Category Archives: Shop News

House Model Prop for “How It’s Made” Television Program

KiwiMill just built a house model for Cavco to be used as a television prop for How It’s Made, on the Discovery Channel (Canada) and  Science Channel (USA).

This scale house model was created in less than a week and shipped to Canada in time for a taping of the show.  After the model is used in the TV episode it will serve as a sales model back at the home offices.

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CNC Router Built in the Model Shop

KiwiMill is very pleased to be using its new CNC router in our model shop. This piece of machinery adds greatly to our in-house capabilities. The bed is 4 x 10 ft, with 15 inches of Z travel, allowing for a wide variety of projects.

But the best part? It was designed and built entirely in our  scale model shop.  Our engineer and model designer, Dean, developed and built this piece of machinery over the winter, with wiring assistance from our owner, Derek.

Check out the pictures:

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Scale Model Donation for Habitat for Humanity

KiwiMill recently provided a scale model donation for Flower City Habitat for Humanity’s 2012 Roc Properties fundraising event.  We chose to support this worthy cause based on its motto, “a hand up, not a hand out.”

With donations of time, money and skills, homes are built in neighborhoods in need of rehabilitation. New home owners are asked to put 450 hours of sweat equity into the builds, and offered interest-free mortgages to purchase these houses in return.

By clustering these house builds in specific neighborhoods, the surrounding community benefits as well as the individual home owners. It has a rippling effect, and the City of Rochester becomes a better place to live and prosper in.

The event we sponsored is an annual Flower City Habitat fundraiser to share the mission of, and raise money for, the house building program. In addition to financial sponsorship, we were pleased to design, build and donate decorative scale models for the themed event, along with symbolic “keys” used to open prize chests.

Four City of Rochester icons were chosen for the scale model donation: The Chase Tower, the Times Square Building, the George Eastman House and the Frederick Douglass Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge. A total of 22 models were created for the evening’s event which took place at Artisan Works, on March 30, 2012.

 

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Is a 3D Printer Like Having an Extra Model Maker?

3D printer for model making shop

The model maker team here at KiwiMill is definitely pleased with the addition of our newest Objet 3D printer. While we jokingly refer to it as our extra employee – it is quite a miraculous technology – it’s worth noting the support systems needed to make it run, as well as its inherent limitations.

First comes the training necessary to operate, clean and maintain the printer itself. An initial inservice with the sales tech after purchase is a good starting point. Ongoing tech support provided by the manufacturer keeps things running smoothly in the long-term.

Material to run the 3D printer is a regular investment as well. The resin itself  is expensive, and to a lesser degree, the support material used to print each item. The resin is the actual plastic that a part is made out of, the support material is what fills in the empty spaces in the design as it prints layer by layer on the tray.

The human labor involved in 3D printing is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this particular fabrication technique. Three dimensional printers can give the impression that they take the place of  a model maker. After all, they are touted as machines capable of  growing parts overnight, sometimes even whole models. How true is this exactly?

Traditionally model makers have sat at work benches, or run machinery, cutting, carving and shaping materials to the specifications needed for a model part. This method is considered subtractive – the model maker must extract from a whole piece of material the parts necessary to assemble the model. This certainly takes time and a considerable amount of skill, rightfully earning the model maker’s status of master crafts person.

Innovations in the field of model making have introduced automated machines that will do the extracting for you. CNC (computer numerical control) machines guide a router, lathe or mill to carve out parts automatically. Three dimensional drawings have been programmed into the machine by a computer, to provide coordinates for the subtracting device. X and Y coordinates guide the machine back and forth and the Z coordinate tells the machine what up and down motions to make, thus creating a 3 dimensional part.

The 3D printer works a bit differently;  it takes a 3D drawing and prints it out in 2D layers. What the model maker must first do is take a CAD engineered drawing from the client and make it “water tight”. This means that all lines in the drawing need to be connected, or closed off. If only a 2D drawing is available, the mode maker must be able to draw it up in 3D. If only the original object exists, with no drawing, it can be scanned and made into a 3D drawing.

3D drawing scale model part3D printed part for scale model

Why does the printer need a 3D drawings when ultimately it will be printing it in 2D? How the 3D printer works is that it takes a 3D drawing from any drafting program and slices it into 2D cross-sections, printing each slice out, layer by layer and stacking them up into a three-dimensional object. The unique aspect of this method is that it is additive, not subtractive. The part is built up out of nothing, not extracted from an existing piece of material.

3D printed scale model part

Afer the original 3D draft has been prepared by the model maker and sent to the printer, it is true that the machine then grows the parts itself. This is the magical aspect of the process. A model maker can go home for the night while a part is being created. However, once the part is removed from the printer, it is not exactly ready to use. This is where additional labor is necessary to clean the part.

3D printed model part

Support material is the substance that takes the place of empty space in a 3D object, where it is needed to hold up the design as it builds upward. It acts as scaffolding for the object being printed. A layer of support material is laid down on the print tray as well, as a foundation, before any part of the actual object starts printing.

When an object is removed from the 3D printer, it is this support material that needs to be cleaned off the part. Depending on the shape or design of a part, it is the removal of support material that takes the majority of labor in the 3D printing process. Water jet spraying, chemical soaking, scraping and digging out support material from intricate pieces takes time and effort.  Sometimes there is so much support material covering a part, that it needs to be extracted out of it as if it were a piece of gold embedded in rock. Thus making 3D printing a bit of a subtractive method as well!

3D printed part for model maker

Once the part is cleaned, it needs to be primed, painted, and usually assembled with other parts to make a whole model.  We don’t often – if ever – print a model in its entirety.  The over all complexity and sophistication of most of our scale models demands greater levels of detail. They are nice supplemental parts to have, and free our model makers up to add the human artistry that gives our models their custom look.

3D printed parts for model maker

A 3D printer does not replace a model maker, as fun as it is to joke around with the notion.  The added technology requires our model makers to be better trained in 3D drafting: drawing, reading and fixing 3D computer files. It ‘s another fabrication choice, and hones the critical thinking skills that determine what parts will be printed, CNC machined, hand-built or crafted in yet another method. This blend of artistry, engineering and technology is making the model making field such an exciting place to be right now.

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Pinewood Derby Trophy Model!

 

Those of you who have spent any time with the Boy Scouts of America will be familiar with the Pinewood Derby race. This much-anticipated event takes place annually within the Cub Scouts community and is usually hosted by individual packs.

A child and his parent are given a block of wood, wheels and nails and asked to design and build their own car for the race. The car has weight and length restrictions and must be able to run on the track used by that particular scout pack.

An employee’s son belongs to Pack 9 Of Penfield, NY, and KiwiMill was asked to create an award for this year’s race. We were happy to supply the winning trophy model for this community event.

Congrats to Max – the winner of this year’s Pack 9 Pinewood Derby race.

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Meet Our KiwiMill Model Making Team

Recently we took the time to track down our amazing KiwiMill staff, take their pictures and write a little something about each of them. It’s a peek behind the men and women who live scale models every day.

Derek will tell you “I do stuff”. He’s being a tad modest. HTML code. Electro-mechanics. CAD drawing. Reverse engineering. IT stuff. He’s one of those people who doesn’t need to read directions on how to do something. He just does it. Is it any wonder that he’s the most sought after person at KiwiMill?

He also gives us our Long Term Vision. All while owning a second company and playing with his sons’ Legos®

 

Mike is our Industrial Designer. He understands how things function and has a keen eye for visual aesthetics. He’s a professor, and it shows in his patient ability to share his knowledge with others. An expert 3D designer, head of our 3D printing department, and lead developer at kiwiseed, Mike can take an idea from concept to reality with ease and style.

He’ll find the time to show you pictures of his adorable twin babies, too – just ask.

Joe has a degree in model making and has spent the last 20 years honing his skills in the field. His exacting precision, dedicated focus and ability to finish a job under duress make him indispensable. Ample knowledge of the various machines & tools of the trade give him breadth, but when it comes to creating and casting molds, this is the man to turn to.

He also makes the best lunch buddy in the shop, hand’s down.

Scott manages production, while remaining immersed in model construction itself. He brings an artist’s sensibility to the more technical aspects of model making, blending the ability to think in 3D with an intuitive feel for shape, form & texture. The resulting projects that leave the shop under his guidance have that elusive “something” that master model makers strive for: realistic detail that captures the essence of the subject matter.

If you come here to visit Scott, be sure to bring up politics. It’s his second favorite subject after model making.

 

Pam is awesome! Quite often, we give her a rough idea of what we want to see done and she figures out how to make it happen.

Not only does she make all the content for our outstanding website, she keeps our blog and Facebook pages updated with all of the excitement that goes on throughout the day at KiwiMill.

Checkout the blog she has made and you’ll see why we can’t do what we do without her. Everything there has been written, produced and directed exclusively by her.

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Model Shop Name Change

KiwiMillA&M Model Makers has been in existence as a scale model shop for half a century. While the owners, craftspeople, techniques, technology and even the company location have changed over time, the name has not.

Originally created from the names of its two founders, the moniker A&M served the company well through its former years on the West coast. Having moved to the East in the last decade, adding staff, square footage, equipment, advanced technology in the field, and absorbing another local scale model company’s talents, we felt it was time for a new identification.

Maybe the biggest reason for a name and logo change is our expansion of services. The company originally built models for the booming Texas oil industry of the time. With its West coast location it eventually focused on the aerospace industry. In recent decades that meant a specialization in satellites, and space craft models, as well as airplanes.

Today’s company looks quite different. Since moving to New York, our company has combined with another firm and expanded to include large numbers of trade show models of all types, military vehicles, architectural designs, museum pieces, topography, medical prototypes and training models.  We have experienced master model makers who specialize in each of these types of scale models.

With the addition of engineers and industrial designers on staff, are services now encompass all of the latest 3D technology. We even have a sister design service for product development and prototyping needs. Our in-house electronics team adds special effects to our models, including automation, lighting and sound.

Fabrication processes have expanded along with our knowledge base and equipment acquisition. Molding & casting, CNC machining, 3D printing, metal bending/punching have all been added to more traditional model making techniques, allowing for more variety, accuracy, speed and detail in our productions. Old world craftsmanship and cutting edge technology have melded beautifully in our shop to provide truly innovative services in the model making industry.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of the company. Our current team is well-balanced as far as skill sets, talented in their individual specialties and motivated to do quality work for their clients on every project. It seems like an appropriate time to unveil our new name, logo and company website:

www.KiwiMill.com

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New Fabrication Choices for Model Makers

scale model parts

With the addition of  3D printer technology, new in-house model fabrication options are available to model makers. Decisions need to be made about what fabrication method is best for building each model part. What parts should be printed, molded, CNC milled/laser cut, or created by hand? The use of all available technologies in the correct circumstances makes for an efficient, bustling shop, and quality model production. That’s the goal. Not to replace craftsmanship with machines, or to unnecessarily complicate the model building process with flashy new equipment.

Factors that need to be considered when determining fabrication method include; time, cost, accuracy of part, material being used, model type/usage,and the information available on the item being built.

The time constraints of any given project are a major consideration when determining what fabrication method to use to create a model, or its parts. Deadlines are often very tight and sometimes the initial decision to bid on a project will be influenced by how quickly it is needed and whether or not available fabrication methods (and resources) will get the model done on time. An automated machine like a CNC mill or laser may actually take longer to produce a part than hand building, but will use up less human resources in the process. How much available time needs to be balanced with the number of model makers assigned to the project and the length of time each part will take to be made using a particular method of construction.

Costs are often closely tied into time when determining what fabrication methods will be chosen. Time means money, and the amount of labour put into the job is a large part of any model price. Machines can make up for some of the costs in human labour, provided the money is there to buy and run the machine in the first place. Material costs for particular machines, such as the resin needed in a 3D printer, need to be taken into consideration as well.

Model makers need to determine how accurate a part needs to be on the model when deciding fabrication methods. Computer-programmed machining is more consistent and precise than hand building a part. This may or may not be a consideration in a given project. Sometimes a model is an artistic representation of an object, and extreme fidelity to the original design is unnecessary and unwanted.

The kind of material being used in the model will help drive the fabrication method. A 3D printer uses resin. A CNC mill can carve plastic, foam, steel, brass, wood or machinist board. A hand-made part can be rendered out of just about any material available to the model maker. Usually the type of model determines the material being used, and is determined by the model maker,  but occasionally the client will have a particular material request as well.

The type of model needed is one of the overriding factors when deciding on fabrication methods. What shape, size and quantity the model will be, as well as its purpose – display, trade show, instruction, sales or prototyping – influence the type of material used to create the model, as well as fabrication choices.

Depending on its shape, a model might be made through a subtractive method of taking away material such as a CNC mill,  while other shapes are more suited for an additive method of “growing” a part on a 3D printer. A milled part on the CNC machine needs to be flat on the bottom, no shape can be created underneath the part. This is not a problem with the 3D printer.  A completely flat part with an intricate design can be  cut on a CNC laser.

The over all scale, or size, of the model may rule out certain fabrication methods. Large parts need to be able to fit on the particular machine being utilized. The quantity of models required influences the construction. Multiple models of the same object can be well suited for mold making. A master model part is made and molded, then multiples are cast from the mold. Automated (CNC) machines in general are helpful for multiples due to their consistency over a hand-built part.

Intended model use will help establish what construction methods are used as well. If a model is going to be moved around frequently, such as trade show use,  durability and strength become important factors. This will affect materials used, fabrication, and even assembly methods to ensure a model that will stand up to repeated transport and handling. While a display model permanently housed in a protective glass case can be made of more delicate materials and finer fabrication methods, such as hand-building.

Finally, the information available to build the model will help ascertain the best fabrication method to use. If 3D files are available of the item to be built, that will lend itself better to CNC or 3D printing processes. If the model maker has only a picture or photograph to go by, it will likely be more efficient to build the model by hand, using a well-trained eye, than to try to draw the parts first in a computer program.

A well equipped model shop with a full complement of fabrication methods makes a model maker’s job more effective. Multiple factors are taken into consideration when determining which construction methods to use on any given project. Time constraints, costs, accuracy required, materials used, type of model, and information available about the item to be built all can influence this decision. Many of these factors are intertwined. Ultimately it is a model maker’s job to assess these options early on in the project and plan fabrication methods accordingly.

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60K Tunner Scale Model

In the shop right now is a project involving a 60K Tunner scale model. KiiwMill has built one in the past and is being asked to make another. Utilizing the shop of one of our associates, CLAD Industries, sheet metal is being formed for some of the parts of this aircraft loader.

The  loader is named in honor of William Henry Tunner (1906-1983), Lieutenant General in the United States Air Force. Known for his expertise in large-scale airlift operations such as the Berlin Airlift, his name was chosen for this piece of equipment in a 1997 industry naming contest.

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3D Printer in the Model Shop

We’re getting ready at the model shop for a new 3D printer. This machine will introduce additive processes for model making designed to increase flexibility and productivity.

Model making has traditionally been associated with a subtractive method of fabrication. Meaning, model parts are formed by taking something away from a material through carving, sculpting, cutting, sanding or  chopping.  These extracted parts are then glued together to form the whole model.

Additive methods of model fabrication do the opposite. Instead of sculpting a model out of material by taking away, an object is built up layer by layer. This additive process creates a 3D object from seemingly nothing.  A computer image of the desired part is programmed into the 3D printer.  The machine then creates a solid object by adding successive layers of material in the desired shape and form.

The additive method is fast and efficient, vastly reducing the amount of hand’s on work needed to create a model part. The subtractive method can be sped up as well with the addition of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines, making rote shaping and carving tasks more autonomous.

These technological advancements  are welcome additions to the model making shop. They cannot replace craftsmanship, experience and artistry. They’re meant to enhance the fabrication process, freeing up our model makers to put their energy and talents toward more essential and complex tasks.

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Young Person’s Visit to the Model Shop

young model maker

 As a visitor, you never know what to expect when you’re planning to enter a model shop facility. My first visit to KiwiMill I had no clue what to be ready for. I predicted there would be a couple of machines around, surrounded by workers wearing goggles sawing away at pieces of wood. Maybe you imagine an assembly line of drone-like workers painfully going through the motions of a day’s work. What I saw was much different from what I expected.

I attended one of the group meetings, where the crew discussed things like job offers, budget, deadline, and the tools that might be required for future jobs. Even though you might not understand all the words that these model makers use during meetings, you can see that they get down to every last detail, and that it’s fundamental for this crew to go over every detail, because they know that it’s all important.

I got to participate in packing up some of the models that the crew had created. Wrapping things in bubble wrap, gluing foam into boxes, and then taping them up doesn’t seem like a very hard job to do. Even though it may not be, you can see that the crew puts effort into making even their packages look presentable for their customers.

Every model maker is different: All model makers specialize in something. Something that they are the best at. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that they can’t do things that others can do, because they can. It just means that when there’s a job that focuses on a specific specialty, the boss will call on the expert to help by teaching others.

Overall, I learned a lot of things about model makers. I learned about their business world. I learned that they are very precise with their work, and do everything in their power to please their customers.

From what I’ve seen I think that all model making companies could take some tips from KiwiMill.

– Sam Symes, age 13.

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Progression of a NASA Spacecraft Model

The following pictorial shows the progression of a NASA spacecraft model build:

 

From the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission  website:

“The Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission is a Solar Terrestrial Probes mission comprising four identically instrumented spacecraft that will use Earth’s magnetosphere as a laboratory to study the microphysics of three fundamental plasma processes: magnetic reconnection, energetic particle acceleration, and turbulence. These processes occur in all astrophysical plasma systems but can be studied in situ only in our solar system and most efficiently only in Earth’s magnetosphere, where they control the dynamics of the geospace environment and play an important role in the processes known as ‘space weather.'”

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Honda Aircraft Site Model

site model

Just Shipped:  A  site model of the Honda Aircraft Headquarters, Research, and Production facility in  Greensboro, North Carolina, located at Piedmont Triad International Airport. This facility is home to the new HondaJet personal aircraft, scheduled for shipment in early 2012.

The site model, along with the aircraft itself, was unveiled this week at the OshKosh AirVenture Show .

The design of this particular site model was driven by our client’s request for exceptional attention to detail. To achieve this, our model makers were given  a multitude of data: aerial views, autoCAD drawings, PDF’s, ground level pictures and exact measurements for items such as:

  • air conditioning ducts
  • generators
  • HVAC units on the roof of the buildings
  • cooling towers

The scale of the model 1″:40′ was very small, which contributed to the over all impact of the finished product.

Take a look:

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Model with Working Parts

Our model makers have shipped out the asphalt plant model with working parts. Seven feet tall, with functionality, this model simulates the movements of an asphalt plant. Doors and chutes that operate in the real plant with hydraulic cylinders have been mimicked using 12v electric linear actuators. Augers and buckets in a real plant that run on gear motors have been simulated using miniature gear motors.

 

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