Last year, Joycraft launched a new series of products: fully 3D-printed aircraft kits. You may recall a review I posted here a while ago of a book from that company, written by master modelers René Joyal and Jarek Rydzyski.
When Joycraft announced its first kit, I jumped on it for a number of reasons. First, it was a fully 3D printed kit, and I wanted to see firsthand how they would go about producing that, Second, well, Joycraft is awesome and I was pretty sure anything it would come up with would be interesting. So I preordered a kit, got it, and built it. Here’s how it went.
What’s in the box?
The kit came in a super neat package, a work of art in itself (which apparently will change a bit in future offerings to make it more efficient). All the parts were neatly glued on a sturdy cardboard plate. Right away I could see that the definition of the print was pretty crisp.
Getting down to work
The first order of business was to clean the parts. Now, let me tell you right away, it looks much worse than it actually is. It took me about an hour to prepare all the parts down to basic cleanup so that I would only have to finish cleaning up each part more precisely once ready to put it into place.
You need to be extra careful, however, to avoid breaking parts. It’s not a huge deal, but this is not like cast resin, and certainly not like injected styrene. 3D printing resin is brittle and fragile. In the course of the project, I broke a number of parts that weren’t too complicated to fix, but it was self-inflicted pain nonetheless.
The kit is a pretty cool design of a pretty cool jet fighter. I am not, myself, a huge fan of toon planes, but this one struck a note and grabbed my attention. Contrary to most toon planes I’ve seen, this one keeps the right ‘vibe’ of the F-16, and even though it is a vastly simplified version of the original, it keeps its awesome aerodynamics and signature lines. It comes with a centerline tank and two wing tanks, two AIM-9M, two AIM-120C, and two AGM-88. In other words, it is armed to the teeth.
In the end, I went for a more sleek loadout, but that isn’t exactly a voluntary choice. Rather, I was the victim of my own inexperience.
The kit is pretty well engineered. The cockpit is not only very detailed, but it fits pretty well without any issues to speak of. I didn’t take pictures of all the kit’s details, but the flight stick, the throttles, and a bunch of switches are all fully present. This level of detail and crispness makes it very promising for the future: a kit of this level of quality won’t require additions.
The instructions are pretty clear as well most of the time, and the decals are from Cartograf and are of excellent quality. You get two options in the kit: a Polish and a Greek aircraft. (I decided to add a fictional squadron insignia on mine and cut a Corinthian Helmet I found on the Internet. )
There are two things that aren’t quite awesome, though. The two-parts fuselage and the canopy. The former requires a pretty hefty putty job while the latter implies that your sanding and polishing chops are up there. I guess this had the benefit of forcing me to put those skills to practice. Joycraft told me that their next offering, the F-16I Sufa, will come with a one-piece fuselage.
In addition, I think it is fair to say that while a cute little toon plane, this kit isn’t for beginners. Like I said, parts are fragile to prepare and handle, you need a solid knowledge of CA glue handling, and PLEASE DRY-FIT EVERYTHING.
Yup, this is why you don’t see my ship bristling with missiles. You not only need to clean the wing hardpoints locators, but you need to make absolutely certain they will slip-fit in those slits. I didn’t do that and, right at the end of the project, I started to try and wrestle them in, coming dangerously close to some catastrophic breakage. I deemed it safer to leave those ordnances alone.
Oh well, some more experience.
In the end, this project was a very satisfying change of pace. It wasn’t as simple a build as I had expected. It drilled home some basics that I, as an armor modeler, am not often required to put into practice. It was also an excellent demo of what 3D-printed modeling is likely to look like in the future, and I cannot wait to see what Joycraft will come up with for their next kits. I was so impressed with the quality of their kit that I ordered their Sufa right away.