FLUGMODELL UND TECHNIK (FMT) magazine published an article in its Oktober issue on the subject of Microaces. Beautifully written by John Stennard and translated into German for the magazine.
Mr Stennard sent his original English text for us heathens that aren't multi-lingual:
MICROACES, past, present and future.
Now this is an unusual beginning to an FMT feature. I suggest before reading it, you visit the Microaces web site at www.microcaces.com Much of what I have say can then be related to Jon Porter’s amazing micro scale models.
When Jon established Microaces in 2012 he introduced an innovative micro model building concept to the small-scale model enthusiast. I was writing a regular monthly feature for the Radio Control Model World at the time and built and reviewed two of his early models, the Fw 190 and P-51 Mustang. These were profile models and achieved their amazingly realistic appearance courtesy of self-adhesive printed vinyl. A Parkzone UMX Receiver module was used with a 2g servo for the ailerons. The motor was a small brushless direct drive type and the power came from a Microaces 1S 300 mAh LiPo. They could be fitted with an undercarriage if required. I flew my models both indoors and outdoors and they performed well. They used Depron foam for the airframe and, while relatively easy to assemble, the self-adhesive vinyl was tricky to apply and often seemed to have a mind of its own!
The first models were quickly followed by the Mk1 Spitfire & Bf109 E. Eventually the range included a MiG 3, Curtiss P-6E biplane and the Cessna 195 (and LC126). A Hawker Hurricane was also planned but with rising production costs and slackening sales this range of models ceased production.
Between 2014-2016 Microaces took a break and concentrated on using their printing equipment for 'normal' print services. A good backup for a 'hobby business' to have. During this period Jon started looking at other ways to create detailed kits and started some personal projects. He was working on an idea for built-up micro scale WW I aircraft. These would also use Depron foam but employ a 3D construction. The self-adhesive vinyl would be replaced by a high standard of colour printing directly onto the foam. This was a challenging venture as Jon set out right from the beginning to design and produce highly detailed micro-size scale model aircraft. Concentrating on a range of WW I aircraft obviously brought its own problems. While the aircraft, mainly multi-wing types, would have ample wing area, the complex constructions, scale detail, strut and rigging, etc. would make them difficult to produce in traditional kit form. These models would be a world away from stick and tissue micro scale models. The scale chosen for the Microaces kits was 1/24th, which is not much bigger than some of the larger plastic model kits. This is an ideal size for indoor and small outdoor flying zones and provides enough room for all the airborne electronics.
In 2016 this experimentation resulted in the first of the new Microaces WW I kit, the Fokker DVII, which was quickly followed by the SE5a. Jon’s experimentation included a new technique for printing on 1mm foam, this isn't something that can be done using standard digital printing. The new UV printing technology uses a special pigment rich ink that cures the instant it hits the surface of the substrate. The print head has powerful LED UV lamps that pass over the print as soon as its applied to initiate the 'cure'. The kits also use sheet polyester and self-adhesive sticker polyester. Both are chosen for their light weight but also need UV printing to ensure the print sticks.
Most of us have used Depron type foam for many years, usually 3mm thickness and above. Microaces use a combination of 1mm and 2mm foam for the skinning and structure respectively. Stickers are used for both decorative and structural purposes (such as flight surface hinges) and polyester plastic sheet parts are also employed for structural and detail parts. The foam and polyester parts are cut using laser in-house and the stickers are profile cut on a plotter/cutter. Some kits are now also using 3D printed parts and very realistic pilots are now available to suit the 1/24th scale models. This scale gives wingspans ranging from 305mm for the Fokker Dr.I Triplane to 500mm for the Bristol F2b. The Hansa-Brandenburg float plane comes close to the F2b with a wingspan of 470mm. However, Jon’s latest project is a much bigger affair, a Felixtowe F.2A flying boat with a 1200mm wingspan and 583mm length. This twin engine model will feature fully exposed Rolls Royce Eagle VIII engines! Originally relying on Vapor type RX modules and motor/gearboxes Jon now has motor/gearboxes made specifically to suit Microaces models. An existing supplier now produces bespoke receiver modules specially designed for the Microaces models with the appropriate connectors and lead lengths.
So, what’s available to build and fly, and have you got ‘the right stuff’? You can view all of the amazing Microaces models on the web site but here’s a quick rundown. Nieuport 17, two versions, Hansa-Brandenburg W12, Fokker D.VII, three versions, Airco DH2, two versions, Fokker Dr.I, three versions, Bristol F.2b, three versions, Fokker E.V/D.VIII, two versions, Sopwith Camel, Sopwith Triplane, two versions and finally the Scrappee Trainer, four versions.
Jon’s approach is very clever as once he has a model designed and flying he produces different ‘personalised’ versions. This will mean the aircraft will link directly to a specific pilot. For example, a red Fokker Dr.I is always going to mean Baron Manfred von Richthofen but there are two alternatives available, the aircraft of Herman Göring and of Josef Jacobs. I was also possibly expecting the Dr.I of Manfred’s brother Lothar Siegfried Freiherr von Richthofen who was also an accomplished pilot and flew a very colourful Dr I. Over a period of time I’ve built and flown four Dr I triplanes, two were indoor models and two outdoor. The two outdoor are also perfectly capable of indoor flying due to their amazing aerobatic ability. They are the RCfactory profile EPP versions, I have the large Manfred version and the smaller Lothar version. The original Dr.I was of course very manoeuvrable but these are amazing, helped along by loads of power and six ailerons!
One of the most colourful aircraft in the range, and one involving a new feature, is the Fokker D.VII. This model represents the Fokker D.VII flown by Wilhelm Leusch, distinguished by the image of a white dragon on both sides of the fuselage. Leusch was made commander of Jasta 19 in October 1918 and scored 5 victories. Royal Prussian Jagdstaffel 19 was formed on 25th October 1916, and was designated a 'Hunting Group'. The new Jasta drew first blood on 6 April the following year. On 2 February 1918, Jasta 19 was detailed into Jagdgeschwader II along with Jasta 12, Jasta 13, and Jasta 15. The unit would score 92 verified aerial victories, including ten wins over enemy observation balloons.
Using the new Microaces All-in-One (AIO) 5 Channel receiver plus one Aileron Servo, this model can be flown with ailerons, rudder, elevator and throttle. Using the standard push rod control for rudder & elevator plus an extra linear servo coupled to a closed loop pull-pull mechanism for aileron control, this aircraft can be flown like the real thing: More aerobatic, more scale realism (no dihedral on this model) and more captivating than ever. For a while the Ares produce a nice range of Micro Scale WW I RTF models. Interestingly their Fokker D. VII was also the Wilhelm Leusch version. These RTF models appear to no longer be available.
Now moving on to ‘the right stuff’! By this I mean that these models need a different approach to building due to both their size and complexity. They require the builder to follow very precise instructions and work with great care and attention to detail. For a change you can build on the kitchen table but forget any ideas about a ‘quick build’ project. It is a good idea to take a look at one of the building manuals on the web site. This will give you a sense of what skills are required for this type of model construction. The kits are not cheap and are designed for the model enthusiast who enjoys the construction phase as much as the actual flying. However the finished models, and I have seen most of Jon’s models ‘in the flesh’, are quite spectacularly attractive. I have also seen Jon at model shows flying his models in a small open space around his stand.
Like many model enthusiasts Jon’s model aviation interests started with Airfix plastic model kits and then followed on through the stick, tissue & rubber route. Like me Jon always had a fascination with small scale models. After the quite usual period of less model building activity Jon returned to it with enough enthusiasm to found a model kit business. Microaces is owned by Jon and Simon Barr. Simon isn't an aviation enthusiast but is a magnificent manual writer. He is a lifelong technical illustrator which is reflected in more and more of the Assembly Guides.
With the Microaces scene set in print what comes next? Well of course it’s to build a model! The next feature in this two part ‘Microaces explored’ will be building the Microaces Fokker DVII – Li, flown by Rudolph Stark in 1918.
I’m looking forward to it and it looks like time spent building will not be an issue!
Thank you so much John. It's much appreciated.