Creating 1/48 scale Z-95 Headhunter assembly model (JK:JA version)


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I've been growing up playing the 2003 Jedi Academy game on PC and I've been looking to make something from it for a while.
After knocking few possible props from it around in my head, I landed on the main characters Z-95 Headhunter starfighter, in form of a scale assembly model.


As you can see, it's yet another version of this ship, which takes a lot more form the original T-65B X-wing that would eventually replace it, than the classic version of Z-95 (pictured below).

The initial assumptions for this project where as follows:

-model will be 3D printed on a FDM printer, so it has to be divided into parts possible and easy to print
-model will be in 1/48 scale, since it's a standard hobby plane scale and fits the closest to both SW wargames (Legion & Shatterpoint)
-model has to be as accurate to the source material as possible
-as a personal challenge- parts of the model must be designed to work as injection molded parts (set wall thickness, appropriate draft angles, no undercuts, etc.)

I started the designing proces by gathering as many reference materials as I could, using pictures from the net, articles from Wookiepedia and screenshots from the game.
But the main reference were both mesh model and textures from the game itself.

I exported the model from games native format to .OBJ and opened it in a CAD program I will be designing the ship in- Fusion 360.
I scaled it to match the ships length, which Wookiepedia lists as 11,8 meters, and and divided it by 48.

It's important to mention, that I'm going to make the model completely from the grounds up and use the content from the game only as reference material, to ensure the best accuracy possible.

I started modelling by creating general shapes of the fuselage. The mesh model was helpful as far as relative dimensions go, but I had to do a lot of guesswork in terms of the shapes themselves. The model itself, being from a 20 year old game, is pretty low-poly and it's sometimes unclear which parts truly are meant to be angular and which were actually meant to be smooth. Looking at screenshots from the game helped a lot, since the textures were applied and gave some idea how each part was meant to look.




With general shape established, I begun deciding how the model will divide into parts and started hollowing them out, one by one.


Next, I proceeded to model all of the surface details of the aircraft.
Screenshots and renders from the game could be used here, but nothing will assure better accuracy than the textures from the game. The only problem being- they come in these "texture sheets", with no indication which texture goes where on the model and even worse, where one texture ends and another begins.


I decided that a best method was to cutout each one of the textures, lay it on the specific area on the model and trace all the relevant details, while constantly referencing the screenshots to deduce, which sticker goes where. With an area traced onto the model, I could start creating the details.



Working with the mesh model and the texture was very challenging, since sometimes they posed more questions than they answered.
Constant struggle, was deciding, usually going by shadows on the textures alone, which regions should be concave, which should be convex and how much. Many smaller details weren't even included on the mesh model at all, to reduce the polygon count and could only be recognized by carefully studding the textures.

Good example of this is the back side of the fuselage, which not only is modeled completely flat in game, but also consists of some very sharp angles.
By referencing and analyzing the appropriate texture image, I was able to recreate (or maybe even create in some cases) all the details that were originally intended by the artist responsible for this ship.

At this point the model consisted of about two dozen different parts, each interlocking in an unique way with neighboring parts, with appropriate fits everywhere.


The next big, important and last for now section of the ship to tackle where the wings. With approximate wingspan of 220 mm, the construction really needed to be strong.
One of the ways to make an assembly as strong and sturdy as possible, is to make it out of as few parts as possible. With that in mind, I divided the wings only into left and right sections, to be able to fit each inside my printers volume. I also cut out a big panel from each, to make it hollow, getting just 4 big construction parts in total.

Both wings were to be mounted deep into the main body, so I added nice, big slots on the corresponding fuselage part to accommodate them.


In addition to the wings being clamped between two fuselage parts, I also added an over-under connection between the top panels on each side, making that they both hang on to each other, hopefully reducing drooping of the wings.

The distinct ribs on the wings will also add some rigidity, but probably not a lot, due to their low profile.

With wings securely mounted and most of the surface details done, the ship started taking shape. Consisting of ~30 parts at the moment, it was looking like a more and more complex project. But with around 2 months of very intensive work behind me, I was very motivated to complete it.

To be continued.
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This is so cool! I appreciate your design technique and your attention to detail. Should make it go together easily!

Really awesome!! I have always loved the simple lines of the Z-95 Headhunter, especially this version from the EU. I have plans for making my own out of styrene and greebles, like ILM would make it, and this is definitely an inspiration for doing that!
Great analysis and realization!
RE: the 'external spar' feature, if made separate as a full width hollow 'U' cross section spar, it certainly would add rigidity to the wing assembly. I believe you could even print it as a full 'box' spar (as in all four sides). It is strange, but a hollow spar will be more rigid than one that is solid. Perhaps even having the internal support 'web' structure will make it even more so.

thanks for sharing your efforts... very inspiring!
Regards, Robert
Before I continue with the entry, I want to thank you all for the warm welcome and appreciation of my work. It's very validating and I appreciate it greatly. Thank you, hope you enjoy.

Last three areas of the ship to recreate from the game were laser canons, fission engines and the landing gear.

I started by working on the canons. They're relatively simple constructions, but their length and slim silhouette posed some engineering challenges.
They could theoretically be fully 3D printed on SLA, or even FDM printer, but in both cases they'd turn out very fragile and in the latter case, probably pretty blocky. I decided to build the canons around a 3 mm styrene rod.

At first, I considered a brass rod instead, but was afraid that it would be too heavy and would contribute to the ship frequently tipping over to one side. Styrene rods are very light, while still being relatively stiff and strong. Also, they're very common in the modelling community which makes them very accessible and pretty cheap.

The tip of the gun was even thinner than the barrel itself. I could've thicken it up a bit, but I decided to stay true to the original design. To achieve this delicate detail, I decided to use a pair of sewing needles, ground flat at the end. They'll be glued in place, while the heads of the needles prevents them from falling out of the canons end.

As a part of the challenge of making the parts injection molding ready, I wanted both canons to be exact copies of each other. It's easier and cheaper to manufacture in that case, since you don't need two different or one bigger mold to produce two symmetrical versions of the parts, but you can make one smaller mold and mold the part twice. In case of 3D printing it doesn't matter of course, since you can create another printing program of the part being mirrored, for no extra cost.

The engines were next. I went for the classic technique of splitting the part in the middle, which works great for both injection molding and 3D printing, creating a nice flat mold partition plane and base face to print on, respectively. I had to add a linking brace in the middle though as a separate part, since with 3D printing, nothing can extrude beyond the base plane, in contrast to injection molding, so you cant model in the locks for registering the parts to each other.

It took me quite a moment, to fully understand, how engines in this Z-95 version are arranged. Some mirroring was expected but exactly were, surprised me a bit. After good few minutes of jumping between the texture sheet and game screenshots, I concluded that left and right engines were mirrors of each other, which was expected, but bottom and upper weren't, which was odd. Instead, they were rotated 180°, which makes, that different sides of the engine are positioned towards the fuselage, since they're not symmetrical, like the cannons are.

Anyway, I placed all the engines in the right places and orientations, and added connection points between them and the wings, making sure that connections between right and left engines are positioned in different places, making the accidental swapping of the sides impossible.

The exhausts, thankfully, were identical for all the engines, just rotated slightly, so they'll be all printed from one model, four times.

Finally, I started working on the landing gear.

I really wanted to be two ways to assemble the ship- with the landing gear down and up- as it usually is the case with scale assembly models.

Front foot was the easy one to make. I again reached for the styrene rod, this time 2 mm instead of 3. Rod will be turned and small grooves will be cut on it to simulate details. Additionally, 1,2 mm spring wire will be used to simulate the diagonal support. Connection between them will be mostly symbolic, due to the small contact area. Both rods will be mostly held in position by the body of the ship itself. And since the landing gear hole frame is present on the outside regardless of the gears position, just not attaching the front leg will create the closed position.



Back landing gear was a little more complicated and is the only place in the entire build, where I had to change the original design of the ship, to make it actually work.

In the original T-65B X-wing and the classic Z-95 Headhunter, back landing gear folds into hatches positioned on the lower engines, which is a weird creative decision to say the least.



You could argue that there is enough space in the tube for both the engine and the landing gear and the lower engines are attached so well that the entire ships weight can be rested on them, but it still seems wrong to me.

The artist working on Z-95 for the game must've think the same, since the landing gear is attached to the fuselage itself.


Unfortunately, the designer didn't add any new hatches or holes for the legs in the new position. They just stick out of the body randomly, which is fine for the game, where no one will even see them without clipping out of bounds, but wasn't going to work for my model.


Luckily, there is a set of large panels, just behind where the back legs are attached. I'm not sure if they were indented as the doors for the back landing gear, but I could use them as ones. So to make the landing gear work, I moved the legs backwards to the center of the panels and also spaced them out a little more, to improve ships stability.

Since the panels probably were never meant to be landing gears hatches, it's unclear where and how they would open. I considered making them open towards the centerline of the fuselage or towards the edges, but in the end, I decided to split those panels down the middle- another deliberate inaccuracy to the source material- and open the halves to the sides, just like the original X-wings.


I constructed the back legs of the aircraft the same way as the front one- using 2 mm styrene rods. The front foot was a little larger than the back ones but it was the same style and close enough to make them all identical- another wink to the injection molding manufacturing process.


For the back landing gear, I developed two parts from which you choose one to glue in place: either a flat piece with engraved panel lines, simulating the closed hatches, or a one with hatch doors open, small recess for the legs to fold into and 4 slots to insert the styrene rods.

At this point, I also decided to let go of the need to make the parts injection molding ready. It serves no real purpose aside of me challenging myself, since this kit will probably never be injection molded, and it started to really get in a way of completing this design. Injection molding and 3D printing have a lot of similar needs, but in the end they are different manufacturing methods and both start to require different approaches to the design. I allowed some undercuts in the end, to assure that the parts will print well and the connections between them will be strong and reliable. I'd estimate that the parts ended up ~80% injection molding ready, and with additional few dozen hours of modelling, could be totally converted for that manufacturing method.

With the landing gear finished, I completed recreating the entire ship, as it appears in the game.
It took around 4 months of very intensive work in my free time. I ended up with an assembly of 76 parts, and accuracy that I'm very proud of.
But I wasn't done with the design. With this much time and hopes invested in this project already, I decided to take it another step further, before I complete the designing process and turn on my printer.

To be continued.
AFC, if I may, hollow brass tubing is not all that heavy and much more rigid and straight over time. You can get three sizes: two telescoping for the larger portion of the barrel and a more 'needle' sized tubing for the tiny part at the tip. If the curved 'reflector' piece has matching size sockets for the tubing, with a pass through for the smallest one, and an open through socket in the body of the cannon, you don't have to worry about the lengths being super critical since you can make exact adjustments by moving the tubing pieces relative to each other. If you make a small jig to set the exact positions, even easier to get accurate lengths set.

Main point is, check out the thin wall brass tubing selection from a hobby supply point or which other you can find so you can be assured your socket sizes are proper. And again, not that heavy because they are hollow, unlike rod or wire...
AFC, if I may, hollow brass tubing is not all that heavy and much more rigid and straight over time. You can get three sizes: two telescoping for the larger portion of the barrel and a more 'needle' sized tubing for the tiny part at the tip. If the curved 'reflector' piece has matching size sockets for the tubing, with a pass through for the smallest one, and an open through socket in the body of the cannon, you don't have to worry about the lengths being super critical since you can make exact adjustments by moving the tubing pieces relative to each other. If you make a small jig to set the exact positions, even easier to get accurate lengths set.

Main point is, check out the thin wall brass tubing selection from a hobby supply point or which other you can find so you can be assured your socket sizes are proper. And again, not that heavy because they are hollow, unlike rod or wire...
That's a great idea! I'll have to look for these locally. Thank you!
I just realized (belatedly) you're aiming for my favorite scale, 1/48! I'd been toying with the idea of 'bashing up' a Headhunter model using MPC X-Wing parts for quite a while, but haven't gotten around to making it happen. As the old adage goes, about time your finish your scratchbuild, someone comes out with a production kit.... not quite the same thing here, but has that flavor!
Regards, Robert
That would be awesome to see!
Look at it this way: maybe finding this thread was the inspiration you've waiting for.
And if you don't get around to it by the time I'm finished developing this kit, you can use this one as a base for your build :)
Aye! I can see using your images to help work the kinks out of my old school 'bash' efforts. it is solid research after all!
There are about a dozen different versions of Z-95. Some of them have 4 engines, like the X-wing and the rest have only 2.

Here are some of the many versions, that I found while doing research:








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