Thursday, March 17

Review: Landing Gear for GWH Su-27/Su-27UB from Detail & Wonder Studio in 1/48th scale

3D printing has come a LOOONG way since its inception only a few years ago. Gary Wickham investigates and compares Detail & Wonder's new 48th scale landing gear sets for the GWH Su-27 & Su-27UB kits in his detailed construction review...

Review: Landing Gear for GWH Su-27/Su-27UB 
Manufacturer: Detail & Wonder Studio
Kit No #480601
1:48th Scale
There is no doubt the uptake of 3D printing has been rapidly accelerating in the scale modelling community over the last few years.

From enthusiastic modellers buying their own printers to professional companies such as Eduard and Barracuda Studios, everyone is starting to realise the huge potential that the new generation of high-resolution 3D resin printers can bring to our hobby.

One new small startup company focusing on producing 3D Printed parts is Detail & Wonder Studio. To date, they have only released two commercially available detail sets, both designed for the new Great Wall Hobby Su-27/Su-33 family.

The focus of these upgrade sets is direct replacement parts for the three kit undercarriage legs. The delicate resin parts are very well protected in dense packing foam all sealed inside a sturdy box.

The small assembly instruction booklet consists of six pages of detailed drawings explaining how and where to separate the printed part from the tree. Being a fully 3D printed replacement part there is only some very minor assembly to be carried out.

Upon removal from the packing foam, the two main printed elements can be examined more closely. The first contains the nose gear and the second is both main landing gear struts. The outer layer (or cage) forms a mainly protective layer and has been printed around each of the delicate parts.
The first step in the assembly is to remove the outer cage using your sprue cutters. This is best done by cutting the cage legs flush with the base and sliding the cage off. This then exposes the parts themselves.
Like most things that have a high potential "to go sideways," I always take my time and double/triple check before cutting anything. Following a careful examination, I used my Meng side cutters to remove the outer cage. The printed resin feels and behaves just like traditional resin and cuts cleanly. The protective cages can now be disposed of as they have served their purpose perfectly.
With the protective cage removed we can get a proper look at the detail included in this set. The detail is sharp and some of the parts are so thin that they are translucent which is a testament to the resolution of the printer used.
Designed for rough field operations, the Flankers single wheel nose gear is extremely sturdy and features a mudguard/FOD screen with downward-facing deflector louvres guiding all debris away from the large engine intakes. Three landing lights are fitted directly to the nose gear.
A closer look at the printed parts for the nose-wheel shows that everything, with the exception of the landing lights, has been printed in one single piece. A fine support tree surrounds the actual part and our next task is to very carefully remove the tree cleanly.
I'd advise you carefully review the instructions and figure use them to figure out which of the tiny parts are the supporting tree and which are part of the final part. It's easy to mistake the two because everything is so fine and knowing where one begins and the other ends can be tricky.
After a few minutes with the side cutters and a fresh #11 blade in my knife, I was able to separate the tree from the nose gear. Along the way, I only damaged one hydraulic cable running along the retraction strut. As I mentioned, everything is very delicate and much care is needed.
It is only now that we can begin to properly appreciate the level of detail and accuracy that has been achieved by the 3D printer.
At these magnification levels, you can clearly make out the built-up layers which are part and parcel of the 3D printing technology. However, under a coat of paint and with the naked eye these all but disappear.
One valid concern is that strength available with resin alone. D&W have taken this limitation into account and sensibly designed the main strut to be hollow. This allows a metal rod to be inserted into the strut and significantly improve the load-bearing ability of these delicate resin parts.
To make it easier to appreciate all that detail I have sprayed the resin parts with a light primer coat. With final detail painting, this part will be a significant upgrade to the kit plastic parts.

The front gear...
The main landing gear struts come together as a single printed part. Like before the protective outer cage is removed quickly with my trusty side cutters.
Once again taking the time to study the instructions properly will ensure you don't end up cutting anything off that you shouldn't. Getting in close is best-achieved with needle nose cutters or even some sturdy scissors as the resin is medium hardness.
The main gear parts have a lot of hydraulic cabling, which looks very much like the support tree sprue so make sure you check twice before committing to a cut. I found it worked best to cut the tree away from the part end first and then slice it away from the baseboard. This avoided putting any unnecessary stress on the delicate parts.
The Flanker main gear employs a heavy-duty strut and over inflated large tires for touchdowns on unprepared landing strips. The main wheels are equipped with an integral cooling fan inside the hub assembly to accommodate heavy braking.
With the supporting tree removed it is truly impressive to see what can be achieved with the new 3D printing technology. All that the modeller needs to do now is paint and install the part.
As with the nose gear strut, the two main gear legs are designed to be hollow and suitable steel rods are included in the set to provide the necessary strength to bear the weight of the large GWH Flanker model.
The supplied metal rods simply slide in (from either end) and are secured with some CA or Epoxy glue.
When viewed from the top, the opening for the metal rods becomes apparent. The metal rods fit very snugly and will allow the resin part to comfortably take the weight of the model.
Under a coat of primer, the level of detail provided can be best appreciated. D&W have some very skilled 3D designers and you will need your very best detail painting brush to do justice to this part.

The rear legs from all angles...
CONCLUSION - Detail & Wonder Studio 1:48 3D Printed Su-27 Landing Gear (480601)
Detail & Wonder has really opened my eyes to the potential for 3D printing in scale modelling. I've been aware of parts being printed by fellow modellers, but this is the first time I have seen something professional up close and the quality blows me away.

So far I've resisted any thoughts of buying a 3D printer myself but when you see what is possible, perhaps it's time to reconsider. Of course, the cost will be a factor and with more and more people printing and selling parts like these it may not be necessary to have your own printer. Time will tell.

If you have the GWH 1:48 Flanker in your stash and want a quick and easy upgrade for the landing gear, then I'd highly recommend this set from D&W. Like many of these new startup companies, D&W Studio has no website or a direct way to purchase. You can now purchase this gear through the Hobby Easy Website.

Gary Wickham

Thank you to the people at Detail & Wonder for sending these gears to Gary to review for you. You can find out more about Detail & Wonder's works on their Facebook page.
ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS - Detail & Wonder Studio 1:48 3D Printed Su-27 Landing Gear (480601)