Category Archives: Model Making Profession

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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Custom Electronics for Models

KiwiMill has the ability, in house, to add motorized and electronics features to your models. A few weeks ago, we delivered a model to a customer that required a lot of power and numerous interactive features all controllable by buttons on a panel in a museum.

Custom Electronics Box & Power Supply

Adding electronics to models comes with its own set of unique challenges. Our customers demand their models work reliably and want to make sure the power supply is UL listed to ensure it is safe to use in their displays.

Some of the issues we run into in our models:

  1. Multiple Voltage Requirements – models often use off-the-shelf electronics (sound makers, motors, lights, etc.) that require multiple voltages on a single model.
  2. High Current Requirements – While LEDs use little current individually, today’s modern superbright LEDs can use upwards of a watt of energy each and, when you string 50 or 100 of them together, they use more current than a typical power supply can provide. Motors can also use a lot of current and require a robust power supply.
  3. Were Do We Mount All These Things – Break-Out-Boards, Controllers, SSRs, power supplies, etc… where do we mount all these things so the parts won’t get jostled and the customer won’t get shocked?

Our solution is a custom ATX power supply in a custom made sheet metal box. An ATX power supply provides multiple voltages (3.3V, 5V and 12V) which is the power requirements for almost everything we build. Not only do they put out multiple voltages, an ATX power supply puts out A LOT of current. We can get a 1,500 watt power supply just in case we need to light an entire city all at once! On top of that, the ATX power supplies we buy are UL listed to ensure they operate safely. A good ATX power supply is also built to last a long time and includes a fan that will keep the electronics in the box cool.

Below are some pictures of our CAD design for this custom ATX power supply and electronics box, and pictures of the finished product. There’s also a picture of a much larger box that has hundreds of wire connections coming into it.

ATX Power Supply Box Design Drawing
Design Drawing
ATX Power Supply for a Scale Model
Before Connections
Custom Scale Model ATX Power Supply
After Connections
Custom ATX Power Supply Box
Complete with Cover
Custom ATX Power Supply Box
Larger Custom Electronics Box

Fiber Optic Light Source

This one was a little easier.

The problem: anything that holds a light-bulb is designed to allow light to escape as much as possible. A light is designed to provide humans with light, after all. We need to fully contain the light and direct it toward a bundle of fiber-optics.

The solution: A custom designed fiber-optics light source. This is nothing more than a sheet metal box with a bracket to hold a standard light socket. The cover contains the light in the box. We used a 60W LED spotlight to direct as much of the light into the fiber bundle as possible.

Custom Fiber Optics Light Source Drawing
Fiber Optics Light Source Drawing
Custom Fiber Optics Light Source
Fiber Optics Light Source
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Summer Intern at the Model Shop

Summer is winding down and KiwiMill model shop does not want to say goodbye to its intern, Devin. One of the projects in the shop the past couple of months has involved the construction of a 9 ft long Longhouse Model. Devin has been an integral part of this project.

A longhouse is a type of long, narrow, single-room dwelling used by groups of people in various parts of the world. The particular design currently being constructed at our model shop is a Seneca Bark Longhouse developed by the Haudenosaunee people of Northeast America.

Devin has been working under the instruction of the KiwiMill team, collecting materials, fabricating these pieces and assembling them into Longhouse walls. Eventually this fully constructed model will end up in a museum opening in October, 2015.

This hands on experience at the model shop will help Devin with his long term goals in the fields of engineering and design. KiwiMill has been very excited to be a part of this internship and hope to continue this relationship into the school year.

Here is some of Devin’s work:

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So You Want to Be a Model Maker?

scale model maker

A Model Maker is someone that most people don’t know a lot about. People tend to think of model making as either as a layman’s hobby or a skill that has been replaced by computers. Neither view is quite accurate. Model Makers are a group of professionals that find viable work in industries such as trade show, product design & development, sales and marketing, entertainment, military, architectural and museum – to name a few.

Model makers often start out as hobbyists, particularly in their youth.  Plenty have found their initial love of taking things apart and re-assembling them, often in new, creative ways, as a gateway to model making. One of the main differences between the model making hobbyist and the professional model maker, is deadlines. While hobbyists may have advanced skill sets, and even generate income from their craft, typically they do not have the same strict deadlines as professionals do.

Modern model makers often work under tight time constraints. They might be creating a model of a product to ensure its integrity before it goes to production. A scale model might be used in an upcoming trade show to sell a new idea. An architectural model might be needed for the opening of a developer’s sales office. Or a museum may be looking for a showpiece for an upcoming exhibit installation. In most of these instances, there is a sense of urgency, and professional model makers are used to putting in extra hours to meet strict deadlines.

While technological advances, particularly in the area of 3D drafting, CNC machining and rapid prototyping have changed the modern model shop, they have not replaced the need or desire for 3D physical representations. Rather, computers have enhanced the profession in surprising ways.  With the advent of new technological tools, scale models are becoming more accurate, detailed and economical than ever before.

Of course that has some people wondering if the artistry and craftsmanship of a master model maker still exists, or is even necessary. Increasingly, it is the combination of Old World techniques and modern advances that set great scale models apart from the competition. Model shops that are producing exceptional models have found that perfect blend of old and new processes.

Successful model makers have a somewhat contradictory set of abilities. They need a creative mind to envision/design the finished model, but also be a logical thinker who can work through the challenges of each build. They are mentally focused on construction, while remaining very flexible in their approach when it needs to be altered midway. Model maker’s artistic sensibilities help give a model visual appeal, capturing the essence of an object, not merely replicating its structure. On the other hand, the engineering/logical side of a model maker understands and solves technical issues that come up. Part analytical and part fanciful makes for an interesting mix.

Besides being of a certain mind-set, a person wanting to become a model maker needs experience working with his or her hands. Model makers use a wide variety of materials such as plastic, wood, metal, glass, rubber, plaster and foam. The developing model maker learns the properties of these materials and how they interact with each other through direct contact, while also honing dexterity and attention to detail.  Nothing replaces the knowledge and skills gained from building objects from scratch.

In addition to these skills, the modern model maker should have a working knowledge of CAD, as well as free hand drawing ability. CNC machines are great additions to a model shop, as well as 3D printers. These require the computer skills necessary to read, draw, translate and transmit information to machines that can print, route, mill, etch or carve parts to supplement what  a model maker hand builds. Use of these machines increases the accuracy and speed in which a model is produced.

Experience using tools associated with model making is also helpful. Tools like a table saw, welding equipment, paint gun, sanders, lathe, mill, band saw, sand blaster, drill press and shear might all be used by model makers. This is in addition to hand tools like calipers, X-Acto knives, sand paper, files, dental picks and paint brushes.  Not only responsible for fabricating various designs, it’s worth noting that model makers build the furniture-quality bases for models to sit on or in, as well as the crates the models are shipped in.

It’s easy to see that there is no one path toward a career in model making. While advanced degrees and certificates in model making are not all that common in the U.S., they do exist. Other model makers have degrees in Industrial Design, or Fine Arts. Some model makers have engineering or electronics backgrounds that help particularly with models that have special effects like movement, lights or sound. Still other model makers found their way to the profession through crafts backgrounds or carpentry. With any background, it helps to work under a Master Model Maker to absorb their experience – the depth and breadth of knowledge necessary to tackle the wide variety of modeling techniques that exist.

It takes a special someone who can visualize an idea or 2D representation and transform it into a fully realized three-dimensional object. While there are not a huge amount of  career opportunities in model making,  job satisfaction in the industry is high. The work is varied, challenging and satisfying. It’s a great fit for a mind that is creative yet logical, and for people who simply must do something with their hands.

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Not Sure What You’re Looking For in a Scale Model?

scale model

Are you entertaining the idea of a scale model for your sales office, trade show display or company training, but are unsure of exactly what you’re looking for? While there are customers who come to us with exactly what they desire – right down to the scale, level of detail and finish – it’s not unusual to have lots of questions about scale models in general, and the process of purchasing one.

Our team at KiwiMill  can help guide you in the process of choosing a model; determining what your goals are and how best to achieve them through a scale model presentation. There are endless options for portraying a product, place or concept via modeling. Narrowing your options down to the choices that will work best for your particular situation, is something we have lots of experience in. With model makers on staff that have 20+ years in the profession, we feel confident in our ability to present you with an idea that will fit your particular situation.

You may have a product that would be best displayed in a particular scale, as a cut away, or with lighting and movement to highlight particular attributes or abilities. It might make sense to have multiple models to show various design options, or just one model that transforms into different configurations.

Size or scale is a consideration that often requires additional clarification or guidance. Some features will not display correctly in a scale that is too small, for example. Larger scales have their own considerations, such as the need for very realistic detail in order to have the impact necessary for a quality display.

The amount of detail to put on a model is another area we can offer guidance with. While it might make sense in many instances to have as much realistic detail as your budget allows, there are circumstances where it might be unnecessary and even visually distracting to go that route. This is where our model maker’s artistic eye and vast experience might help steer the direction of the project towards a mutually satisfying outcome that otherwise would not have happened if our input wasn’t offered.

There may be questions about a model that do not involve artistic interpretation,  but are more practical in nature. A client may be interested in learning about how a model can help train personnel on procedures, logistics or safety issues. We can come up with a model design that helps simplify or clarify a process, cutting down training costs and increasing efficiency.

If you have entertained the idea of a model but aren’t sure what it can do for you, or you aren’t sure what your options are in terms of types of models and their uses, give us a call. (866.783.8612). Our model makers like to talk about models, and your project or concept, matters to us. Finding the right fit between a client and a scale model that communicates its message correctly, is part of the service we offer. You don’t need to know exactly what you want in order to start the conversation.

 

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Model Makers and Repeat Business

KiwiMill has built a reputation for making accurate, visually appealing scale models on time and within budget. When new clients realize the value of the product we give them, they often become repeat customers. Repeat business allows a relationship to develop between client and model maker, which ends up benefiting both parties.

Scale models are often a mix of artistic vision and cut-and-dry accuracy. A product model may be an exact replica of the real thing, right down to each nut and bolt. Most custom models, though, are artistic interpretations that represent the overall  feel of the real thing. They convey the essence of the object being modeled.

This interpretation is what creates a successful model maker. A keen artistic eye, experience with the properties of the materials being used in the build, and expert fabrication techniques are what set apart master builders. It’s also the reason to establish a long-term relationship between model maker and client. Ideally there should be a good fit between client’s expectations and the style of the model they are given. A good match means an outcome that everyone is satisfied with.

It is not always easy starting a new relationship with a model maker. Custom work is exactly that. There is often no previous example in a portfolio of exactly what the outcome will be. There is an element of risk involved. That’s another reason why once a client finds a reliable, skillful and ethical model builder, it pays to stick with them over time. KiwiMill strives to be that “go to” model shop; a company you can come back to for the same quality execution each and every project.

model maker model maker model maker model maker model maker

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Model Makers and Versatility

Sometimes I like to highlight an example of what makes professional model makers such a versatile group of crafts people.

At KiwiMill, we don’t specialize in a particular type of scale model. Many of our models are found at trade shows – representing such a diverse range of products and industries that it would be nearly impossible to list them all. Our model makers build stunning architectural pieces for sales offices. Our shop produces museum dioramas, many of which are meticulously researched historical models. Product models are built, accurate enough to be used in print ads when the real product has yet to come off the production line. Our model makers craft medical models that are used for sales and educational purposes. We also have made our fair share of hands on training models which are known for their ability to withstand repeated demonstrations and handling.

There is a saying around the shop that there is no object that cannot be modeled, given enough information, time, financial resources and materials. And, no, our model makers don’t need to have experience making a particular object. Once you master the underlying principles of model making, the knowledge can be applied in any situation, with any object that needs to be replicated.

Being able to model any object known to man is an impressive display of versatility. But hanging around our model shop the past few days would have offered yet another example of the breadth of talent necessary to succeed as a custom model maker. Any guesses on what was being built?

Crates. Massive sized wood crates. I’ve mentioned it before that many of our larger models have custom-made crates built to transport them to customers and to trade shows. While smaller models are often nestled in Pelican cases that can be wheeled or carried on planes with ease, larger ones require crates. Occasionally we have larger metal and wood crates custom crafted for clients that still want the ease of a road case, but their model is too odd sized for off the shelf cases. Most times, though, an over-sized model requires a custom wood crate. Our model makers build these, and then “jig” the insides with foam inserts that house the model safely.

Take a look at the huge crate being built this week:

model maker

 

model maker

 

model maker

 

model maker

 

model maker

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3D Printed Parts from Recent Projects

Check out this collection of 3D printed parts from recent jobs. KiwiMill uses an Objet 3D printer to create 3D printed pieces.

Our scale models are never completely 3D printed. The resin used in 3D printing is durable, but still works best in combination with other materials like ABS, brass, acrylic or tooling board.

Parts that are good candidates for 3D printing in our shop are those which are intricate, relatively small and fairly detailed. It makes sense to create larger, simpler, bulkier parts by other methods.

Below are pictures of recently developed 3D printed parts:

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Thankful for Model Makers

Model Maker

Occasionally I like to take time out to acknowledge the work that model makers do, both here at KiwiMill and elsewhere. I spend most days in a support role at the model shop and I tend to take for granted what takes place every day. Then I talk to someone outside of the profession and realize it’s a pretty unique job.

Custom model makers build something different for each project they take on. In the shop right now, we have a hand-built 1:14 construction vehicle, a display stand with printed coats of armor, an oil well site, heating element models, a bread board design of a toy, a propane tank model and a vapor absorption machine.

Many of the models are for trade show use, sales or development, some for personal display and still others for teaching and instruction. Each one comes with its own unique needs that dictate how the model will be built.

Our model makers figure out the purpose of each model and then decide from there how to go about the build. Sometimes our model makers are given engineering drawings, sometimes simply a photograph. Often our model makers take pictures themselves of the real life object they need to replicate. Recently we had the real life object driven right to our parking lot for pictures!

Model makers need to know enough about each product, process, machine, landscape or structure to replicate what it looks like. Often they need to know what it looks like on the inside, such as with a cutaway model, and sometimes they must make it operate like the real item. That’s a lot of knowledge to accumulate for a 6 week build. Only to start all over again from scratch with the next project.

Getting to know each real word object intimately, in a short amount of time, is just one aspect of the model maker’s job. Engineering the model comes next. It’s not as simple as rebuilding it exactly as it was designed at the manufacturing stage. A model is built using its own unique principles. It is a representation of a real life object, not an exact design.

After the model design stage, materials and fabrication methods need to be chosen. A model maker, again, knows a lot about a wide range of materials and their properties. The same goes for fabrication methods. The tools in our shop are incredibly varied. CNC routers mix with table saws; 3D printers exist alongside a drill press and a lathe.

Knowing how to operate machines and hand tools safely and effectively is important. Being aware of how different materials react to each other – and the solvents used to bond them – is crucial. Once built and assembled, a well stocked paint booth and expert application of pigment allows our model makers to apply the finishing touches to a quality model.

It makes for exciting and varied work. Model makers have a willingness to tackle new projects. They need to be able to apply previous experience, and lessons learned, to a new challenge. Model makers are adaptable and resourceful.

Even as I write this, I can hear two model makers discussing electrical engineering for one of their latest projects that requires remote control movement. Today I am thankful to be in a work atmosphere with so much talent, knowledge and willingness to learn new things.

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Scale Model Specialization – Is It a Good Thing?

scale model

Some scale model shops specialize in particular types of models. Architectural model making is a common type of specialization, as well ship building or airplanes, here in the United States. Model trains would be another example of builders focusing on one specific genre.

KiwiMill, like many of today’s scale model shops, has chosen to market to a variety of industries in need of custom model designs. Custom model requests may come from the military, land developers, manufacturers, advertising agencies, product developers, private collectors, the medical field, museum and exhibit companies. Really, the possible sources for clients are endless.

Along with the variety of industries that require scale models, there are various types of models which are commissioned. Trade show models, cut-aways, display models, working models, training models, product models, prototypes and sales models are a few examples of the types of models requested by clients. The purpose of the model – what it is being used for – drives the type of model required, which then informs the model maker as to how to go about the build.

While specialization in a particular type of scale model building has its advantages – stocking materials, investment in fabrication methods, model maker training – at KiwiMill we believe a broad approach is more advantageous. Part of the allure of model making is its custom nature. Master model makers often thrive on the variety and challenge of each new job. Sameness is the antithesis of what many custom model makers are looking for in their work environment. Our model makers work best when presented with something new to build each project.

Providing the variety of custom model work that our team thrives on can be a challenge. Marketing to such a wide range of potential customers is daunting. Supplying the machines, tools, software and technology to build all types of custom scale 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 fabric or tiny plastic footballs. A little bit of waste in regards to material left overs from previous jobs is to be expected.

Assembling a team of model makers who have the talent, training and abilities to make all kinds of models is important. It hasn’t been difficult for our scale model shop to find the combination of attributes that allow for creations of great depth and breadth. Some of our model makers have over 20 years experience with architectural models. Others have experience with 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.

The toughest part about deciding to build all types of custom models and not 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 varied 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 known to society can be replicated. It’s impossible to have examples to show for every request made. Reassuring customers that we can build a model of a product that we have never encountered before is part of our job.

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. Not only are our model makers capable of making all types of models, representing all types of industry; they thrive on it.

 

 

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The Difference Between Professional Model Makers and Hobbyists

model maker

The main difference between professional model makers and hobbyists?

It’s not necessarily talent. Many model maker hobbyists make BEAUTIFUL models.

It’s not access to specialized, expensive equipment and tools. A hand-built model, when done right, can be very polished looking and precise.

It’s not the materials used either – anyone has access on the internet to quality supplies.

It’s not even that professional model makers get a pay check. Hobbyists have been known to make money from their projects.

The biggest division is time. Professional model makers always work under deadlines – often very tight deadlines in the corporate world. The pressure can be fairly intense. A high quality replica needs to be built accurately and quickly to meet a client’s expectations and then it’s on to the next one.

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How Long Does a Custom Model Job Take?

custom model

Part of quoting custom model work is determining how long the project will take to build. KiwiMill gives an estimated completion time in each quote. The time it takes to complete a custom model is based on a number of factors.

The number one factor influencing project length is client need. Many of our projects have to be finished in the shortest period of time possible. There are deadlines for trade shows, sales presentations, corporate meetings and museum openings. Therefore, one of the first questions we ask our clients, after figuring out the purpose of the model, is when and where they need it delivered.

Meeting the client’s deadline is of the utmost importance. Before a job is accepted it has to be agreed upon that the project can be completed in the given time-frame. No client will be expected to pay for a scale model that fails to meet its deadline.

As each custom job, by nature,  is different from the previous, figuring out how many hours will go into a build is a complex process. KiwiMill does this by estimating the amount of time needed to complete each step of the project – from material acquisition,  design time, fabrication, to assembly and finish – then figuring out how many model makers are available to work on it.

Once we make the commitment to a project deadline, everything possible is done to make it happen. Often this involves long days, over time and weekends. Sometimes it means a model will have expedited shipping (agreed upon ahead of time with the client). Whatever it takes to get the job done on time, and with high standards of quality, is the goal.

When there is not a hard deadline to work toward, the length of a project is still determined by estimating the number of hours each part of the project will take, divided by the number of model makers available under “normal” working conditions. The project length is usually quoted in weeks. It typically does not start until the information needed for the build are supplied by the client, along with a deposit where applicable.

When a quote is given, the completion time is based on the current work load in the shop. Our production supervisor schedules simultaneous jobs, and assigns project managers to each one. If you happen to need a model when there are fewer jobs currently scheduled, then the completion time will be shorter. Likewise, if you choose to have a model made during a very busy time period, the build time will be longer. By sharing this information upfront with the client, before a project is agreed upon, there are no surprises or disappointment.

Most clients understand that the building of a custom model is an artistic endeavor which does not follow fixed steps found in many other manufacturing processes. Each model is unique, as are the materials and fabrication methods that go into a build. In spite of its unique nature, model makers understand the expectation that the final product needs to be finished on time, every time. It’s the nature of the profession that most custom model projects will have tight deadlines, sometimes even highly unrealistic ones.

 

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Professional Model Making Skills

Professional Model Making

    • Visualize in three dimensions.
    • Attention to minute detail.
    • Curiosity about how things work.
    • Thorough researcher.
    • Problem solving on the fly.
    • Precise measurements.
    • Understanding of mechanics.
    • Hand-eye coordination.
    • Advanced fine motor skill.
    • Knowledge of materials and their properties.
    • Artistic sensibility.
    • Focus under pressure.
    • Computer drawing ability.
    • Patience.
    • Experience with machine operations.

 

 

 

 

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Scale Model Suppliers

scale model shop

 

Like a lot of companies, scale model shops rely on other businesses to supply them with the materials necessary to fabricate the products they sell.

Custom models require a vast array of materials in order to be built. Numerous types of plastic, wood, rubber, foam, metal – even cloth- are used to create scale models. Then there’s the glue, hardware, and sometimes welding material, that is needed to fasten parts together. Finally there are the finishing touches – paint, vinyl wraps, decals etc…

Unlike many other businesses, a  custom model shop can’t always go to a set list of suppliers. Projects vary too much from job to job as to what materials are going to be needed. One scale model job may require a 12 inch diameter plastic sphere, another job a sheet of Ren board and yet another, hundreds of scale trees.

Model makers try to stay stocked up on particular materials that are used more frequently, but there are so many one-off jobs that bits and pieces from past projects end up being the largest  surplus in a model shop.

It can be challenging to develop a relationship with outside suppliers when new ones are regularly being sought based on the unique material needs of each particular project. Consistent relationships with material suppliers are important, though, as reliability is a crucial component of the exchange.

Knowing what’s in stock at a particular supplier and how quickly it ships are essential, along with price and quality issues. When a scale model shop quotes a particular project,  materials are figured out ahead of the build, and a time frame must be communicated to the client. These factors hinge on our suppliers and their ability to provide materials on a consistent basis.

Sometimes this dependency on suppliers can threaten to hold up a job. Because model makers are resourceful and creative by nature, a different approach using different materials and fabrication methods can often be substituted when this occurs. No company wants to let their clients down in terms of a final product and delivery date because of supplier issues.

A quality model shop makes sure it has as much stock as possible on hand to start a job, a reliable list of suppliers for additional material, and a system in place for quickly seeking out new sources. In the end it is the model maker’s on-the-fly decision-making and ability to change course in the middle of a project that keeps a delivery schedule on course even if all these other safe guards fall short.

 

 

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What’s In a Custom Model Quote?

model making

Like most scale model shops, KiwiMill prepares free-of-charge custom model quotes to anyone inquiring about a project, big or small. Sometimes we give ballpark figures over the phone or email, based on basic information about model purpose, design, size and detail level. These quick estimates can be given for model projects that are similar to ones we have done in the recent past. Initial rough estimates can help identify whether there is a sufficient budget to proceed with a formal written quote.

Most custom scale model inquiries go through a lengthier process to determine the costs involved.  First, there’s an exchange of ideas and information with the client, then a bit of research and brainstorming, culminating in a formal, written quote. The quote usually spells out what will be provided by the model makers – over all design, materials, functionality, details, accessories, finishes, and any mounting, bases and crating options included. It also addresses timing and what is required from the client to start the job in terms of data and initial financial investment.

Before generating a formal quote, our sales staff addresses the inquiry:  receiving the request, asking clarifying questions, and collecting any drawings, photos or additional documentation provided by the client. The more information that can be gathered about a project, the more detailed and accurate the quote will be. This initial exchange goes very quickly, as the goal is to get the project in the hands of our model makers to assess as soon as possible.

KiwiMill likes to connect potential projects with a model maker fairly early on in the quote process. Talking to an actual model maker has benefits for both the client and the model shop. First, a model maker can help clarify the scope of the project. By talking with a client, our model makers are able to understand what the model is required to do, and in many cases, help determine what the best approach is to meeting 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 the client’s needs and budget.

Secondly, our model makers can begin thinking about how they would go about the build of a custom model as they talk with the client about their 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 in terms of  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 detailed quote can be prepared after the project is defined, the accompanying documents are studied, availability of materials are researched and fabrication methods are decided upon. This 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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