What’s In Our Custom Model Quotes?

model making

KiwiMill prepares free-of-charge custom model quotes to anyone inquiring about a project, big or small. Over years of practice we have come up with a fairly quick, fair and accurate system for estimating the potential costs of each new model build. Our goal is to provide high quality replicas that meet your needs and budget.

Sometimes we get asked for ballpark figures over the phone or email. We try our best to accommodate these requests using basic information about what is being modeled, its purpose, size and detail level. These initial rough estimates can help identify whether there is a sufficient budget to proceed with a more formal written quote.

However,  most custom model quotes require a more thorough assessment to determine how much it will cost for the build.  We have found through trial and error that talking immediately to a model maker (as opposed to a salesperson) has benefits for both you and our model shop.  So the first thing we do is connect you with an actual model maker. Through a phone call or email exchange our model makers help clarify the scope of your project. Talking directly with you helps us understand what you want from your model, and will determine what the best approach is to meet those goals. Clients sometimes know exactly what they are looking for in a scale model, but more often than not, an exchange of ideas helps narrow down the options to one that best fits your needs and budget.

Our model makers begin thinking about how they would go about the model build as they talk with you about your project. This initial thought process will aid them when it comes time to prepare the actual quote. There is no magic formula used at KiwiMill for generating quotes. Each project is given careful consideration to make sure the pricing reflects the actual costs of the build.  We consider the materials used, fabrication methods chosen, size and complexity of the model, and the engineering of moving parts or other special effects. Another major consideration is whether parts for the model will need to be drawn up in a CAD program, before construction can start. Timing may be a factor as well; if the job needs to be rushed, then vendor supplies and overtime costs need to be considered.

A written quote is drawn up after this exchange of information. Most quotes are emailed to you within 2-3 days. The quote spells out what will be provided by our model making team – the over all model design, materials, functionality, detail level,  and finishes, along with any mounting, bases, or crating options included. The quote has pricing – including any add on options, or discounts for multiple copies of the same model. There will also be the estimated weeks expected to complete the job. Many custom model projects have strict deadlines. We understand you need a model by a particular date for sales meetings and trade shows. The quote also addresses what is required from the client to start the job in terms of data and payment terms. KiwiMill welcomes all questions after sending you a quote. We can make revisions based on new ideas, and your changing needs.

This whole process may sound complex, but it assures our client that what they are getting is what they expected and desired. It also does not need to take up a lot of time. We pride ourselves on getting quotes out very quickly, without sacrificing the attention to detail and customization of each project. Well defined, personalized and accurate quotes are a service we are happy provide to each and every one of our potential customers as an initial sign of our commitment to quality service and performance.

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Railcar Models Make BIG Impression

Recently KiwiMill was approached by a client that teaches railcar safety. Traditionally the company trains their personnel on a real railcar, but they were looking at the possibility of using a scale model instead.

Our client was not a railcar manufacturer, therefore there were no drawings or plans to build a railcar model from. After doing some research, KiwiMill found  8th scale model railroad suppliers that could assist in the project. It turns out there is a market for ride on “toy” trains in this rather large scale.

From these suppliers KiwiMill ordered 8th scale bogies or”trucks” that formed the foundation of the railcar models. A bogie or railroad truck holds the wheel sets of a railcar.

railroad truck

The trucks were painted and readied for the rest of the model build.

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Our client wanted both a general purpose tank model and a pressure tank model. Further research was needed to find photographs and drawings of these particular railcars. Then the tanks were constructed from these pictures.

railcar model

railcar model

railcar model railcar model railcar model railcar model

Because these railcar models were being used in place of the real product for training purposes, they needed to be very detailed. KiwiMill hand measured and hand built custom parts, including valves, piping, railing, handles and brake system. The accuracy of the models meant they could successfully replace training in the field.

railcar model railcar model railcar model railcar model railcar model railcar model railcar model railcar model railcar model

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Art Exhibit Model

A client came to us with a concept for a prop model to place in his upcoming art exhibit. His vision was a fictional, multi-story art storage vault that included an underground train, and an upper level reception and viewing area. The model would include miniaturized replicas of his artwork hung on the walls and 3D printed human figures populating the building.

KiwiMill model makers got to work building a cabinet with plate glass walls and extensive LED lighting to house the art exhibit model in.

Miniature furniture was hand built.  A train track was placed along the perimeter of the model. A rock surface was created using chip particle board, sealed and painted. Real art work from the client was shrunk down and placed on the interior walls of the building.

Besides our client’s art work itself, the other highlight of the model had to be the 3D printed people. Real people chosen by our client were 3D printed in full color in various poses and placed throughout the model. Even our client himself is in there!

The resulting display served as a focal point for the exhibit. The walls of the installation displayed our client’s art work and in the center of the room stood the model he had commissioned. His vision of an art storage vault was brought to life in 3D and went along brilliantly with the theme of his show.

 

 

 

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Huge Ford F100 Truck Build – Lots of Pictures!

Our client came to us with the idea for a 4 foot long model of a Ford F100 truck. The model was to be “museum quality” with lots of detail. The model  was a secret gift for the CEO of the company. Turns out this 1957 Ford  was the original truck used by the company, and it still resides at HQ.

Over 100 photographs of the original truck were provided for the model build. In addition to the photos, our model makers took a trip to the Ford Museum to study up on the truck design. Original sheet metal drawings were obtained from the 1950’s to be used as the basis for the model build.

The Ford F100 chassis was created  out of sheet metal, once the body was drawn up in 3D on the computer. The cab and pick up bed were 3D printed. The tires were 3D printed and then cast in urethane. Three different types of 3D printing machines in all were used to construct many of the parts on this truck model. Wood accents were used on the miniature tools, and real rubber hosing in the correct scale. Quite a few parts were chrome plated.

The resulting replica is a true work of art, and an exceptional choice for a corporate gift. Our team was honored to work on such a special project.

Ford F100 Truck Model

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Forklift Display Makes a Great Gift

Our client came to us with an idea for a forklift display. Our model making team came up with a design that would showcase various scenarios using our client’s products. The diorama was not meant to be hyper realistic in its set up. The goal was to fit as many pieces of equipment as possible in a warehouse setting.

The forklift display was built on a plywood base, with client supplied die-cast forklift models. The diorama also included an off-the-shelf rail car and 1:24 scale railroad people. The rest of the display was built from scratch using mainly laser cut plastic and metal. The crates and boxes were hand fabricated from scaled plywood.

By using a common scale, our model makers were able to incorporate ready made products with hand built custom pieces. This helped keep the overall costs of the project down. When everything does not have to be made from scratch, a display of this nature can be created more efficiently and economically.

The forklift display was given as a gift by our client. It was presented as a token of appreciation to a distributor for their outstanding sales efforts. The diorama turned out to be an effective sales tool as well as a unique gift to acknowledge a job well done.

 

 

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A Pump Jack Model That Really Works

Pump Jack Model                            Pump Jack Model

KiwiMill was asked to build a working model of a pump jack. This pump jack model became part of a diorama for an oil industry client. The display depicted various vignettes depicting oil monitoring equipment. The scale of the display was very large.

The pump jack model was built from various materials and equipped with a motorized mechanism that allowed the head to move up and down. Once the mechanics were placed in the pump jack model, it was test run for several hours in the shop to trouble shoot any potential issues. We captured this test run on video below. (For more information on mechanization in models at KiwiMill, check out this previous blog post.)

 

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Naked Scale Models

Sometimes I like to look at scale models before they are primed and painted. A naked scale model reveals the variety of materials and fabrication methods used in the model build.

Some model parts are 3D printed. Others are hand built out of various types of plastic material, foam or molding compound. Still others are cut out of metal using CNC machines. (For more info on model making materials check out this previous blog post. ) The parts are fastened together to create the body of each custom model.

Right before the scale model is sent to the paint booth for a coat of primer, I like to take a picture of it “naked”. The raw beauty of a hand built item is powerful. Once it is covered in paint a person can easily forget the intricate work involved in creating a 3 dimensional object from scratch.

Check out these projects in their uncovered form versus how they look after painting and finishing. See if you agree with me that naked scale models have beauty to them.

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naked models naked models

 

naked models naked models

 

naked models naked models

 

naked models naked models

 

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naked models naked models

 

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Hip Implant Device Makes for a Beautiful Scale Model

Often times at KiwiMill a scale model turns out to be a work of art in itself. An excellent example of this is the Taper Fill Hip System. This product is an implant that is inserted into a person during hip replacement surgery.  When made into a model at 3-4 times its original size, the beauty of the design and its functionality really come to life.

Modular scale model

The model was commissioned to show how the implant works inside a human body. The various parts of the device were created in a modular fashion, so they could be taken apart and put back together during a demonstration. Model Maker Mike chose magnets to connect the various pieces of the implant to each other. This makes it easy for a salesperson to connect and reconnect them over and over again.

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The various parts of the scale model were made from 3D printing and CNC milling and routing. The finishes were particularly important in this model build, as they illustrate how the product functions. For instance, the heavily textured areas that you see in the model are used in the real product to encourage human tissues to attach and grow after implantation.

The high gloss on the pink socket you see in the model is a mirror-like finish, achieved by placing a clear coat  over the painted surface. The shiny chrome surfaces you see in the model were created using vacuum metalization.

Modular scale model

All of these carefully rendered surfaces come together to create a an incredibly visually appealing scale model. The modular features of this particular model only add to its usefulness.

Modular scale model modular scale model

 

 

 

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Cutaway Models Give You a Peek Inside

 

Cutaway Models are a popular type of scale model, and for good reason. There are different types of cutaway designs, but each one seeks to reveal the inside workings of a particular product. Sometimes the technology inside an industrial product is its greatest asset and a cutaway model is designed to draw attention to this.

Most cutaway models replicate the overall look of the outside of a product. Then with the use of cutaways, offer a view at the design inside the product. Some cutaways are split in half, others have a small portion of the outside cut out, making  a peep-hole of sorts into the inside. Other cutaway models are modular – pieces are removable by way of magnets to reveal the inside components.

Most companies would prefer to bring a real product to a sales meeting or trade show if it is practical. Of course that’s not always the case, as real products may be too heavy or large to ship and display. Scale model replicas of a product are not only more efficient to use in these circumstances but can even be more attention grabbing and informative than the real thing. By incorporating cutaway features, a model can communicate the inner design which would ordinarily be hidden.

 

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Busy Summer at the Model Shop

This has been a very busy time at KiwiMill model shop. Many exciting projects have been quoted, awarded, drawn up, fabricated, finished and shipped these past few months. All of our model makers love being busy. It’s what they are trained for – going from one project to the next without a break, crafting pieces that go right out the door as soon as they are complete. It’s easy to take for granted the depth and breadth of models that leave the shop when you work at this level of  artistry, precision and speed.

Sometimes it’s nice to step back for a moment and reflect on the projects that come through the model shop during any given time period. The past few months alone have seen military vehicles, warehouses, satellites, solar arrays, nuclear reactors, rockets, tank skids, servers, radiators, bioreactors an airport hanger and a nose cone. The creative energy of our model makers thrives on this variety. No two custom model projects are the same. Every day something new is learned by our master craftspeople.

There is never enough time to revel in the accomplishments here at KiwiMill; always the next project is waiting for our attention. But I wanted to take a moment to share some casual model shop pictures of the models I have watched go out the door so far this summer.

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Warehouse Model Has Visual Impact

This warehouse model is an excellent example of the visual impact an architectural site model can have. Basic shapes, and a clean design create a very clear communication tool.

The purpose of this model was to show both the interior and exterior of a new warehouse our client is building. The interior features rows of racks where product is stored as well as the layout of the offices.

The exterior of the warehouse model includes simple landscaping, roads and trucks. The topography does an excellent job of framing the interior features of the warehouse building.

Most of this model was programmed and cut on our shop laser.  It was built using PDF’s supplied by the client. The finished warehouse model will be displayed under Plexiglas in the corporate lobby.

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We Build All Types of Custom Models – Here’s Why.

 

custom model

Some scale model shops specialize in particular types of models. Architectural model making is a common type of specialization, as well as ship building or airplane replicas. Model trains would be another example of model maker focus.

KiwiMill has chosen to market to a variety of industries in need of custom models. Our team has the broad experience to make a replica of just about any object out there. Model requests come from all over:  the military, land developers, manufacturers, advertising agencies, product developers, private collectors, the medical field, museum and exhibit companies.

There are various types of models which can be built for each industry as well. Trade show models, cutaways, display models, site models, working models, training models, product models, historical models, prototypes and sales models are examples of the types of requests we receive.

At KiwiMill, we believe a broad approach is more advantageous. Part of the allure of model making is its custom nature. Master model makers are curious, creative people and thrive on the variety of each new job. Sameness is the antithesis of what many custom model makers are looking for in their work. Our team works best when presented with new challenges on each project.

Marketing to such a wide range of potential customers is daunting. Maintaining the machines, tools, software and technology to build all types of custom models is an investment. Finding and stocking materials for each new job is an ongoing process. One job may require tooling board and brass piping, while the next project requires a source for synthetic fur or tiny plastic footballs.

Assembling a team of model makers who have the talent, training and abilities to make all kinds of models is key to our success. Some of our model makers have over 20 years experience with architectural models. Others have experience with design, prototypes and product development. Still others are engineers by nature and provide the CAD knowledge and mechanical expertise to draw up model parts and add movement, sound or lights. Together they can tackle a wide variety of projects.

The toughest part about building all types of custom models and choosing not to specialize in a particular type, is convincing the general public that we know what we’re doing. Our business is fortunate to have a large portfolio of work going back decades that we can share with potential clients. Yet, often we are asked to build a model of something that we haven’t done before. That’s the nature of the business – just about any object found in society can be replicated. It’s impossible to have an example for each to show potential clients. Part of our job is reassuring customers that we can build a model of a product that we have never encountered before.

What that means is that our satellite models are every bit as sophisticated as our museum dioramas. Our model makers can replicate a military all terrain vehicle as readily as they can recreate a piece of industrial equipment in the form of a cutaway. Our model makers are not only capable of making all types of models, representing all types of industry, they thrive on it.

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These Models Make Great Sales Tools

sales tool model

Here at KiwiMill we strive to produce quality models that communicate, travel well and are easy to use, all within a reasonable budget and time frame. It’s a tall order. Sometimes we hit upon a model design that is so successful our client keeps coming back for more.

This computer product model is a great example of this kind of repeat business. Sales people took our model out into the field, enjoyed using it, and found it to be an excellent sales tool. More and more salespeople within the company want one, and the client keeps returning for additional orders.

sales tool model

While many scale models are one time only builds, we welcome this type of repeat business, building multiple copies of a particular model. It means the sales tools has been a great success.  These types of projects turn the model shop into a temporary production facility of sorts. Fabrication processes are streamlined in order to create a consistent product, over and over, in a reasonable time-frame.

sales tool modelsales tool model

The actual computer product being modeled in this instance is an extremely expensive piece of equipment weighing 70 pounds. It would be impossible for the entire sales force to carry these around to their clients.  Our model makers have designed a replica of this product that is smaller, lighter and much less delicate. It’s a convenient sales tool that can be carried in a briefcase.

sales tool model

 

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Solar Array Models That Rotate

Recently KiwiMill built two solar array models for our client, NEXTracker. First, our client wanted a portable, articulated model to represent a small section of their product – the NX Horizon solar tracker. The model is built almost entirely out of brass with acrylic panels. The panels on this model rotate and demonstrate the wide range of motion of the solar array, showcasing a 120° rotational arc, unlinked rows allowing independent movement, and face to face configuration for cleaning mode.

A second solar array model was commissioned showing just the center section of one pair of panels on the NX Horizon. This  blown up version of the first scale model focuses on the gear box and motor area of our client’s product. The panels tilt on this model as well. The materials used on this model are aluminum, ABS, brass and acrylic.

By building two models of the same product, NEXTracker is able to present different aspects of their design to potential customers, in easy to transport carry cases.

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

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Making a Molded Part

mold making

I recently noticed some jelly-like blob soaking in the shop sink. What? It prompted a discussion with, Tom, one of our model makers, about making a mold for models. I grabbed the camera, took some pictures, and wrote the process down in a notebook. Here’s what I came up with:

model making

Choosing the object you want to make a mold of, you determine where you want the “mold line” to go. This is the seam that will need to be disguised after the molding takes place. Using clay, you make the mold line on the object, then place it into a well sealed custom box and pour rubber up to the mold line and let set. After that half dries you peel off the dried rubber and reposition the object in the box in order to pour rubber on the other half. You peel the hardened rubber off the other half and now you have two rubber pieces that fit together with the cavity in between them representing the object you want to mold.

The rubber mold is sprayed with mold release and again placed in a special box to keep it rigid, the  two halves forming a whole. An opening, called a gate hole, is created where the resin will be poured in. Air holes are made in the rubber mold as well, where hoses or straws will be poked through to allow air bubbles to escape during the hardening process.

model making

Resin is mixed with hardener and then poured through the gate hole via a tube. The box is then placed in a pressure chamber to compact and press the resin into all of the nooks and crannies of the cavity. When the resin has hardened, the box is opened, the rubber mold peeled off and the molded part is then rinsed off in the sink.  After that the mold lines are smoothed over and the molded part is ready to be primed and  painted.

pressure pot for mold making

model making

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