Model Airplane Maker on the Future of Aircraft Modeling

Over at the Model Airplane Maker blog, some thoughts and excellent comments about how aircraft model kits might improve in the future. Highly recommended:

I stopped by the LHS to check out a few things, pick up some paint and keep up to date with a few of the characters that frequent the shop. The owner…

Aircraft Kits: Where I hope we go

Engineering of kits has certainly improved, and there are still exciting new tooling techniques that could be implemented. Seems like hiding or co-locating kit part joints on panel lines and seams, and using laps as MAM suggests, would solve a lot of fit challenges.

His ideas on clear parts and decals point out thorny issues with the materials kit manufacturers use. Clear parts in particular are a thorny design and engineering problem. Perhaps 3D printing or another digital production technology could be adapted or developed for better clear parts.

I, like, several commenters on MAM’s post, am quite comfortable with decals, but the consistency of decal quality seems to have deteriorated in recent years. It’s also worth noting additionally that dry transfers, considered at one time to be a technically superior alternative to decals, have all but disappeared from the modeling marketplace. Archer Fine Transfers provides an excellent explanation for the disappearance of dry transfers, which was driven by declining global demand for dry transfer production—the industries that used dry transfers, primarily for graphics design, had long since transitioned to more cost-effective and efficient digital technologies.

The fate of dry transfer making technology makes me wonder if global demand for waterslide decal technology is is undergoing a similar transition—are model kit decals worse or perhaps harder to make because global non-modeling demand for decals is down and hence there is a squeeze on decal-making raw materials and techniques?

Similarly, if digital graphics arts techniques have proven a better alternative that dry transfers, could digital imaging and printing techniques be used to print graphics directly on our models? Direct-to- Shape and Direct-to-Object printing already exists, but is a long way away from being as workaday a technology for modelers, as say, a Cricut or 3D resin printer. But not so long ago, laser cutting and 3D printing looked all but distant dreams for modelers. Maybe direct printing on our models will emerge as an alternative to decals.

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