The CNC mill is churning out pieces for our latestmodel shop project. Parts were drawn in AutoCAD or Rhino for a model radar, then processed through VisualMILL. The professional model maker needs to play the role of machinist at times and this program translates rough data about a part, telling the mill how to handle the material. Our vertical mill is digitally automated via computer numerical control (CNC) and while it is capable of 3D cutting, this particular project asked for 2D brass and aluminum parts. This hardier material was used to allow for soldering and screwing parts together, making the model durable enough for repeated trade show use.
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.