A professional model maker understands the creative and judicious use of available technology in the workplace. While nothing can substitute for inborn talent, classical training and years of experience, a master model maker uses modern techniques to make the finished product more accurate, detailed or available in a shorter time frame for a client, without sacrificing quality and craftsmanship.
Computers are an essential technological tool for building models. From reading CAD files at the start of a project and researching additional or missing information, to creating drawings and applying CAM software to the creation of parts, computer work stations are kept busy at KiwiMill.
Three major steps involve the latest computer software and online resources:
Model makers receive and read the various types of files that clients use to convey their ideas. An architect may send AutoCad files, an engineer might use Rhino, or an artist could have Adobe Illustrator designs that need deciphering. Knowing what you are looking at in the various programs, including Revit, Inventor or Corel, and figuring out what needs to be built is an early step in a model’s design.
If all you are given is a photograph to work with the internet becomes an invaluable research tool to find additional photo angles, renderings or drawings – as much information as possible about the object being created. Even a common shape might be found in TurboSquid to assist in making a particular part.
Computer software is then used to draw parts. Researched dimensions of an actual object may be used to create a part drawing. Drawings are either used as patterns to be built by hand or sent to the laser engraver or CNC milling machine for cutting, or the 3D printer.
In the end, nothing substitutes for a model maker’s ability to think inventively throughout a project, determining the best approach for each process and applying hands-on expertise at each step. An experienced model maker embraces modern technology, but also knows that high tech solutions are not always the best answer.
The trade show models are finished. Final details have been applied, displays blown off and cleaned up from sitting in the dusty shop and photographs taken for the company portfolio. (Check back for pictures of the final displays in the near future).
Finishing up a project in themodel makingworld means undertaking yet one more assignment : the design and creation of shipping crates. Model makers uniquely know what is the best way to transport their wares. Measurements are taken and boxes are built according to the specific needs of the model itself, as well as the client.
After careful placement in their crates, the trade show model displays go out the door to our valued client and on to the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Safe travels…
Upon entering the shop portion of KiwiMill, I’m struck by the vast amount of large equipment: machine lathe, various table saws, a turret punch, laser cutter, bridgeport mill, CNC mill, band saw and paint booth. How does a model maker keep it all straight? More to the point, how does he stay safe? Add to the large machinery the hand-held tools for welding, sanding, routing, brazing, soldering, drilling, molding, painting and casting, and it seems clear to me that safety must be as inborn a trait in model makers as the ability to think visually in 3D.
Talking with KiwiMill’s production manager, I find that while safety is inherently part of any good model maker, there are a few simple practices and tips that can help keep a shop injury-free:
Know the equipment you are working with:
Visually familiarize yourself with the machine, how it operates, the way the blades are spinning.
Know what materials can be cut on it.
Understand the nuances of the equipment, what its reputation is and what can go wrong.
Be aware of where your hands are, and where they’ll end up if the material you are working with breaks, flies off or disintegrates.
Predict what direction a piece will go if it comes loose and position your body out of that pathway.
Find out what debris (dust, chips) will be coming off the product and use goggles and/or mask as needed for protection.
Read up on the Material Data Safety Sheet of a particular substance to understand its particular properties.
A confident, proactive attitude works best:
Always ask someone if you don’t know how to operate a piece of equipment.
Stay focused on the task you are performing.
Have a healthy respect for the machine but don’t approach it with fear.
Don’t rush through a movement.
Take breaks from repetitive or frustrating activity.
Watch out for each other while operating equipment. Notice if something looks or sounds strange and don’t hesitate to point it out.
Keep a well-maintained and well-stocked shop:
Have plenty of fire extinguishers throughout the shop.
Provide goggles, safety glasses, headphones and masks.
Clean up spills immediately.
Contain oily rags, and towels in a special bin to avoid spontaneous combustion.
Keep machines and tools well maintained and blades sharpened regularly.
Don’t allow loose clothing or any dangling objects near a rotating piece of equipment.
While it turns out safe work habits are not simply a trait you are born with, they are based in common sense practices, that with experience, become second nature to a professional model maker.
Model shop workers at KiwiMill are busy this week creating trade show displays. The conception or design phase of the project – determining how and with what materials to build the displays and ordering and gathering those materials – has given way to fruitful days of action fabricating and assembling these creations. Soon it will be time to provide the detailing and finishing touches that will bring the team’s vision alive in a final product for the client.
KiwiMill model makers (formerly A & M Model Makers), recently moved to a larger space with nary a pause in production. The newly designed space offers a more efficient layout and additional equipment to continue to provide clients with state-of-the-art designs in the shortest time frame possible. Superior quality, in a safe environment, remains the paramount focus at all times. KiwiMill is very excited about its new model shop.