here to represent the tinted glass sensors.
The level of detail on the head is very good, although it should be pointed out that it doesn't match the studio model exactly. Both the placement and number of sensors is out, and the shaping of some of the smaller secondary sensors is incorrect.
If you compare the placement of the sensors in relation to the flattened dome on top of the head in the model photo to the corresponding area on the 1/6 model produced by Sideshow a few years ago (which is pretty accurate to the prop), you'll see the JPG kit is quite different.
Despite that though, I think the model definitely captures the spirit of the original. It's unmistakably a Probe Droid, and I think even a hardened Star Wars fan wouldn't spot the inconsistencies without checking them against photographs of the original prop.
The main body is also a two-part assembly, this time with a larger lower section onto which a domed cap attaches. The large circular block in the centre of the top piece simply pushes onto the corresponding recess on the base of the head. There's a 3mm diameter clear acrylic rod provided to act as a support for the finished model, but there's no provision on the bottom of the body to attach it. The four-cylinder pieces in the middle of the underside of the body are too small to hold the rod, and are off-centre anyway. You'll need to remove some of this detail (which you can't see on the finished model anyway) and drill a hole to accept the rod.
Again, some of the detailing doesn't match the prop exactly, but it's close enough for me. The details that are there look very nice though, apart from the small stubby bumps that are sticking up from the base, which look exactly like short lengths of sprue that have been chopped off and stuck on. I think it would be better to remove them completely (one was already broken on my copy anyway). You can see in the photo that I've removed some of the detail in the centre of the underside and drilled a hole for the support rod.
The manipulator arms are individually numbered on the casting blocks, and their corresponding locations are marked on the bottom of the body casting with small hash marks (seen on the photo above). Compared to the body and head castings, the arms are a little rough around the edges, with quite a lot of flash to clean up. The general shaping is good, but they're more approximations of the originals than exact duplicates. The other small detail part on the right attaches to the upper body.
Some of the detailing is a little compromised by flash but it should clean up okay. The actuators are quite messy though, and it would probably be better to cut them off and replace them with styrene or metal rod. Doing that would make it easier to clean up the mould lines on the main arms too.
The final resin piece is a nicely sculpted base that represents the snowy landscape of Hoth. Like the lower half of the body, you'll need to drill a mounting hole for the support rod, but that's a fairly simple step. There are quite a few air bubbles in this piece that will need filling, although those on the snow texture probably won't show up that much if you miss some.
Beyond the main resin components, you also get the aforementioned black eye pieces. These are effectively ready to go, and you can simply glue them in place once the main build is built and painted. Also included are two lengths of plastic coated wire and a short length of metal tube which are used to make the two aerials that mount on top of the head, and a piece of rubber tubing which is used on the underside of the body. Lastly, and not shown in the photo, is the clear styrene rod used to support the finished model.
Finally, we've got the instruction guide which is a simple affair, printed on a rectangular card. For the most part, it suffices, although the placement for some of the smaller details, such as the hoses on the bottom of the body, is a little vague.
That covers the kit itself, but Tirydium Models have produced a lighting kit for the Probot, and we're going to look at that too. The set comes in a resealable bag and includes a single red LED for the Probot's head, which comes pre-wired to a battery box with an integrated on/off switch (you'll need two CR2032 button cells).
The battery box is small enough to fit inside the Probot's body so there's no need to run the wires through to the base. There are also four neodymium magnets included which are used to connect the two halves of the body, whilst still allowing them to be separated to swap the batteries.
A comprehensive instruction sheet comes with the lighting kit with a very clear step-by-step guide to installing the LED and battery box. In truth though, it's a very simple process that only requires the drilling of a few holes. The lighting kit will be available soon from the Tirydium Models web store.
I'll be doing a full build review of the Probe Droid in the near future, but for now, I've done a quick clean up and dry assembly of the parts so you can get an idea of how the finished build will look. One thing to note; the clear acrylic rod that's included as a support simply isn't up to the job. It will just about hold the model but bends over under the weight and I think there would be a high risk of it breaking at some point. For the photos, I've used a 3mm brass rod which makes a far stronger support.
While some of the detailing may be a little off, I think the overall build does capture the look of the Probot very well. The quality of the casting is good for the most part. The head and body are pretty clean, and will only require some minor attention before they're ready for paint. The arms are a little too rough for my liking though, and they'll need some considerable cleanup. Having said that, the work required is fairly straight forward, just trimming and sanding for the most part.
To give you some idea of the size, it's about equal in hight to K-2SO, around 18cm (7 inches) including the base. Being 1/12, it'll fit in perfectly with the Bandai droids, as well as JPG's Chopper and Gonk.
Stay tuned for the full build, where we'll be refining some of the details, adding the Tirydium lighting kit, and giving it a full paint job and weathering treatment.

Andy Moore

Thanks to JPG Productions and Tirydium Models for sending both the Probe Droid and the lighting kit to Andy to review - and next to build for you all.

If the kit and the light set are not in the shop yet, contact Warren from Tirydiumon the email contact on his website to obtain your own kit or more information.