Get your money’s worth with Metal Earth 3D metal model kits

{ 27 comments }

Fascinations Metal Earth Licensed Models

I will admit that as a young lad I liked building models. As I got older my interest changed and model building went to the back burner. I have toyed with the idea of picking up some models to keep myself occupied, but I just have not found any that seemed interesting. A company called Fascinations has sparked my interest with their Metal Earth 3D metal model kits. Although the 3D and metal aspects of the models are interesting what really caught my eye were the licensed model sets. They have Star Wars, Star Trek, HALO, Mass Effect and Transformers kits. While most of these models are small in scale, they have a lot of intricate detailing.  Models vary in price but, I found the best prices (starting around $7) for the Fascination Metal Earth models to be on Amazon. So, even of you are not a model builder these models may be the items to set your Star Wars, Star Trek, HALO, Mass Effect or Transformers collection apart. If you’re not into those, Fascinations has several other lines of Metal Earth 3D models.

Posted in: Do-It-Yourself, How-To, Geek Toys, News
{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Andrew Baker July 19, 2015, 2:18 pm

    I love these things, I am always building them at work while on long conference calls. I have 9 sitting on my desk right now. I was introduced to them when on a business trip to Arizona. My flight was delayed 12 hours. We Yelped things to do nearby and found a hands on science museum. (Freeeking Awesome place if your ever in the area http://www.azscience.org/). It was the last day of an exhibit on miniature things. The gift shop was selling these for 50% off. Each one was ~$4-5. I bought one of every model. Walked away with 15-20 of them. Gave a few away before I started building them (mistake). I got addicted. I now have a small tool kit on my desk at work to build them. Tweezers, punch knife, graduated awl (to round parts). They are great fun if you have the patience to spend time on them. If you are the type that wants instant kits, or can not work with VERY small parts, These are NOT for you. I have the apollo mission and space probes kits sitting in my drawer, waiting for my next conference call.

    • Andrew Baker July 19, 2015, 2:20 pm

      Each model usually takes me about 4-6 hours to complete. But I’m VERY detailed and usually do them while in meetings.

  • Mike July 20, 2015, 3:21 pm

    I tried two of these before giving up. Way more difficult than I was expecting and I ended up with bleeding fingers at one point (pieces are sharp). These models aren’t for the folks looking for a quick build.

  • Michael August 13, 2015, 4:54 am

    As a kid I was into plastic kits (mostly large motorcycles).
    Now at age 54 I rediscovered my interest in fiddling with model kits and found these Metal Earth 3D objects. Got a customized bunch directly from China (5 kits for $25 shipped) and started with the antique Farm tractor.
    Was more fun than I expected; my myopic eyes (-10dpt) are perfect for the close up view of tiny parts. The finished tractor looks straight and great, almost flawless. Cutting parts and filing edges is a must, mistakes are no option here, as multiple bending attempts will break the laser cut grooves soon. Glossy surfaces get scratched easily, care or a rubberized tool is needed when twisting or pressing the connector tabs in place
    Instructions are clear enough to assemble these tiny kits. The tractor is 1:50, about 65mm long and consists of more than 50 parts.
    Next projects are the Ford Model T car, the Moon lander and Mars robot.

    Perfect for distracting and relaxing after hours, to overcome moody days and daily worries.
    I will buy more kits for the upcoming long winter nights. Steam locomotives, and many old planes look quite interesting and tricky, or the sailing ships, so many choices…
    Strange that I did not see these kits advertised or discussed until now (2015)?
    m

  • The Steezemeister January 18, 2016, 11:34 am

    I’m a 15 year old who has tried every type of model building. Balsa wood airplanes that you have to build, wrap, and paint are fun, and I’ve done a couple, but a month is a bit long for a single project. I did revell plastic model kits for awhile too, but it was a pain to spill or misapply the glue, and I often ended up with fingers stuck together. Then I discovered Metal Earth.
    Some 1 year later and I have about 33 of the metal earth kits. I’d built all of the airplanes, most of the vehicles, all the tanks all of the 2 metal sheet+ architecture, and a couple of the ICONX kits (harder and more detailed metal earths). I’m not into star wars or transformers, so I never really wanted to do any of those themed kits. Basically, I was out of metal earths to do. Then I discovered Pieceool and Metal Works. Basically, they are chinese ripoffs of metal earth, except they do mostly different models. I got a model of the Datsun 240z, a railway gun, a barret .50 cal rifle, and 2 different f1 cars, which are my personal favorites. Piececool offers kits that cost a bit less than ICONX and have the same level of detail. They even offer an aircraft carrier which I am currently awaiting. The downside of them is that they take a very long time to ship. This is because I have to buy them from china. But It’s always well worth the wait. To get them, you have to make an account for Alieexpress, which is the commerce portion of Alibaba, so you can be sure that it’s not a scam. Aliexpress has different sellers, like ebay, but they all sell in buy it now form. You can get kits not available in the US or $30+ on amazon for $5-15. They also sell kits that are identical to metal earth kits for around $3. I guess because of cheap chinese labor laws. And 95% of the time there is free shipping. This isn’t an ad or anything. I just am happy I found this and I hope more people can too. Just be willing to wait a month on shipping. But If you’re patient it’s 100% worth it. And now in addition to 33 metal earths, I have 13 piececool or metal works kits.

    • Michael January 19, 2016, 2:46 am

      I absolutely agree, exactly my own findings about the quality of Iconx/PieceCool, the cheap Chinese sources (eg. AliExpress) and the patience needed when ordering there.
      I always have 3-5 orders in the ‘queue’, so whenever the mailman rings (tracked shipping needs my signature) I am curious which model has arrived today…

      Even the Chinese prices vary a lot; the same model can be had for three or for ten Dollars, some I grabbed for less than $2.50 on sale. I wonder how long the laser cutting process takes for each sheet? Hundreds of windows or wall ‘bricks’ probably need several minutes of laser cutting time, one sheet at the time. Amazing that the Chinese can manufacture precise laser cut stainless steel sheets for this price, and ship it for free around the globe!

      My desk is filling with these critters, I do one or two a week during the long winter evenings. My favorites so far are the Ford Model T, the Lunar Lander, the tanks and steam locomotives and all kits from PieceCool (Neuschwanstein, NotreDame etc). The early design like Eiffel Tower and Cable Car are utter junk, the newer ones are way more sophisticated and trickier to build, up to one hundred (!) pieces or more.
      Here is a folder of some pictures takes of my finished models, some turned out almost flawless, quite a challenge considering their size and tiny parts.

      https://app.box.com/s/8bzo121blqxo5pxyj4llszuryxikgsgm

      I am financing my new hobby by selling these cheap imported “3D Metal Model” kits with a 100-150% profit in my home country; this way I get mine for free!

      Now I am looking for a neat black glass door showcase to protect the 50+ models, currently collecting dust on my work desk in the office…

      • Andrew Baker January 19, 2016, 9:24 am

        I would guess they probably have I very high powered variable focus cutter and stack dozens of them and cut them all in a single pass.

        • Michael January 19, 2016, 11:58 am

          Nope, that won’t work, as every sheet needs to be INDIVIDUALLY cut and structured on the top (not the bottom) surface! I had ONE kit where they actually needed some structuring on he bottom side due to the folding pattern – they really did it!!
          If you watch laser cutters at work on YouTube you will understand my question: these machines are NOT fast at all. They work like oldfashioned plotters, and need to scan the entire sheet for every cut and pattern. A rather tedious and time consuming process, and the laser equipment has a limited MTBF (MeantimeBetweenFailures), this is not a cheap way to produce toys!

          I am guessing that it will take several minutes for EACH 4in sheet, some kits have three sheets or tremendous surface rendering effects.

          While I found the Chinese company that produces the raw kits I am not able to contact them for more details and information. Or a video of their machine shop, as much as I want to learn about the processing.

          The software they use for designing the kits is straightforward CAD, neat and efficient. It would be cool to have it for own developments!

          This stuff is addictive… one of my favorite hobbies at this moment.
          And I have built other kits before, from tiny 1:32 motorcycles to 1:8 cars from Pocher. Still in the box is another monster: a 1:6 Moto Guzzi California by Protar, 770 parts including a fully operational engine, clutch and gearbox, brake system etc!

          Yet these stainless steel miniatures are way more fun and less stressful, for a few bucks a piece a real bargain.

          • Bob January 21, 2016, 5:23 am

            They are not lasercut, they are photo- etched wich is a entirely different process wich involves covering up the material that you don’t want dissolved by chemicals.

            It can be done at home if you have the chemicals and a laserprinter. You could even copy the originals by scanning them and then printing them out.

      • The Steezemeister January 22, 2016, 12:02 am

        Yeah, I did the steam train and the ford model T is one of my favorite models on my shelves. Personally I love the tanks the most, since they are fairly strait forward but still challenging. I ordered the Centurion pretty recently as well as the BMPT and the challenger. I love the higher level of detail to metal earth and the low prices. I also am awaiting a motorcycle and some buildings.

        As for the prices, at first I was buying kits at around normal prices but after I learned about the insanely cheap kits, I was able to buy 2 or 3 sets for next to nothing. I just wish the shipping was faster, but I suppose nothing is perfect.

        I also completely agree that the early models are terrible. I also dislike the Halo and Mass Effect themed models, as they don’t really seem that interesting, but the ICONX Kawasaki ninja seems like the best model they’ve ever produced.

        Also, since you seem to be really good at metal earth, have you heard of Jasmine Models? They are like metal earth, except they have 100+ large pieces and the models are usually in 1:72 or 1:48 scale- which is the size of most Revell plastic model planes. They just require glue and cost a lot of money, but the kits seem absolutely stunning. Well worth a look.

        • Michael January 22, 2016, 3:07 am

          Never heard of “Jasmine Models”, googling only shows half naked women.. must study 😎
          The tanks shine due to their complex wheel and track design, appearing very delicate and detailed this way. I am not into war crap, but really enjoy them on the desk, especially as a lot of four WWII classics from Europe, USA and Asia.
          The Model T MUST be the most accurate model, with only one flaw: door hinges are wrong on the rear doors. Otherwise it is incredibly authentic in all aspects, fits perfectly to the Matchbox diecast version, see my photos.
          The trains look great, but the missing rear axle on the UP844 was a huge disappointment, the Japanese D51 is my favorite and looks better, too!

          Since I always buy ‘chinese’ I never ever saw the ‘original’ versions from Metal Earth. Someone on Amazon claimed that they are more sturdy, using thicker metal sheets and better structuring. Both appears to be rather bogous, as thicker metal is harder to bend and the structuring of my ‘fake’ ‘3D Metal Models’, Zoyos etc is flawless in all aspects? I am too cheap to pay $12 for an ‘original’ if I can have 3-4 of the replicas instead.
          IconX/PieceCool plays in another league altogether, their kits use thicker sheets (and ARE more difficult to work on, often missing critical fold lines like the beautiful Neuschwanstein castle, leading to some ’round’ wall corners). I am interested in some of their newer vehicles and will probably buy them later.
          For now my desk is cluttered with green 3D Metal Model envelopes – and it is freezing outside day and night the entire week, lots of time for hot tea and some wire cutters 😎

          • The Steezemeister January 22, 2016, 2:31 pm

            haha yeah I got that too. go to this link here:

            http://www.jasmodel.com/Top_E.htm

          • Michael January 23, 2016, 2:55 am

            @Steezemeister:
            the Jasmine stuff is quite impressive, albeit very expensive. For $169 I bought more than 50 of the Chinese kits, with 30-100 parts each…
            Also I noticed that they seem to supply die cast parts (engine, wheels etc). While this may improve the looks, it is not as straight and simple as the Metal Earth approach – there all but the gun barrels of tanks are made of sheet metal.
            But this Jasmine F6F-5 plane of Jasmine really looks awesome.
            http://www.jasmodel.com/PRODUCT/202006/202006_18.jpg
            The grid pattern is amazing – way more complex than the ME Zeppelin cut-outs. Getting a perfect alignment and spacing of these egg grates is very difficult.

          • Bob January 23, 2016, 3:39 am

            There is another manufacturer called Aerobase wich makes alike models but cheaper. A copy of a Fokker dr1 is on Aliexpress for $17,- wich seems to be nice. I’ve ordered it and I’ll share my experiences here.

  • mw January 21, 2016, 8:35 am

    @bob:
    I’ll be darned, you got some links or other info on that statement?
    I, too, was puzzled by the processing time by laser cutting. But how can photoetching achieve some of the surface details, plus the razor sharp edges? I cannot find any info on the net about these production methods.

    • Bob January 21, 2016, 10:16 am

      I know this because a friend of my dad who was into plastic model building used to buy these photo-etched detailing sets, wich he would just copy at home and then resell the expensive kit. This was about 20 years ago so I don’t know pricings now and I’ve lost contact since then so I cant ask.

      But what i remember from it is that the exposure time should be just right, otherwise you would etch underneath the covered material. The surface details are just made with less exposure, so I suppose you need to etch twice.

      Youtube is full of guides if you search for “photo etch” like in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjgH250bUrA

      I bet there are a lot better video’s though.

      • Michael January 22, 2016, 2:54 am

        Yes, several of my 1:18 scale cars also have ‘photo etched’ parts like front grilles, wipers, interiors etc – usually small pieces with a lot of detail or fine structures.
        Looking at these stainless steel sheets I really think you are right about their processing – laser cutting may indeed be the wrong (slow and expensive) way to make these.
        Yet they show a huge bandwidth of depth and detailing, everything from wide gaps at the edges, to tiny holes for the bending lines, all sorts of surface rendering – that requires some very clever exposure and etching technology for the entire sheet.
        The Ford Mustang kit also has BOTH sides structured (baseplate), which of course means that they need to expose/etch the backside as well.
        As I never investigated the possibilities of such detailed photo etching (beside making my own crude copper circuit boards a while back) I will have to do some more research on this matter.
        One never stops learning, and tinkering with these kits…

  • Jason March 30, 2016, 1:34 pm

    Hey guys, I just wanted to confirm with some of the response here that those models are in fact photo-chemical etched. I hope I don’t get in trouble here for saying this but we specialize in making designs using the photo-chemical etching (Photochemcial Machining or PCM) technique. We are partners with a manufacturer in China that have years of experience doing this. If you want more information feel free to shoot me an email or visit our website, I’ll be happy to just answer technical questions regarding PCM.

    Cheers,
    Jason

  • Jason March 30, 2016, 5:10 pm

    Just noticed that the URL wasn’t shown. Here it is again: http://www.tecforddesign.com

    Jason

  • mw March 31, 2016, 2:57 am

    Thanks for that link and info! The ‘precision toy parts’ look very familiar, similar to these Chinese kits.
    What is the difference of normal PE to LEEP? In LEEP they apparently DO use some laser processing, but still rely on chemical etching in the final structuring.
    From the semiconductor industry I was working in 30 years ago I know how tiny the photo etched structures can be.
    These model kits do show impressive surface detailing plus wide gapped erasure of the stainless steel between the parts. I’d love to see some of these photomasks or some pictures of the processing some day.

    • Jason April 1, 2016, 5:09 pm

      LEEP does indeed use laser but not in the conventional way that most people think of laser etching. UV Lasers are used to replace the photography development step thus saving time and increasing accuracy depending on the laser’s capability.

      Next time I’m at the production facility I’ll be sure to take some nice photos to share with you.

      Cheers,
      Jason

  • Jeremy July 6, 2016, 12:14 pm

    I have really enjoyed building these kits. The hardest kit to put together was the AT-AT. After losing a couple drops of blood, i finished building the kit 3 hours later. These kits have kept me from being bored all summer.

    Thanks,
    Jeremy

  • Jason August 9, 2016, 9:05 pm

    Can anyone confirm the quality of the AliExpress (chinese) models sheets are exactly the same as the original Fascinations Metal Earth products ?

    Or are they replicas ?

    • Andrew Baker August 9, 2016, 11:36 pm

      I’ve compared the site pictures with my models and model sheets. Not only do they look identical some of the pictures match the metal earth websites to the pixel.

      I suspect one of the following.

      A. They are the direct Chinese manufacture and are selling direct instead of through metal earth.
      B. They are knock offs, and they even stole the pics from metal earth site.

      The metal earth ones are very high quality and have excellent detail, I would like to compare the two side by side.

  • mw August 10, 2016, 3:47 am

    Having built 70+ of these Chinese kits over the last 12 months or so I can comment on their quality:
    – apparently there are different manufacturers or ‘factories’ on the market
    – depending on the ‘brand’ name the quality of the packaging and metal sheets differs: PieceFun covers the shiny stainless steel plates nicely with foil, MiniQute as well, others send the kits in black envelopes with Chinese scribbling and no way to identify the content. Some ship the kits in WRONG envelopes, using cryptic model numbers to identify the specific model inside. In one case they put the same metal sheet twice inside, while the second sheet was missing entirely. Refund is usually no issue at AliExpress, they have a powerful consumer protection program.
    – instruction sheets appear to be copies of the original, but are sometimes ONLY in Chinese (comments on specific assembly methods or positions), adding some extra challenge for these Asian kits.
    – overall the metal quality and structuring of surfaces is excellent; holes and edges can be razor sharp (a sign for a precise photo/etch process!). In ONE case (the beautiful and tiny crawler crane) the surfaces were very rough and dull, almost all holes under-etched (not opened). The dealer at Ali was the manufacturer himself, knew of the chemical problem and offered an immediate refund; i refused, took the challenge and created a real masterpiece – the 2.5in crane is awesome, treads, ropes and all!!
    – sheet thickness varies by manufacturer, is always sufficient (not too thin), the new brass models are naturally softer, easy to shape and less sensitive to finger prints on the surface than the polished steel. They are absolute eye catchers in my display case.
    – some Chinese offers appear to be from odd sources, do not show up on the ‘Fascinations’ site, apparently ‘copied’ from other (eg. Japanese Tenyo?) companies: examples are the very detailed Datsun 240ZG, the cute Pantheon in Rome etc.
    – the ‘IconX’ copies (Notre Dame, Taj Mahal, St Basil, the large Neuschwanstein) are VERY good, both in stainless steel and now also in brass, for a fraction of the original cost, typically around $6-$7. They are shipped in DVD plastic cases, on 2 large frames with the original layout and almost flawless instruction sheets in English.

    Knowingly I never bought a single ‘original’ from ‘Metal Earth’, ‘Fascinations’ etc.
    Yet I never paid more than $7 a kit (even for the huge NotreDame etc), some for less than $1, my average is around $3 prior to resale. By selling some extra kits on Ebay I am down to about $1 a kit for my own ones; the display cabinets are freebies from Amazon with coupons snatched over time.
    Here my current collection on display, neatly ordered and arranged in 2 cabs:
    https://app.box.com/s/5kbi9dhebwo35tmzfw5pu0exclf5g8pw

    Many models with macro closeups, details etc can be seen and inspected here. All are original pictures taken by me from my own finished models, ‘Manufactured In China – Asembled In Germany!’:
    https://app.box.com/s/8bzo121blqxo5pxyj4llszuryxikgsgm

    I am still a little in the dark as to the exact manufacturing process: probably lithograhic exposure of negative slides on photoresist covered metal, using laser or regular light beams, etching in a chemical bath using HCL or H2SO4? Not sure HOW they ‘copy’ the originals, but probably the CAD designed slide negatives are easy to obtain as data files; I doubt that they use finished metal sheets as a source, as all details and positions are just too exact.

    Currently I am sitting on a lot of 20 STAR TREK and STAR WARS kits (no personal interest) that I am trying to sell on Ebay. The market has changed though: despite my lowest price ($6-$7) in Germany nobody is buying them, while they are offered by others for $12 – $16, I may be forced to assemble them myself in the upcoming winter…

    Assembling these 3D metal kits IS fun, and the Chinese kits are a definite ‘BANG FOR THE BUCK’, with very minor quality issues as to packaging and few production flaws, a clear THUMBS UP from me!

    • Andrew Baker August 10, 2016, 9:51 am

      Well based on that I’ll gamble a $40-$60 and order a large lot for myself. Keep me entertained on phone conferences for awhile.

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