Saturday, May 27

Comparison review: 1/35th scale Panzer II Ausf. A, B, C, F & Maultier 3,5t 3D Printed Tracks from Quick Tracks

Clayton Ockerby of Workbench Hobbies recently received a new set of 3D printed Panzer II family tracks in 1/35th scale. These are meant to replace the tracks for your kits in a simple, snap together construction. He checks them out in a comparison review today...

Panzer II Ausf. A, B, C, F & Maultier 3,5t 3D Printed Tracks
From Quick Tracks
1/35th scale
Item no# T-35012
Made in 3D printed resin (240+ parts)
Designed by Kryztof Mucha
Price: $19.95 from the Quickwheel store online
There are two types of modellers, right ? Those of us who are content to build the kits completely out of the box, and those of us who feel the compulsion to (generally speaking) spend more on the aftermarket than we do on the kits itself.

Which begs the question…why are we all spending so much money of aftermarket? Are the modern kits so bad these days that aftermarket is required to add that extra level of finesse to the build, or have we just conditioned ourselves into the mindset that aftermarket enhancements are mandatory…regardless of the quality of the kit.

I know personally, in the past, I have ordered a kit online, and without even thinking about it, started looking for aftermarket tracks with no understanding of what the contents of the kit looked like. Conditioning at its worst.

I appreciate in the early days of the hobby, limitations with design and manufacturing techniques probably dictated that some degree of scratch building was required for those enthusiasts looking to detail and improve their kits… but manufacturing is getting so good (Generally speaking) that I have to question the need for aftermarket all together, or at least the lengths some of us go to.

And that leads me to my first experience with 3D printed tracks. Whilst this release isn’t new as such, it is new to me, so I thought it would be helpful to share my thoughts with the Modelling News family.

As mentioned, after ordering a 35th scale Panzer II online, I set about buying tracks for it. Now I’ve used white metal tracks many times and I am a raving fan of them. I love the weight and they can look incredible on the model, but they can be a pain in the neck to assemble and can be a real drain on the modellers time and energy. I’d heard some mixed reviews of 3D printed tracks, so I was a little apprehensive to try then, but I thought what better time than now and clicked on the button and picked myself up a set of Quick Tracks for the Panzer II.
The tracks cost me about $40 Australian dollars delivered – a set of white metal tracks would usually be around $60-70. So, the price was right.

The back of the box shows the basic assembly instructions although realistically it’s pretty self explanatory.
Opening the box, I see there are two plastic Ziplock bags of the individual tracks and a small bag with a few links and a piece of wire. The smaller bag with the wire section is actually the connector tracks and they have a cavity through the connection points so that wire can be used to connect the links when the track is attached to the model. Trying to clip the links together on the model would be near impossible, so this is a really clever way to solve that challenge.
There was also a small instruction sheet with a QR code that take you to a You Tube video running through some tricks around assembly. I have made a video to go along with this review, so be sure to keep a look out for that at the end of this review.

On closer inspection the parts look to be really nicely resolved and require no clean up. Something that most people who use the white metal tracks complain about often is the amount of clean up required from the moulding process. Given the tracks are for a Panzer II variant they were understandably delicate and fine in 35th scale.
Whilst the photograph shows some stepping in the print, it is impossible to see with the naked eye. The quality is excellent.

The links are now divided into piles to give me my 110 links per side.
Assembly of the parts was as somewhat simple as snapping the two sections together. Although there really was a fine art to getting these parts to connect. It also required a surprising amount of force. I found the best way to get these tracks to join was to get one side of the track in the location hole and then press the other side down on an angle until it clicked into position. It took me a while to find my groove with this, but once I found the rhythm, I assembled the first side in around 30minutes (the second side around 20). Far longer than I was counting on, but the pieces are very small and quite difficult to handle, so I assume tracks for larger vehicles may be a little more forgiving during the assembly.
The macro photography isn’t very forgiving, however you get an understanding of what the tracks look like assembled.
There was reasonable movement in the part, but it was a little stiffer than I would have expected. You may be able to see the length of track wound in the image isn’t a nice smooth curve, rather than quite jagged. Observation rather than a criticism though.
There is no denying the detail on the tread and the track pins is really lovely on the 3D parts.
I’m planning to use these tracks on the relatively new IBG Panzer II Ausf a, so as a comparison I decided to assemble a small length of the tracks supplied with the kit. Just to see if the investment in the aftermarket tracks was worth the money.

Each link has three connection points to the sprues, so there was a considerable amount of removal and clean up required before even thinking about the assembly. The tiny nature of the parts made this quite awkward and time consuming. In saying that, the pieces themselves looked to be very nice and remarkably similar to the 3D prints (obviously, if the manufactures have done their homework, they should be identical right ?)

Once the pieces were cleaned up the assembly as an absolute breeze. The parts just clipping beautifully together. The movement in the track section was remarkably fluid and smooth when compared with the 3D printed offering.

Although I only assembled a small length of the kit supplied tracks, I’d worked out, after all of the clean-up required to use them it would take around an hour and a half per side to build them..

Comparing the two tracks side by side it’s very hard to say which one looks better…but if I had to choose I’d be leaning the way of the kit supplied tracks because of the fluid motion in the connections…

The tracks on the left are from the kit and the ones on the right are the Quick Tracks prints.
There really isn’t a lot in it is there? Again – kit tracks left, 3D prints on the right.
Image showing the inside face of the track and guide horns. Very hard to tell the different with the naked eye.
I’d heard a lot of stories about how fragile the tracks were, but that just didn’t seem to be the case with these tracks. I only broke two links in the construction phase.

One of the major upsides of 3D tracks is there is no need for any clean up and the speed of the construction. Whilst these tracks were assembled in under an hour I must admit I was expecting that to be a little quicker than that. I suspect the size of the links was the contributing factory in making them a little more time consuming then perhaps some of the larger offerings. In saying that assembly of the kit supplied track would be at least three times as long due to the excessive clean up required.
As we all know, the flood of 3D printing machines and options on the market today is mind blowing, so the process and the results it can achieve was always going to find its way into this great hobby of ours. Are these 3D tracks worth the investment ? Well they are certainly tidy, and reasonably easy to assemble, but are they better than the kit supplied tracks ? Ill let you be the judge, but for me I could hardly tell them apart, but in terms of movement, the kit supplied tracks actually win out… but we are talking about showing them on a static model so does that even matter ?

For me it’s probably down to a matter of efficiency, and what your time is worth. Is saving 2 hours of your time worth a $40 (odd) investment? It’s a tough one...and I’m not sure. Maybe that is due to the tracks in this IBG kit just being really good and that question needs to be asked on a kit by kit basis.

Check out my video on these tracks on my Workbench Hobbies YouTube page

Clayton Ockerby

You can see more of Clayton's work on his Facebook page - Workbench Hobbies Also, his YouTube page which has heaps of videos on this and other subjects. Check it out - it is a great resource...