Windblade: Operation Stability (Shapeways product review)

There’s such a thriving Transformers fan community on Shapeways,”The World’s Leading 3D Printing Service & Marketplace.” I think it’s wonderful how the development and expansion of 3D printing has really taken Transformers fanart and engagement with the toys to the next level, allowing designers to do anything from making the official figures more show/comic accurate; creating replica parts and accessories to repair older toys or reinstate missing components; construct characters and properties that would never otherwise appear in the plastic (as B has been doing with his weapons and customs inspired by the now defunct Transformers Universe game). And, of course, 3D printing can occasionally provide a very welcome opportunity for fans to correct flaws in the official figures. Today I’m going to look at one such corrective product: the Upgraded Heel Spurs for Generations Windblade designed by Shapeways artist JohnBonhamatron. These are a great example of how a little modification can make a big difference…

Generations Windblade - Upgraded Heel Spurs by Shapeways artist by JohnBonhamatron

Generations Windblade – Upgraded Heel Spurs by Shapeways artist JohnBonhamatron

Why so serious? Not falling over takes a lot of concentration!

Why so serious, Windblade? “Because not falling over takes a lot of concentration!”

Windblade, the “Cityspeaker” is the first official fan-built Transformer. I really love her Japanese Kabuki-theatre inspired design, her interesting character in the IDW comics, and the fact that she’s a female Autobot who isn’t just some kind of Arcee retool/recolour. However her toy from the 2014 Generations line does have its problems. I’ve read that there were some quality control issues with this figure and that many Windblade toys are very loose-jointed. Perhaps I’ve been particularly unlucky, but mine certainly fits that description. Couple those extremely loose joints with her wings, skinny body and high-heeled feet and you’ve got yourself a toy with some serious stability issues.  That’s not uncommon among Transformers and, as a Starscream collector, I am especially used to having figures who would never pass the “one leg” test, but while even my skinniest Screamer still manages to achieve a few dynamic poses, sadly Windblade’s extremely loose joints meant that she fell over if I stood her in any but the most carefully centred positions. And don’t even think about angling her wings upwards and backwards the way they appear in the comic!

Here's the problem, very loose jointed skinny heel struts

Here’s the problem, very loose jointed skinny heel struts

And she's down, again

And she’s down, again

Fortunately JohnBonhamatron comes to Windblade’s rescue with a product designed to replace her teetering original heel struts with something that gives her a little more stability.

B ordered these as a little gift for me a while back. It took me a little while to get round to fitting them but I’m glad I did. Printed in “Black, Strong and Flexible” plastic, these little wedge-shaped pieces are designed to peg into the joint in the back of Windblade’s feet, replacing the original struts. Like many Shapeways products, they arrive on a sprue (see top image) so a sharp craft knife is required to cut them free but then it’s extremely easy to pop off the original struts and the replacements are shaped so that they clip in firmly but easily enough instead.

Cut from sprue. You may wish to use black paint or nail varnish to hide the dots where the sprue attached but these don't show once the product in fitted.

Cut from the sprue. You may wish to use black paint or nail varnish to hide the dots where the sprue attached but these don’t show once the product in fitted.

Even with this upgrade Windblade is never going to be the most robust of figures. She still can’t stand on one leg or lean too far in any direction, but increasing the surface area of her feet in this way does improve her stability significantly. She’s now much less wobbly when posed wielding her sword and it’s finally possible to change the angle of her wings without instant tumbling. Hooray for small victories!

With the heel upgrades fitted

With the heel upgrades fitted.

The new heels do change the look and overall silhouette of the figure slightly but I’m rather fond of the change. Female bots having stiletto heels such a clichéd and tiresome trope. It’s fine for Slipstream, because she began life as a clone of Starscream and heels are very much a Starscream design staple but there are many more ways to signal robo-femininity than putting a bot in high heels. Windblade is a great example of a character design who appears simultaneously elegant and imposing and thickening up her heel struts does nothing to change this. Indeed, since there’s such a strong Japanese influence to her design I think the more wedge shaped heels are actually quite fitting: they slightly evoke the traditional Geta as well as more modern (and clearly Geta-inspired) examples of Japanese-inspired high fashion footwear.

The upgrades allow Windblade to be posed much more dynanmically

The upgrades allow Windblade to be posed a little more dynamically

You can probably see that the Shapeways plastic has a slightly different texture and lacks the gloss of Windblade’s original black components, but the contrast is not glaring, and could be remedied with paint or varnish if required (though I’ll probably leave mine as it is, for now at least). Another big plus for JohnBonhamatron’s design is that the larger struts can be left in place once attached, don’t impede her transformation and still hide away as neatly as the originals in jet mode. Although to be honest I wasn’t a fan of the way Windblade’s feet are incorporated in her VTOL mode to begin with. To me the whole boot section is still far too visible as being robot feet; I think it’s the colour contrast as much as anything. But that’s a separate gripe and it’s definitely a nice touch that despite being much larger the new struts don’t look any more out of place in vehicle mode than that section did to begin with!

Windblade jet mode. No sign of those larger stuts but she still looks like a jet with leg cargo to me.

Windblade’s jet mode. No sign of those larger struts but she still looks like a jet with leg cargo to me.

In summary, then, it’s really a bit of shame that there even needs to be a market for products like this one:  designed, as it is, to improve basic stability and poseability rather than for any specific cosmetic purpose. But since the problems with the Windblade figure are real it’s nice that a decent solution is on hand and so simple to fit. If, like me, you’re a Windblade fan and want to display the toy in a way that even begins to do the character justice then these heel upgrades could be money well spent.

You can order a pair of these heel strut upgrades from JohnBonhamatron’s Shapeways shop.

3 thoughts on “Windblade: Operation Stability (Shapeways product review)

    • I’ve never really understood why robots need high heels (though with Starscream I guess it’s a case of going with anything that makes him that tiny bit taller so he can lord it over others). I’ve no idea what Windblade’s excuse is, I’d prefer her without them I think.

      Liked by 1 person

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