Saturday, August 5

Aftermarket review: Eduard's 1/48th upgrade sets for A6M2-N Rufe...

To compliment their recently released 1/48th scale A6M2-N Rufe kit, Eduard has made a raft of enhancements to raise that detail level higher than you might get from the kit level. Are these expensive? Are they any good? Gary takes a look at them in his review...

Aftermarket review: Eduard's 1/48th scale upgrade sets for A6M2-N Rufe
From Eduard
1/48th scale
Reviewed: Aug 2023
Link on the Eduard Website
Long before they started making full kits, Eduard was at the forefront of aftermarket details sets, starting with photo-etch brass and more recently cast resin and 3D printed resin and decals. They have in many ways set the standard by which others are judged.

As I have noted before, the details that Eduard achieve with their injection molded plastic parts is very impressive, however as modellers we always crave more detail. Always happy to oblige, especially in servicing their own kits, Eduard provide just about every upgrade you could imagine (and even some you couldn't).

To complement their excellent A6M2-N Rufe kit we reviewed yesterday, Eduard have produced a dizzying array of resin, photo-etch and 3D decal upgrades. In this review I'll be showing you a sample of what you can get and how it compares to what comes in the kit.

A6M2-N Rufe cockpit
From Eduard 
1/48th scale 
Kit No #648850
Price: 32 US$
One of the parts of any aircraft model that gets an extraordinary amount of attention is the cockpit. Despite the fact that in many cases the results of our hard earned effort will be rendered invisible once the fuselage halves are joined. Of course making models is not just about what can be seen, but how enjoyable the building is. Like many others, I enjoy adding all those hidden details, just because.

Kicking off our tour of the Eduard upgrades for the new A6M2-N Rufe kit is the 3D printed cockpit set. As a sign of the times, all of the sets in this review have been 3D printed and not cast. How quickly things evolve in this hobby.

One of the benefits of 3D printing is that whole assemblies can be created as a single piece. This means cabling and piping can be included and all the modeller has to do is be good with a paintbrush. The Rufe cockpit set is designed as a simple drop in fit to replace the myriad plastic parts. 
These new 3D print upgrades are far simpler to use than Eduard's previous Brassin cast resin sets, which were very fiddly and in most cases had more parts than the kit plastic to achieve the same detail as the new 3D prints. Part preparation is also much easier than cast resin as the small print supports can be often be removed by hand with no razor saw needed.
A quick comparison to the kit plastic, which is itself very nice, shows the amount of extra detail that Eduard have managed to cram into the cockpit floor section alone.
The printed seat likewise is dripping with details not found on the kit plastic. Simple examples of this include the lightening holes on the side and the super detailed seat supports, all as a single drop in part.
It's fair to say there is nothing wrong with the Eduard plastic parts, just that the 3D printed parts are better. Often times we buy upgrade sets to correct an error in the kit plastic. For the most part that is not the intention of the accessory sets Eduard provides for its own kits. These are meant to enhance the detail, not correct a mistake.
Every part included in the cockpit set is an incremental step up in detail and clarity (sharpness) from the kit plastic. This is partly due to the limitation inherent in plastic injection molding, but also because 3D printers, even the entry level hobbyist models, can now achieve details down to 10um, with professional printers (such as you would imagine Eduard uses) achieving even higher resolutions.
Of course not everything can be 3D printed (yet) and so the cockpit set comes complete with waterslide decals for the instrument panels and a photoetch fret with belts and levers/knobs.
The assembly instructions are clearly laid out in full color, stepping the modeller through construction and painting.

A6M2-N Rufe gun bays 
From Eduard 
1/48th scale 
Kit No #648849
Price: 16 US$
The wing gun bays are not provided by Eduard in the kit plastic parts. This set provides two full gun bays (port and starboard) and will require the modeller to cut the kit wing. This can be fairly daunting to new modellers, but because the shapes here are all have square corners it's not as hard as you might think. 

Included in this set are the bays themselves, the guns and ammo drums, plus the gun bay covers top and bottom. 
I'm pleased to see that where it makes sense, such as replicating sheet metal, Eduard have stuck with photo-etch brass.
The use of color makes the Eduard instructions very clear, especially when it comes to which area needs to be cut (removed) or simply thinned. It's a pity that the larger opening is on the lower wing, meaning it won't be easily seen on the finished model.

A6M2-N Rufe landing flaps
From Eduard 
1/48th scale 
Kit No #648851
Price: 16 US$
A personal favourite of mine is displaying control surfaces in a relaxed (drooped) position. Elevators and rudders slightly offset from center give the model a more organic look IMO and dropping the landing flaps likewise provides a little more visual interest. I'm used to Eduard providing the flaps in photo-etch and my own personal jury is still out when it comes to their new 3D printed flaps.

There are two main things you need to deal with when displaying "split flaps" in the open position. First you need to provide the movable flaps themselves, provided in resin in this set and second you need to provide the detail for the open inside of the wing where the flap would retract into when closed. In all the flap sets I have seen, Eduard has consistently stuck with photo-etch brass for the interior and I assume this is because it is more forgiving to variations in modellers cutting the wing.
I'm encouraged that the surface smoothness achieved by Eduard on these printed parts is a major improvement over those I recently used on my Tempest Mk.II build. Eduard continue to learn and improve.
One topic you will get no argument from me is on the ease of use of 3D printed parts vs photo-etch brass. Photo-etch may still win with regards to scale thickness but the extra effort needed to use it properly will almost always be outweighed by the simplicity of a single 3D printed part any day of the week.
Eduard are still king of the photo-etch mountain in my book. They literally have decades of experience in designing 2D parts that can be folded and glued into 3D objects. This set contains a modest amount of PE parts designed to represent the interior of the open flap.
The one page assembly instructions make the installation of the split flaps look simple in theory, however the devil is in the details and you will want to make sure you measure twice and cut once on those red areas (ask me how I know).

A6M2-N Rufe SPACE 3D Decals
From Eduard 
1/48th scale 
Kit No #3DL48114
Price: 11 US$
One thing I have always liked about Eduard is their willingness to think outside the box. Rather than just continue with tried and tested methods of detailing models such as resin and photo-etch brass they are usually the first company to try something new. So it is with their new range of SPACE 3D decals, a technology which rose to popularity through new companies such as Quinta Studios and Red Fox.
I'm a fan of the 3D decals as they take a lot of the fiddly work out of detailing a cockpit. Some call it cheating, I just call it working smarter. This SPACE set is colored and super easy to apply to the cockpit (kit plastic or Brassin). Seat belts are provided by Eduard in steel PE as usual.
Some prep work is needed when using the SPACE decals. Any raised detail needs to be removed (sanded) so that the SPACE parts can be glued securely after painting. These parts are very light and can be safely fixed in place using either CA or PVA adhesives.

A6M2-N Rufe LooK Cockpit Set
From Eduard 
1/48th scale 
Kit No #644205
Price: 11 US$
An alternative to the SPACE 3D decal is the "LooK" colored resin parts. Eduard have been producing LooK for several years now and I assumed they would phase these out once they moved to the SPACE technology. However there is clearly still a market for these as Eduard keeps producing new sets. These are basically black resin parts with the colored details printed directly onto them. Literally ready to go replacement parts for the kit plastic.
Possibly the simplest option for cockpit detailing ever produced by Eduard. All you need to do is cut off the casting blocks from the resin parts and install into the model. Photo-etch steel belts are included on the tiny fret.

A6M2-N Rufe Folding Wingtips
From Eduard 
1/48th scale 
Kit No #648848
Price: 12 US$
As the A6M2-N Rufe was based on the A6M2 Type 21 it had the same wing tip folds. Eduard have released a 3D printed set for use with your Rufe should you want to show off this nifty feature. The delicate resin parts are shipped in a clear hard plastic container, which unfortunately has no foam inside to stop the parts from sliding around and into each other.
The detail incorporated into the wing fold is exquisite, even in 1:48 scale. You will need to cut the kit wing tips off completely but this is an easy task as both cuts are straight.
You are provided the option to use PE rather than the resin for the fixed portion of the wing, but for the life of me I cannot figure out why you would choose to do that when the 3D resin is so nice (and much stronger).

A6M2-N Rufe Exhaust
From Eduard 
1/48th scale 
Kit No #648846
Price: 7 US$
Perhaps the most modest of upgrades to the Rufe (Zero) kits is the exhausts. When compared to the kit plastic parts the only benefit I can see is that the resin exhaust is hollow while the plastic is not. One nice feature of the packaging of this tiny (delicate) set is the use of some double sided tape to hold the part in place to stop it sliding around in transit. Simple but very effective.

The printed part.
The original kit parts for comparison...
I would expect that most modellers would be able to drill out the kit plastic exhausts to show them open but if not then it's nice to know that Eduard has you covered.

A6M2-N Rufe cannon barrels & cockpit guns
From Eduard 
1/48th scale 
Kit No #648847
Price: 8 US$
If you decide that you want to spruce up the cockpit guns, but don't want to go the whole hog with the cockpit set then 644847 provides a pair of 3D printed guns. You also get a pair of muzzles for the wing cannons.
The kit part below for comparison.
A definite upgrade from the kit plastic, this is one example where spending a few extra bucks would be well worth the coin.

CONCLUSION - Eduard 1:48 Upgrade Sets for A6M2-N Rufe
I like that Eduard provides so many options for modellers to upgrade their Rufe. All of these are totally optional and I can guarantee you will still have a beautiful model of the Rufe if you decide not to purchase any of them.

However, if you are hooked on details and love the simplicity that 3D printed parts bring to construction then fill your shopping cart with the bits that interest you the most. In this review I've covered just some of the superb upgrades Eduard makes for its own 1:48 Rufe, for the full catalog visit the Eduard Website

Highly recommended for the modeller who wants to build the ultimate Rufe.

Gary Wickham

Check out the Eduard Website for more information on all of their releases...
You can see more of Gary's model making on his website