Tag Archives: scale model

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.

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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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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.

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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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Brainstorming a New Project – How does a model maker get started?

model maker

One of the more appealing characteristics of model making is the excitement generated around each new project. Most model makers  appreciate the fact that their work is varied. Each assignment brings with it research, skills, materials and building techniques that were not necessarily used on the last job. Each time a model shop moves on to the next project, it’s a fresh start.

So exactly how does a model maker approach an assignment once the sales staff brings in a new job? First, as much information as possible is gathered about the model. Most importantly, what is the purpose of the model? What will it be used for? Sales tool, developer’s presentation, instructional or educational purposes, visual impact? How many models are needed? How big or tiny will the models be? (Scale).What level of detail does the client want shown on the model?

This beginning stage of the project also means gathering up as much information as possible about the physical details of the item being modeled. This can include photographs, sketches, blueprints, 3D drawings, or the real object itself. It often involves internet research, interpretation and forensic-like piecing together of missing details.

As this information gathering stage is being completed, the model maker begins to visualize the finished product in his head as a whole. What will it look like when completed? Then he mentally takes the model apart piece by piece and begins to imagine what materials will be used to make each part. Reversing the process, the model maker reassembles the project in his head, determining how each piece will be fastened together – glue, rivets, solder. Brainstorming meetings, sketches or detailed CAD drawings might be used to aid this pre-assembly/reassembly stage.

Then the model maker has to think about the order the parts should be made in. What sub-assemblies need to be built? How will the parts be grouped for  painting? Once the individual assembly jobs are assigned to different model makers, it’s time to get started on the actual building of the model. Active construction is what model makers are best at, but throughout the process, a well trained mind for research, 3D visualizations, and problem solving skills is essential.

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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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Industrial Products Make Excellent Scale Models

A scale model of an industrial product allows a company to demonstrate its machinery or piece of large equipment using a hands on approach. Having a scale model sets your product apart from the competition that’s relying on a two-dimensional display. A color brochure of a product, or even a video demonstration will not deliver the impact a scale model does. A 3 dimensional model communicates effectively, answering specific questions about your product. It can also highlight the particular features or strengths that you want emphasized. Plus, it’s just plain cool to have a miniature model of your product on hand.

Often an industrial process or piece of machinery is too large, complex or cumbersome to travel between trade shows. A model, on the other hand, is portable while still being instantly recognizable and understood as a replica of your product.  No need to worry that the potential client cannot visualize your product accurately from a 2 dimensional drawing or photograph. While nothing can substitute for the real product, a quality replica can be a highly effective alternative. Its physical presence provides direct understanding about what you are offering and translates into a more positive sales experience.

At KiwiMill, our model makers can work with you to provide an accurate, visually pleasing, detailed-as-you-want scale model in a user-friendly scale. Specific features can be emphasized on the model, making it easier for your sales staff to illustrate your product’s uniqueness. Duplicate models can be constructed for multiple shows. Replicas are a cost-effective, engaging option when bringing along the real product is not feasible. No one should go into a presentation without this sales tool in hand!

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Quick Scale Model Build

IMG_4949 scale model scale model scale model scale model

Our most recent scale model build went from zero to 100 in 2 weeks. It’s not the usual time frame for a large-scale model such as this, but sometimes we are able to accommodate a special client request.

Materials were ordered (some of them overnight delivery) and 3D plans were drawn up for many of the parts. Then machines were programmed to start fabricating parts. This included our CNC router, CNC mill, laser cutter and 3D printer. A large metal box was cut, bent and welded at a partner shop down the street from KiwiMill.

While the machines were spitting out scale model parts, our model makers got to work hand crafting the rest of the components, using acrylic and modeling board. A base was hand-built out of plywood and laminated black, as well as a shipping crate.

As parts came off the mill, laser, router and printer, they needed to be finished, primed and painted. On the final day these parts were assembled into a scale model of a skid machine. The model was attached to the base, crated and out the door on day 10. Phew!

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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:

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Building a Scale Model for Trade Show

Scale models for trade show have many different uses. They attract attention to a booth by providing a focal point that potential customers can gather around. Everyone loves scale models. Whether they are static or motorized, full-scale or miniature, cutaway or exact replicas. Trade show models are naturally interactive and informative.

In many situations, the model will replace the actual product at the show. It may be smaller than the actual product, thus easier and less expensive to transport. Or larger than the actual product so that details can be appreciated up close. Multiple versions of a product can be represented by scale models, as well.

In the case of this latest scale model built for a trade show, KiwiMill created 1:3 scale replicas of a  fuel monitoring cabinet that debuted at AHR Expo earlier this year.  The scale model versions are lighter, and a bit smaller and easier to transport than the real products. There is something fascinating about capturing the essence of an industrial product in model form.

The cabinets of the model were made of stainless steel sheet metal. The piping was constructed from real plumbing pieces. The gauges were 3D printed with vinyl label faces. The motors and valves were also 3D printed.

See for yourself:

trade show scale model

trade show scale model

trade show scale model

trade show scale model

trade show scale model

 

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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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Oil Industry Scale Models

Oilfield sites contain a vast supply of equipment to safely and effectively extract, contain and transport this raw material. Consider having a scale model made of your oil industry product to help sell its abilities and features.
KiwiMill can build a scale model of any piece of  oil industry equipment, including:
  • pipe racks
  • drill pipes
  • traveling blocks
  • Oil Industry Modelsfuel and water tanks
  • mud pits
  • stand pipes
  • draw works
  • conductor pipes
  • bore holes
  • bits
  • swivels
  • rotary hoses
  • turntables
  • crowns
  • crown blocks
  • cranes
  • degassers
  • blowers
  • auxiliary rig machinery
  • elevators
  • offshore rigs
  • shale shakers
  • mud tanks
  • mud agitators
  • mud pumps
  • safety valves
  • gate valves
  • coring equipment
  • cooling equipment
  • derricks
  • bucking units
  • compressors
  • drill collars
  • blowout preventers
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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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Ask The Model Maker!

Model Maker

Ask the model maker: What burning question do you have about model making? What is something you want to know about model makers, model making, or scale models? It can be a technical question, a price inquiry, a personal question or a how-to . Anything goes.

Leave your question in the comments section and it will be answered by a model maker (through me) by the end of the week.

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