Zvezda 1/2700 Star Destroyer

08.07.2017 On our way to Penang’s MMHA 2017 (Malaysia Miniature Hobby Show), we stopped by in Ipoh, to visit Derek Ho’s Neo Plamo – Ipoh Scale Model Hobby Shop. This is a place where it is a must go when we do our annual pilgrimage to MMHS (if it does go on…).

The Model is scaled at 1/2700, which is just about half an inch short of two feet. Nevertheless, like the earlier Black Pearl, it is difficult to ship from Russia which was famous for pillowcase incidents, where those who scrimped on shipping charges had their models stuffed into pillowcases and delivered. You can imagine the Forum postings lighting up as they whined about broken parts. Since this is a Project which the Customer refused to say ‘No’ and allowed me an indefinite deadline due to my new Day Job. I must say, the challenge is not in the lighting but to create the effects as seen on screen and also, how to paint the model.

Been a little busy with my new (Mon-Sat) Job and I hope to spend some time this Sunday for a looksee…
Zvezda SD 001
So, yeah, the box is big. Two feet doesn’t look much until you hold it in your hands.
Zvezda SD 002
This is the contents of the model, in the original Zvezda Box. Note that this has a very low part count but the price is still high, almost on par with a Round 2 1/48 Space:1999 Eagle. I will have to take a look into this later as right now, I have ton concentrate on my new Job.
Zvezda SD 003
Unlike what has been said about these ‘squashed’ domes, they are not damaged but rather, molded that way. The clues, as shown in the arrows, are that the sprues holding them were not bent.
Zvezda SD 004
To be honest, I am not too crazy about Star Wars vehicles anymore. Maybe its the constant marketing and hype making them so common like a daily Sci-Fi object which actually turns me off. The main area of attraction for the Star Destroyer lies in its hangar bay which is located below. Or to be more exact, the walls of the Hangar with top-most edge ceiling lighting. There are no spots nor any yellow revolving lights. Just simple soft wall lighting.

Looking at the model, you can immediately notice that the hangar bay is too shallow. The yellow arrows indicates where the light source will have to come from and this is going to be a challenge since it involves careful plastic surgery. Of course I can get a more accurate 3D drop-down replacement part from Shapeways which not only solves the lighting problem (possibly) but this increases the cost of the Commission. And I hate cutting plastic like this.
Zvezda SD 005
Make two rectangular holes and that’s it. I’m still thinking about the Shapeways replacement….
Zvezda SD 006
So, here is the head?
I am figuring between using 0.3mm and 0.5mm fibre-optics. 0.7mm is definitely out as they would look weird.
Zvezda SD 007
Let’s do a rough calculation. I measured the model with my new-found Digital Caliper (112.21mm) and then compared the one on the screen (229.99mm)…
Zvezda SD 008
And with some rough calculations, yep, I need to use 0.3mm mostly but with the 0.5mm as random. Originally, the 0.3mm was reserved for Revell’s Rogue One Star Destroyer and so, although it still can be done but. let’s just concentrate on this model first.
Zvezda SD 009
I don’t think there is any reference photos on this secondary hangar yet so I think I’ll have to employ some artistic license…
Zvezda SD 010
This is one of the otehr hoo-haa which everyone wants to be as accurate as possible. However, using LEDs instead of the original hot tungsten light proves to be a challenge. Most LEDs have a varrow viewing angle and maybe the widest could be 120º degrees. This would create two problems which I will show you on the next picture.
Zvezda SD 011

Let’s talk about the engine bells. In the original studio model, that section in the Star Destroyer was lit with hot plastic melting tungsten bulbs. The effects are great because the insides of the bells were uniformly lit and well, there’s nothing else you can see apart from the light. However, the closest one can achieve this effect nowadays would be to use plastic friendly LEDs.

And the closest, to me would be those 1Watt LEDs with Lambertian lens (sideways) which now, is rare. So, the next best thing would be to try out a few LEDs in my stash. I must apologise in advance as this picture highlights the effects of the lens and not the COLOURS of the LEDs. Simply put, I don’t have all the white LEDs of different lenses. Let’s look at the seven different LEDs…

1. 7020 White SMD
Although most SMD LEDs have wide angle properties, it cannot be used here. The top shows what happens when I shine one to the wall of the engine bell. You have great light but you will need at least four of them. Then, at the bottom, if I shine it outwards, I might need at least two but the main concern is that the collar would cast a very dark shadow. I can bunch them up in a circle but this would leave a dark hole in the middle when you look into the bell directly.

2. 5mm Top Hat
The Top Hat is an improvement over the SMD but because of it’s wide-angle lens, it can only light up the walls of the bells up to a certain extend. If I put it on the same level as the collar, more walls will be lit but again, a dark shadow on the collar. The shadow becomes bigger as I push the LED upwards to light more of the walls. In the end, at a compromised distance, it looks good but you can see that the walls are not evenly lit.

3. 3mm Clear Lens
This normal lens which I dismissed earlier does well but because of it’s lens makeup, most of the light shines outwards. This creates a ring of lights at the bell’s inner mouth. And again, the collar has very noticeable dark shadows. The LED would need to jut out of the big thruster hole, which does not look nice.

4. 2mm Top Hat
This Top Hat ALMOST made the cut because I can put about four of them in there but again, they would have to be carefully arranged to overlap each other’s light radiation to kill off any dark spots due to the square casing. Again, the black void in the middle of the engine can be very distracting.

5. 5mm Diffused
So far, this is the most acceptable LED. The diffused lens helped to spread the light evenly but you can’t really see it due to the Huawei camera’s method of processing the blue colour. Note the collar has minimal shadow. Most LEDs have ‘backlight’ shining backwards and in this case, its still there but with help from the diffused lens, it’s slightly minimised.

6. 5mm Top Hat
I used this pink to show you what the #2 could not. The increased and noticeable dark shadows on the walls. See the ring of lights at the collar? That’s the backlight I’m talking about. So, side-viewing LED of this kind is out if you have a curved wall. The problem with these LEDs is that I need the backlight to evenly light up the collar but I would also mean I need to jut them out of the gaping engine hole.

7. 5mm Straw Hat
I wanted to like the Straw Hat as it really covers the engine bell walls. But again, as a wide-angled LED, you can immediately see the drawback. I can push it back in but the collar would have a dark shadow.

Of course I can still try with these LEDs by using different angles, bunching them, etc. But these are the results so far, due to the limited time I have per week.
Zvezda SD 012
I was surprised that my order for the diffused LEDs arrived unexpectedly instead of another two weeks. Nevertheless, here are the results of the quick test.

1. 5mm Diffused
As expected, the whole curved walls of the engine bells are nicely lit. But, alas, the collar still has some shadows. Pushing the LED forward will eliminate it but then, it would look weird and not part of the model anymore.

2. 10mm Diffused
The larger diffused LED looked better and although the collar is still there, it was somehow became a soft shadow. So, I am going with this LED. The 5mm version would be for the smaller thrusters.
Zvezda SD 013
Playing the Devil’s Advocate, what it I bunched up the 5mm diffused LEDs?

Due to the size of the bell’s collar, I can only fit in 4x 5mm diffued LEDs and for now, this is just a test. If I really want to do this, I would need to sand off their collars which is stopping them from coming through. Do note that these are the images of the LEDs being pushed up and not siting in the collar. They do eliminate the collar shadow but not 100% since there would be some soft blind areas. In the end, I’ll just go with the 10mm diffused LED.
Zvezda SD 014
OK, this is just the testing of the smaller 4 Engines which I am using four 5mm diffused white LEDs.

I waited for the 3mm LEDs to arrive but when they came, I was not too happy with the fitting. So, 5mm it is and it looks good. It would be even better if this part was clear.

Although the whole image looks as if there is a blue LED in there, it is actually white and I’ve turned down the Huawei P10 Plus’s camera setting a little. Then again, I noticed most Digital Cameras will give you a bluish tint when you take photos of White LEDs.
Zvezda SD 015
With the LEDs for the Engines more or less done, I now have to program the chip to make them flicker. In the original Movie, Star Destroyers are huge and they’re just… well, white/yellow. I will see how to make the LEDs flicker in a way to show that these engines are powerful and are well maintained but have slight individual differences.

Because this is a one-off, I can use one of my generic commercial production circuit boards. I have designed some of these boards which can be used for other purposes. This saves me time to re-design a new PCB and have it prototype. Moreover, I am not sure the shop which I frequent to still does them. In the background, there are 4 PCBs which I designed for Warhammer vehicles but I don’t think they will sell since I have ‘missed’ the market years ago when both the Stormtalon and Ork Bommer were launched.

For those who cannot wait, Green Strawberry’s version will be available in less than 5 week’s time (i.e. end September 2017?)
Zvezda SD 017: New Chuck
The 1/8″ is a tight fit into the Tamiya Drill but it looks good. During the test, there was minimal wobble but I guess, it is OK.
Unfortunately, when I fit the 0.3mm drill bit and tested it, the bit wobbled about. It was quite hard to drill, even onto a small plastic as the Tamiya Drill kept moving about.
In the end, the drill bit broke. So, I need to follow Robert’s tips on supergluing the bit into a larger metal tube, which is not easy to get hold of.
Zvezda SD 018
And so, after so many weeks, these little 0.3mm brittle and fragile Tungsten Carbide Drills have arrived. I know what I need to do for the next few weeks and all that but first, the lighting system needs to be perfect.

I need to Force to be with Me…
Zvezda SD 019
After having decided on the types of LEDs for the model, I now need to design the circuit and eventually, the PCB. Right now, there are at least two vendors already selling their lighting products for this kit. I will not comment on them but merely state that all lighted Star Wars ships have steady lights with the exception of the Tydirium Shuttle which has additional blinking navigation lights. So, the design for this lighting system would be to more or less mimic the same lighting details with the exception of the three main thrusters which I prefer them to flicker a little.

I am thinking of programming two modes of lighting (as usual). One is a set of steady lights while the other has some subtle flicker to the engines.

So, for the next few sessions, I would be tinkering and fine-tuning the effect until I am happy with it.
Zvezda SD 020: Two years later…
I’m now into a new Job and as usual, I was kept very busy due to the numerous backlogs and non-compliance issues.

I experimented with cutting out a very thin slit of about 5mm x 0.5mm for the LEDs. I’ll have to slowly carve out 16 of these. The middle assembly is too thick and creates shadows which means this hangar bay would be have a dark area.

I know the 3D printed version would help and so would Green Strawberry’s PE set. But I’m too inexperienced to cut that square hole… Fortunately, in some areas, Zvezda’s plastic is surprisingly soft, just like Warhammer 40K.
Zvezda SD 021
Continuing with the work, I need to remind you that the plastic used by Zvezda is soft enough for me to cut through with a blade but hard enough to stop where I needed to cut through.
So, this picture is not an indication that the plastic is hard.
Zvezda SD 022
To get a nice and consistent opening, I first scored a defining line for the rest of the work to follow. I used this pen knife and slowly cut the excess plastic away.
The blade is sharp and is quite brittle. So if you force it, it can cut but twist it a little, it will break off.
Zvezda SD 023
Yeah, the openings are almost done and so is the blade. I cannot remember where the blade got the nick in the middle. In theory, if I force the blade straight down into the plastic, it might snap off at the nick and well, becomes shrapnel to every living object within a 5 metre radius.
Zvezda SD 024
To get an almost clean opening, I have to slowly file them and used Tamiya Thin Cement to pick off or clean up any loose plastic debris.
Zvezda SD 025
Finally, the new LEDs came after so much frustrations. And I am happy that this was the effect I was looking for.

The normal 16 LEDs can do the job and for dramatic effect, they can create at least 16 hot spots, highlighting each opening.
However, for this LED, I can have a wider light radiation/spread at the same distance.

But as you know from the picture, the ceiling details are so low that it actually blocks the LED light. I can make the opening bigger but this would remove a lot of details and destroy the illusion. So, yeah, another financial journey to obtain a 3D print and also, maybe, a photo etch version as well.

In terms of current consumption, in theory, there is a difference of 80mA but I might want to bring it down since I do not want it to be too bright.
Zvezda SD 026: Six months later…
OK, it’s been years since this model kit’s box was opened and I think it is high time I stopped looking for the perfect lighting solution for its Docking Bay. And the Pandemic last year was not helping, what with the missed or delayed shipping and all. Not only that, I was also researching the most universal lighting solution in the eventuality that I might have the resources to get a 3D printed hangar so soon which has a much shallower details on its ceiling.

My theory is that the aftermarket docking bays would have better and shallower ceiling details. Right now, with the Zvezda version, its narrow lighting slits does not allow the light to go from wall to wall as they are blocked by the thick ceiling detail unless I reconstruct and widen the slits. This would also affect those 16 curved platforms.

With these new LEDs, I would need to reduce the theoretical current from 400mA to something more manageable. Yeah, it is warm-white in the pictures but I will replace them with whites later once I confirm the circuit board design. Also, what you’re seeing is only one LED segment of four.

So, yeah, that’s it for now.
Zvezda SD 027: LED FIlaments
Took me quite a while to search for the resistors which I bought some months ago. I have soldered the prototype circuit made from a stripboard. In this picture, I have used two different resistor values, assuming the filament is rated at 3volts, 100mA.

By right, the filaments on the right would look brighter. However, even with my naked eye, the difference in the current reduction experiment is negligible..
Zvezda SD 028
OK, from this money shot, you can now see that the right is slightly brighter. But because of the deep middle detail, the light from each side could not shine across each other. I might need to de-solder the LEDs, lower them by about half a millimeter and re-solder them.
Zvezda SD 029
I have just realized that my idea of leaving the filaments off 1mm is actually not a very good idea. Just a few days ago, when I was handling it, the prototype fell and as you would know it, it hit some objects on the filament-side. And as expected, the glass-like fragile filaments broke. Although I was not too happy with this, it was still a great accident because now I know I would need to reinforce the filaments so that it can withstand more abuse. However, you won’t know unless the filament did not light up and you had to touch the filament or accidentally press too hard, causing them to crack.

Which brings to the next question of the filament surviving physical shocks. I can solder them with a 1mm gap between the board and have some hot-melt glue or foam as inserts. However, hot-melts might burn the filament or affect the protective sheath until it changes colour. The glue might even shrink a little when cooled, thus bending the filament until the stress affects it. And with all this, it hasn’t even gone to the post office yet. So, yeah, no filament.

What you’re seeing are actually repaired filaments and had its brightness controlled from a dimmer board. Yeah, I have found the datasheet for the IC and will be prototyping a circuit for it. I might use about two for this, one for the fibre-optic lights and one for the hangar.
Zvezda SD 030
This is the rough planning for the Model and it uses about 32 White LEDs and 4 filaments. The theoretical current consumption is about 1.04A, which is slightly less than my initial 3027 design.

Update: No. Filament. I repeat. No. Filament.
Zvezda SD 031
The problem with me doing projects in my spare time is that I tend to forget what I wanted to do and where I left off. When I return to it, most of the time wasted was looking for the misplaced notes and/or clues where I had left off, which is not easy since most of the hard disks I had tend to go bye-bye before I even had the chance to clean up the files and store it onto the Cloud. Yeah, playing catching up sucks when you have a memory of a introverted goldfish (it does exist?)

Anyway, like all projects, I start with the basic core design with just the PIC chip, test it, tweak the software a little and test it again. Once that is done, I move on and add the extras or features. Since the Pandemic, it has been more of a norm for me to order parts online. And since this is a hobby for me, I do not have any issues with the delivery arriving between 30 to 50 days.

When all is more or less perfect, off it goes to have the circuit board made and if I feel like it, maybe I’d do a run. Or just make them for myself.

That is the problem since the projects I do are either ‘out of fashion’, the model itself is no longer in production or well, just (to me) too complicated for the normal modeler to install it.
Zvezda SD 032
Here is the continuation of the design. There is close to about 40 LEDs in there, more or less. Once I have the basic sub-circuit designed, I move on to the next basic sub-circuit and so on until the whole circuit is completed.

The high count of the LEDs are due to the uncertainty of how much is needed when I start to use those 0.25mm and 0.5mm Fibre-optics. Also, I have trouble entering https://thefiberopticstore.com and they had some message about not able to take on more orders since February 2021.

There is one very bad habit of mine which is to design the whole circuit in my head. I would read the datasheets, count the light points and the ‘design’ rough circuit layout. The problem is, I am too lazy to jot it down and after a few times of recollection, I get fed up and start all over again.

Update April, 2022: The Fiberoptic store is OK now, and it even ships to Malaysia!