Tuesday, May 28

Review build: F-35A Lightning II Landing Gear from Detail & Wonder Studio 48th scale

Gary reviews the new F-35A Lightning II Landing Gear from Detail & Wonder Studio in 48th scale by building them up for you - the best way to really check them out we think. Check them out in his story today...

Review build: F-35A Lightning II Landing Gear from Detail & Wonder Studio 48th scale
Manufacturer: Detail & Wonder Studio
Kit No #480612
1/48th Scale
Price: $32USD from the Hobby Easy Website.
Detail & Wonder Studio
Detail & Wonder (D&W) are an established after-market manufacturer based in China, focusing on 3D printed landing gear upgrades and other detail parts in 1/48.

In this review I'm going to conduct a "hands-on" test with one of their latest 3D printed landing gear sets. Set 480612 contains a full set of replacement landing gear struts (two main and nose) plus wheels, designed specifically for use with the Tamiya F-35A kits. D&W take protecting the delicate 3D printed parts seriously with everything shipped protected by high density foam inside a sturdy cardboard box.
A full set of detailed assembly instructions are provided, and whilst you might think this is mostly redundant, let me assure you that you will want to pay attention and follow them closely as this set is a small model in itself.
The 3D parts are printed at high resolution (I'd suspect 8k or greater) resulting in incredible levels of detail and just as importantly nice smooth surfaces. The size of supports is becoming a real factor with companies releasing smaller and finer detail. If the printing support tips are too large or in the wrong place it makes removing them without damaging the print very difficult. D&W seem to have found the sweet spot with their supports as most are so fine such that they can be simply plucked off without leaving any noticeable marks. The heavier supports at the base of the print are naturally larger and you will need a sharp knife or better still good quality nippers to remove them cleanly.
The choice of resin is equally important because when working with delicate parts you need to find the right balance between a resin that handles fine details (typically achieved using a strong but brittle resin) and a resin that has some flex in it to allow handling and clean-up. Its pretty common amongst the 3D printing community to use mixes or blends of two or more resins with suitable properties. I'm happy to report that the resin used by D&W seems to have just the right mix of strength with some flex. This resulted in stress free removal of the supports and clean-up of the delicate (but strong) parts.
D&W provides a full set of resin tires, which interestingly seem to be cast and not printed. The sidewall detail, including logos etc, is very fine and when you consider this is 1/48 its pretty darn impressive.
To accompany the tires, a set of printed hubs are included for both mains and nose wheels. Under magnification a small amount of print layer lines are visible but I'm afraid that this is just part of the SLA print technology. These lines of course completely disappear when viewed with the naked eye.
A small bag of assorted metal rods and tubes are included and this is because D&W have realised that printing thin resin parts is one thing but having them bear the load/weight of a full model over time is a problem, resulting in sagging and distortion. The metal rods are cleverly used as inserts into the resin struts to improve the strength. Keep reading and I'll show how these are used in a moment.
The last inclusion in the box is a photo etch fret (steel if I am not mistaken) which includes a couple of small reinforcing parts (for the nose gear) plus a nameplate for your model.
So lets switch gears and see how it all goes together. Once the parts have been removed from the supports, you can begin the process of assembly. Lets use the left main gear as an example. Here you can see the five parts used, three metal and two resin.
Step 1 is to insert the short metal rod into the main gear wheel hub. D&W have designed the landing gear parts to be hollow to allow the provided metal rods to be used for strength, presumably to reduce or eliminate sagging over time under the full weight of the model.
It's important that the rod is pushed in deep enough so as to be flush with the resin lip. Failure to do this will result is issues later down the track. This could now be glued in place with some extra thin CA to ensure it stays put.
Next we need to insert the longer metal rod into the bottom half of what will be the main strut. This could also be glued as the chamfered top section of the resin will not be visible once assembly is complete.
The short metal sleeve is not fitted (snugly) over the long rod and resin and will be fully visible on the finished model. It makes me think it may be best to paint the resin parts first before assembly so you don't have to deal with masking etc
Now it's time to mate the main gear strut to the hub. Slide the hollow main strut over the metal rod and slowly lower it down towards the wheel hub.
Once the bottom half of the oleo scissors is touching the wheel hub stop pushing. Excessive pushing at this point could easily break the fragile scissor legs.
Next is the most delicate part of the whole assembly. Using a pair of tweezers, grab the bottom scissor leg and gently coax it into the locating hole on the hub. It's hard to see in the photo but there are locating pins and holes on each side of the scissor leg. Once you move it far enough is will click into place all by itself. Secure with glue if so desired, however I found the fit was so good that no glue was really needed.
Remember how I said that the short rod needed to be inserted all the way into the hub before anything else, well if you don't and try to sneak it in at the end here is what happens. You see the two metal rods need to overlap each other inside the wheel hub in a particular way and getting the order wrong makes it all not work properly.
Rinse and repeat for the other main gear and you will end up with two amazing gear struts that will really make your F-35A the stuff of legends. The detailing on the piping and connectors is simply stunning and I could not think of many other ways to achieve the level of realism in 1/48. It's a real credit to the artistry of the D&W designers. The top half of the new resin strut is designed to slot directly into the Tamiya wheel well holes, so it could not be simpler. D&W have even labelled the parts as L(eft) or R(ight). Perhaps someone should tell them that aircraft use Port and Starboard instead, but I imagine a P and S would only serve to confuse most people.
Very last step is to attach the tyres and outer wheel hub. These will look amazing under a couple coats of paint and all the fine detail picked out by hand and a finishing wash.

CONCLUSION - Detail & Wonder Studio 1:48 F-35A Lightning II Landing Gear (480612)
This is the first time I've gotten up close and personal with any of the Detail & Wonder products and I have to say WOW.

Not only is the level of detail jaw dropping but the precision by which all the parts fit is simply a joy for the builder. Tolerances are so fine that I wonder if a coat or two of paint will interfere with assembly, time will tell although I doubt it.

I certainly have no hesitation in recommending this detail set for your F-35A build.

Gary Wickham

D&W sets can be found at the usual online shops, such as the48ers.comthe Hobby Easy Website and super-hobby.com.
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.

You can see more of Gary's Work on his ScaleSpot.com Website & his Facebook page.