TriggerStix

Shapeways is a unique enterprise I just recently learned of. They produce one-of-a-kind 3D printed plastic products. Shapeways prints items, mainly designed by individuals who’ve identified an unfulfilled need in the marketplace. One such designer is airbrush artist, Tony D, who designed some very nice 3D printed trigger extensions for Badger airbrushes, called “TriggerStix”.

Some users feel Badger’s triggers are a bit too low for comfort. Addressing this, Tony D designed these simple, but effective extensions. This is how one of Tony’s “TriggerStix” looks:

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TriggerStix 3D printed airbrush trigger extension from Tony D

I could see myself ordering a few of these – when I buy my first airbrush. I’ll have a choice of two different heights and six different colours. Tony D also has versions of his TriggerStix that fit Iwata and DeVilbiss triggers.

Beyond TriggerStix, Shapeways also offers all kinds of other items of possible interest to scale modellers. I did a search of their site using the terms “1/35 scale” and discovered hundreds of interesting and unique items which could appeal to any scale armour builder.

One important note about Shapeways is they don’t print items until you’ve ordered them. In some cases, they list two price points: one for express printing, and a lower price point for items to be printed within something like a thirty day timespan. I like that sort of pricing model. Very innovative.

Update: I did buy a set of TriggerStix, and naturally I posted a video review on my YouTube channel. 

 

Tamiya “Made in the Philippines”??

UI was looking through the local online ads, and came across this one:

“New, sealed Tamiya Sherman ‘Easy Eight’ tank. This kit is a premium model being made in Japan, not in the Philippines (still good models…most now originate from there).”

Wait… What??? No, no, no. Tamiya kits are all made in Japan… aren’t they?

I  had to look into this.

It seems Tamiya kits are now made in the Philippines. I only have four Tamiya kits in my stash, but they’re all marked “Made in the Philippines”. I have some that are ancient releases, first introduced back in the 80’s; surely, those were made in Japan, right? Nope, those too are marked “made in the Philippines”.

So, there we have it: I don’t know when it all changed, but Tamiya now produce their plastic model kits in the Philippines. I have no concerns about that – I trust the Tamiya brand. It’s just that Tamiya is such an iconic Japanese company, it surprises me they’d take their production offshore.

Update: Autoindustrya.com, an on-line automotive magazine from the Philippines, recently toured the Tamiya factory. They report the factory was established in 1994, and is located in Cebu. Their original story is here.

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Type 89 – Japan’s Esoteric IFV

Back in the early 1980’s, the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF), or “Jieitai“, recognized the urgent need to replace their badly outdated Type 60 APCs. Having no experience designing modern Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), they looked around to see what other militaries were adopting. It appears they focused their attention on Germany and their, then new, Marder IFV. That proved a wise choice, as the Marder was considered state-of-the-art, and the Jieitai was also preparing to adopt the Type 90 tank, the design of which was influenced by Germany’s Leopard 2.

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The first prototypes of the Type 89 were delivered for testing in 1984. Like the Marder, the Type 89 had a low, sloping hull, with a sharply angled front glacis, firing ports along the sides and rear, and troop hatches along the top. Where the Type 89 departed from the Marder’s design was the inclusion of a two man turret. Though the Marder only mounts a small one man weapons station, most other IFVs had gone with a two man turret. In that respect, the Type 89 was in lockstep with contemporaries, such as the Bradley M2/M3, the LAV series, the British Warrior, and the later German Puma.

The Type 89 also differentiated itself by mounting a 35mm Oerlikon cannon. Most similar vehicles mounted no more than a 20-25mm cannon. This gave the Type 89 a decided edge in firepower. If the larger main gun weren’t enough, the Type 89 also mounted two Type 79 Jyu-MAT anti-tank/anti-landing craft missile launchers, one on either side of the turret.

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Testing was completed by 1988, with only minor changes requested. Mitsubishi was selected as the main contractor, with Komatsu as the principal sub-contractor. Initially, it was felt 300 vehicles would be needed. The end of the Cold War dampened enthusiasm for this project, however, and by 2004 merely 68 vehicles had been produced. Many sources indicate production was cancelled around that time, but in following years, with increasing territorial threats coming from China, production quietly resumed, and it’s now reported that 120+ Type 89s have been produced.

As is often the case with Japanese weapon systems, the Type 89 is one of the most expensive vehicles of its ilk. This can be attributed to the high costs associated with development, and the low numbers of vehicles produced. Though they usually decline to report actual expenses, none of this seems to trouble the Japanese, as they have firm policies against importing equipment they’re capable of producing themselves. Also, they refuse to consider export sales, which could help spread the costs of development and production.

All the esoteric qualities of the Type 89 make it a compelling subject for scale modellers. Trumpeter offers the Type 89 in 1/35th scale “made in cooperation with Pit-Road models”. The Trumpeter kit is well detailed, but for those seeking ultimate realism, Eduard used to offer a photo-etch set for this model. It seems the PE set has been out of production for several years, and is becoming increasingly scarce. I spent an entire evening trying to track one down, before I managed to snag the last one listed by a major dealer in the United States. Even paint was a bit harder to source. I had to order Tamiya XF72 and XF73, the primary JGSDF colours, from a Japanese online store, because dealers in Canada typically don’t stock it. With my heightened interest in Jieitai vehicles, I made sure to order plenty of paint.

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