Category Archives: Planes

3D modelling of Plaines for Flight Sims

Shapeways Model Aircraft – Using 3D Crafter

I thought I’d show a little of what I’m up to at the moment – preparing a 3D model for exporting to Shapeways.

I had a request to produce a 1/350th scale model of an RAF RE8

I usually build at 1/144th scale then resize the models to the correct scale later.

I start by creating an inverted bounding box within 3D crafter of the correct dimensions (in mm) for the model.
On each of the interior faces I apply a cropped image from a 3 view drawing of the model.

Inside the box I start building the fuselage starting with the fuselasge cross section and extruding and scaling multiple times until the shape looks something like the real thing.

This is a slight over simplification as this took me several hours of tweeking.

I then used a couple of scaled cylinder objects to chop out the cockpits for the pilot and observer (using a boolean subtraction)


After a bit more tweeking I then added a few parts – this gets easier after making a few other models as I can just drop them in from a library of parts. The tail, 4 bladed prop and undercarriage all came from an SE5 model with a bit of resizing.


I then add the engine details and a few other stock items (guns etc)

Next I create a smooth wing cross section and apply multiple extrudes with Y (vertical) axis scaling on alternate extrudes – luckily I have a script to help me so this only takes a few seconds. This gives the ribbed canvas effect on the wings (with a little bit of extra smoothing)

Add some dihedral, a few more struts and chop out the ailerons and we’re almost there – should be finished this week some time…


Shapeways Model Aircraft

It’s not just ships I’ve been making for the past year. I’ve produced more model aircraft on Shapeways than ships.

Now I’ve reached approximately 100 printable models I thought it was time to showcase a few of the aircraft.

They are mostly scaled at 1/144th for use with the Wings or War/Wings or Glory game (1/200th for some of the WW2 models). Most of the rules and player cards can also be downloaded from that site too. A few are also scaled to 1/288 and 1/350 – the latter for the In Clouds of Glory game, the rules are free to download from that site.

1/144th scale is also used by 15mm wargamers (normally 1/100th scale for ground vehicles)

I started with the IAR 39 a Romanian biplane, for a friend to use with 15mm eastern front wargames.

674x501_708823_613586_1350635621This came out quite nicely printed using the White Strong Flexible material from shapeways, ideal for handling by wargamers.

Here it is painted, home made decals applied and varnished. Approximately 9cm wing span at 1/144 scale.


From there it just took off (so to speak). With the help of scanned 1/72 scale plans from my dad’s old book “Aircraft of the 1914 – 1918 war” By Thetford and Riding – published in 1954 I set about making a few more WW1 types:

674x501_1176219_1098879_1372279174 674x501_1156048_1074572_1371313030 674x501_1052947_990925_1368042382 674x501_1132702_1057244_1370643591 674x501_1146408_1067049_1371021889

Here are one or two of those printed in WSF material and Frosted Detail material (which is more brittle but shows more of the model details…

IMG_1040 IMG_1989 IMG_1999

FSX BA Swallow has flown out of the door

I have finally released the model to the downloads section of
The first 3D canvas model for FSX. I quite enjoyed the experience so I’m pretty sure there will be a second.
Although I am tempted to at least get one or two more locomotives finished.
In case of download troubles and as a backup, I have also added the model to the downloads section here too.

A flock of Birds

Finally! – my BA Swallow 2 aircraft for FS9 and "true" FSX is nearing completion.
I have now mastered the XML gauge system – all quite simple really. The Virtual Cockpit all works and the chaps over at Classic British Files have been an invaluable help with flight tuning and beta testing. 
It will be my first release into the flight sim community. It will also be the first native FSX model from 3D Canvas. Matt Ivey beat me to releasing the first FS9 model from 3D canvas when he put out a drivable Challenger tank a few years ago.
I was looking for the collective noun for a group of Swallows. Flocks of birds usually have unusual names, for example – from wikipedia:
A siege of bitterns
A peep of chickens
A clattering of choughs
A covert of coots
A herd of cranes
A murder of crows
A trip of dotterel
A dole/dule of doves
A mob of emus
A charm of goldfinches
A train of jackdaws
A parliament of owls
So what is a collection of Swallows?
A flight of Swallows
Oh well, quite apt I suppose, here they are – click to see the bigger picture Smile

Busy with FSX but not Aircraft

In response to a request for an FSX modeller on the Classic British Flightsim forum I have had a short break from making aircraft and built about 30 static scenery models to be used on RAF bombing and testing ranges (Holbeach, Spadeadam, Tain and Wainfleet)

Mostly various shaped barrels on sticks but the rest were old soviet hardware.

The models were all textured to make the most of the scenery "batching" of draw calls in FSX SP2 by using exactly the same material options and sharing a single texture sheet among several models. This means that several hundred models get drawn in a single hit, hopefully making them very efficient.

Here are a few examples from Spadeadam. I’ve got a couple more to do then I’ll get back to finishing the BA Swallow.

MDL file viewer

Getting closer to displaying an FSX MDL file, just a bit more work needed to sort out the matrices from the scene graph….

The Ghostly Teapot!

Now one of the “small” contributions I made to the Train Sim community was a little program I wrote called Shape Viewer.
This was made up from a few modular components, a 3D viewport, MSTS model loader and Trainz Model loader. These were then embedded in a standard windows form which added extra functions such as loading consists, display stands, grass etc.
This worked quite well and the modules were used by several other Train sim utilities to display models.
The program was written using Visual Basic 6 which restricted me to using DirectX8.1. Both are now well out of date and the program needed a bit of an overhaul to upgrade.
I finally bit the bullet last week and converted the 3D viewport module to .NET 2, using the SlimDX library (after Microsoft saw fit to remove .NET 2 support for DirectX)
The conversion was relatively smooth, I was almost able to copy and paste the code with a few small changes. The result was a ghostly teapot rendered using DirectX9.
I have nearly completed my FSX MDL file reader, it should only be a matter of time before I have FSX models viewable without having to start up FSX.
If I can work out how to use the shaders, they may even look exactly like they do in the simulator!


My test jet for FSX is coming along nicely. It’s a 1950’s Miles Sparrowjet racer, only one was ever built. The model weighs in at 9000 polys so far with 7 draw calls.
Click on the image for the full sized picture:


3DCanvas FSX Export Test

I have been progressing the FSX export plugin to make sure all the material options work. It’s slow progress but I’m getting there.

I have added attachment point support (for effects etc) and have nearly finished support for skin/bone animations.

3D Canvas users should end up with almost the same options available as 3DMax users.

Here are a couple of images to wet the appetite. From left to right the materials are:

  • Solid (specular)
  • Gloss
  • Glass
  • Chrome
  • Bloom (I didn’t have bloom turned on in the sim)
  • Scaled detail map
  • Specular map
  • scaled bump map
  • bump map with transparency
  • small steam effect added as attachment

Some problem with the translucency as I turned on Z-writing for the material. Click for larger images:

FSX Attach Tool for 3D Canvas

Another small step closer to full FSX support in 3D canvas. I now have a working attachment point editor.
I modelled it on the Microsoft version for gMax and 3DS, just so it looks similar to the screens in the SDK.

It has 2 modes of operation, selecting a face on an object will add a new attachment group and object on or above the face. Selecting an object will convert the group containing the object into an attachment.

All it does internally is create an XML string into a Group Custom field. This is then exported as PartData in the X file on export.


Adds the following XML to the new group containing the small purple pyramid in the image below.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1" ?> <FSMakeMdlData version="9.0"> <Attachpoint name="attachpt_smoke"><AttachedObject> <Effect effectName="fx_SmokeStack2.fx" effectParams=""/> </AttachedObject></Attachpoint></FSMakeMdlData>


It still requires a little more work on validation but it works for now. This just leaves export of bone parameters in to the X file as the last major job – then it’s on to some proper testing.