Tag Archives: scale model

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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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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Scale Model Prices

model maker

Scale Models and Prices

Taken from our website FAQ page:

How much does a scale model cost? This is the #1 question asked by all clients.  Unfortunately there is no “set price” for a scale model.  The way we work is this; we meet with the client until we are satisfied that we have a good idea of what it is they want.  Then we sit down with our staff and talk about the project to determine the best way to create what the client wants. We discuss materials, processes, tools required, and finally how much time the job will take.  With this information, we prepare a detailed quote for the client based on estimated time and materials cost.  This fixed price quote assumes no changes to the scope after the job is started.  Additional work due to changes in design are quoted separately.

On the subject of how much it costs… One thing we suggest to clients is that once you have an idea of what you want built, figure out how much you want to spend on the scale model.  We will often ask clients what their budget for the project is.  This question might seem strange and a little like the poker equivalent of “showing your hand” in the middle of the game but there is a good reason for it.  When we quote a job it is based on time and materials estimated as accurately as possible. There is no magic to it, it’s all just numbers. 

The reason why we ask about your project budget is this; Imagine you tell us you want a half scale model of a XYZ-123 with full interior detail and a working articulated motivator oscillator arm and you tell us you have a budget of $2,000.00.  Now anyone familiar with the XYZ-123 knows that a half scale model of this fine fictional example of a machine simply cannot be built on that budget, but armed with the knowledge of how much you want to spend we might be able to suggest alternatives.  How about a ¼ scale cutaway model showing the most important interior areas and not the less important areas? Maybe you can live without the articulated motivator oscillator arm?  It is to our advantage to work within your budget rather than just say,  “Sorry, it can’t be done for that price.”

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A Different Approach to the Same Truck Model

Nearly two years ago, KiwiMill built a model of a five ton FMTV armored cab truck model with a specialized medical hospital payload. The model was 1/10th scale with the truck about 36″ long. It was completely hand-built for trade show use, with a brass frame and numerous brass details. The cab had separately applied bolt head and hinge details on laser etched acrylic armor panels.

military truck scale modelmilitary truck scale modelmilitary truck scale model

Recently the model shop was asked to make a second FMTV truck, in 1/20th scale. Having acquired a 3D printer during the interim, KiwiMill approached the build somewhat differently the second time around. Many detailed parts that were built by hand originally, were drawn on the computer and made with the Objet 3D printer, precisely and quickly. Soldered brass was still used for strength and longevity. The fabric tent design was altered a bit as well.

military truck scale modelmilitary truck scale modelmilitary truck scale model

There is no one right way to make a scale model. Approaches vary depending on the materials and fabrication methods available, as well as the particular preferences of the model maker. Specific client requests may factor in, and of course, budget and time constraints. Skilled model makers adapt and adjust to new technology, continuously honing and  improving on their techniques.

Something that doesn’t change in the profession: the purpose of the scale model will always drive the fabrication method and materials used, while the quality of the finished product will determine if the chosen methods were successful.

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FL Smidth Industrial Model

Industrial Model

This mobile stacking conveyor is part of a system of conveyors that is used in the mining industry to continuously stack mined material. To demonstrate the immense scale of this machine, FLSmidth commissioned a 1:75th scale industrial model for trade shows and client visits.

Industrial Model

This was our very first project involving a model that was made of 95% 3D printed material. Drawings were created in Inventor for days. The 3D printer grew parts. They were cleaned and sorted. The model was painstakingly pieced together. Brass etched railings were added, as well as a conveyor belt depicting material being moved up it. A pick up truck was added (slightly bigger than matchbox size) for scale.

Industrial Model

Industrial Model

Industrial Model

Industrial Model

Lately, our model makers have chosen to pack our most delicate scale models in a custom-made foam and cardboard enclosure, before placing it in yet another layer of foam that lines the Pelican cases we often use.

packing a scale model

packing a scale model

packing a scale model

packing a scale model

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Intricate Build of Manifold Trailer Industrial Model

This industrial model of a Manifold Trailer for Forum Energy Technologies involved extensive use of our 3D printer. The result was stunning detail, accuracy, and with the addition of brass structure, great strength.

KiwiMill model makers were very pleased with this attempt to create a model primarily of 3D printed parts that were then assembled into the finished product.

 

 

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Non-Disclosure Agreements in Model Making

NDA form - model making

Often times in the model making business we are asked to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with a client. NDA’s are legal agreements that give protection and reassurance that the information exchanged during a model build will not be shared, or disclosed, with a third-party. The document is usually initiated, or provided by the client (although we have our own generic version we offer) and is often the first step in the quote solicitation process.

Detailed diagrams, CAD drawings, measurements, blue prints, photographs, descriptions and other data are being given to our model makers in order to facilitate the fabrication of a highly accurate and realistic replication of a product or idea. It is important that our clients feel certain that the exchange of information be used for the sole purpose of providing a quality model that meets or exceeds their specific requirements.

Non-disclosure agreements, sometimes referred to as confidentiality agreements, can cover a wide variety of items that are to be kept confidential and may include such things as customer lists, business practices and financial information, along with the more typical documents that are shared with model shops in order to complete a scale model project. The document also specifies the disclosure period to be covered, the length of time the agreement is binding and the exclusions to what needs to be kept confidential. Exclusions usually refer to information that is publicly available and that which has been obtained through other sources.

Another common portion of an NDA is the need to exercise reasonable efforts to keep the shared information secure and to limit its exposure only to those people who need to know it in order to complete the job.

The reasons for NDA’s are as varied as the terms covered in their pages. An  obvious circumstance is when we make a prototype of someone’s patented idea. Often we suggest the NDA ourselves with inventors, knowing that this is an important first step in the process of discussing their innovation.

Frequently our model shop deals with military clients who require additional levels of security. ITAR is a group of government regulations pertaining to defense-related information, services and material. For national security purposes ITAR controlled projects cannot be shared with non-U.S. citizens. Sometimes the engineering information of the project is ITAR controlled, but the end product is not, which means we can share, for instance, a picture of the finished model on our website.

Beyond NDA’s and ITAR controlled projects, there are clients who simply ask us not to share the finished model or the fabrication process on our website, blog or other promotional materials. Often it is simply a matter of timing. Some client wants to keep a new product private until it is officially unveiled at a particular sales event. Another example would be a prop or scale model that we have provided for an exhibit firm, where the design rights reside with them.

In lieu of a formal agreement, KiwiMill has a general policy of not sharing a finished product until it has been shipped and received by our client. Also, if the model is to be unveiled at a trade show, or introduced at a particular sales event, we wait until that event has passed before we publicly post it. While many clients welcome the publicity, and understand the need for self-promotion, we understand that there are a myriad of reasons we may be asked not to divulge finished work.

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Shipping Containers Find New Uses Worldwide

trade show model

Shipping containers are one of those items you take for granted in life. The intermodal container or “sea can” is a reusable steel box with standard measurements that transports all types of goods around the world. Their universal appeal comes from the ability to transfer from sea to rail to road without having to take the contents out along the way.

There are tens of millions of these containers world-wide. Most of the containers are 8 ft wide by 8 ft high. Lengths vary from 20 footers to 56 feet long, with corrugated steel walls and a door at one end. They can be stacked on top of each other – all 8 corners have fasteners – and can carry over 20 tons of product each. Each container is marked with a BIC code to identify ownership.

Because of their relative ubiquitousness, and the fact that it takes so much energy to melt down 8,000 pounds of steel, these containers are being given second lives. An entire industry has sprung up with creative ways to reuse these containers that would otherwise be languishing in shipyards at the end of their useful shipping lives. Twenty footers in particular are in plentiful supply, as shippers have moved on to larger sizes over the years.

The most obvious second use for a shipping container is housing. Many architects have created eye-catching, unique urban designs  with the 20 foot container as their building block of choice. Other companies are focusing on 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath designs for USA consumers who find the reusable aspect appealing & want lots of square footage. Even more practical is the use of one or two containers to make reasonably sized homes for places and people around the world who need or prefer a smaller footprint.

The use of shipping containers as modular units in the building process is seen as an upcycling of materials. Not only does it cost less to adapt these units than it does to melt them down for materials, but leaving the units in their original state provides a stronger structure than conventional housing frames. Not just limited to housing, containers are being used for office space, retail buildings, museums and even works of art.

An off shoot of the intermodal shipping container is the expandable shelter concept. These modular units are used for deployment to situations world-wide that can benefit from ready-made, pop open, adaptable shelters. Shipped just like an intermodal container, these spaces then open up, or expand, to offer support services in the event of natural disasters or other types of emergencies. An excellent example of this are the ESS units offered by SAIC.

Intermodal containers are increasingly the focus of businesses looking to create a unique shelter out of a familiar design. Their modular shape, inherent portability, structural soundness and availability make these containers an intriguing concept to design from and build with.

Click Here for an interesting pictorial of shipping containers that are lost at sea.

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Cutaway Scale Model for Training

cutaway model

Our client, FMC Technologies, requested a working model of a gate valve that would assist with maintenance training. Talking with model maker, Scott, it was determined that the best way to serve this purpose would be with a 1/2 scale cutaway model that would pull apart and reveal interior components that could be manipulated. Once the general concept was agreed upon, our team discussed the build in general, and the associated costs and time frame, and a detailed quote was written up.

cutaway model

Once the job was awarded, model makers Mike, Dean and Scott came up with a plan of action including a list of materials, fabrication techniques and assemblies, along with a break down of each task and its associated steps. The over all design of the model would include an exterior shell opening and closing with the use of magnets, a working wheel that would move the gate up and down, and numerous interior pieces that could be assembled and reassembled.

cutaway model

FMC provided 3D geometry which was used to create the various parts of the model. Some parts were 3D printed.

3D printed model part

Others were formed from  machined  tooling board. An aluminum rod with threads was created on the CNC lathe. Metal gate sleeves were formed on a press brake, and some off-the-shelf hardware was added as well. As parts were formed, they were attached to each other as required. Magnets were imbedded in the outer shell.

model making

model maker

Most of the parts were then primed and painted. Various bright colors were used for the individual parts to enhance the training process.

scale model

The whole model was assembled and disassembled multiple times to assure its functionality and durability. The wheel was tested to make sure it moved the gate up and down on the rod correctly. The model was taken for professional photography, then carefully packed and shipped to Canada to our esteemed client.

Click Here for a slideshow of the model build on YouTube.cutaway model

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Model Maker How To: Martini Glass Display Model

Making a Martini Glass

display model

Everyone needs to know how to create their own display model of a martini glass, don’t you think?

What you need for this project:

  •  clear & fluorescent acrylic
  •  ren board
  •  plywood & bolts
  •  wood dowels
  •  laser cutter
  •  lathe
  •  band saw
  •  disc sander
  •  drill press
  •  oven
  •  paint
  •  solvent

Model Maker, Scott, started with a piece of plywood, cutting an 8 inch diameter circle in it to form a frame for the lip of the martini glass. He then clamped a piece of clear acrylic into the frame using bolts.

The frame was given legs to lift it off the surface. This gave room for the slumping action to take place underneath. The frame was placed in the oven to be heated.

It came out of the oven with a typical parabola shape to it. Immediately a wooden dowel was pushed down into the center of it while still hot to form the more conical shape of a martini glass. The dowel was held in place until the shape cooled.

While the glass shape was still in its frame it was brought to the laser cutter. The laser was used to cut the martini glass out, following the inside edge of the 8 inch diameter frame.

The base of the martini glass was slumped in a similar manner. Less heat was applied because the slump was much shallower on the base.

Clear acrylic tubing was then put in the lathe and tapered to match the curve of both the top and base of the martini glass. Solvent bonded the three pieces together.

The olive was made from ren board and shaped on the lathe. A hole was drilled through the center of the olive for the “tooth pick” using the drill press.

The pimento was a strip of fluorescent acrylic heated flat in the oven. It was folded over and stuffed into the core of the olive. Then the olive was primed and painted.

Finally, a wooden dowel was tapered with the disc sander and thread through the hole in the olive and placed into the glass.

Voilà!

At this point our model maker went home and fixed himself a real martini.

Click HERE for a picture of the martini glass on display at CES2011, Las Vegas.

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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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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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Trade Show Season 2012

The 2012 Trade Show Season is in full swing. Trade shows offer a unique opportunity to generate new leads, launch a new product design and strengthen relationships with existing clients. It’s not too late to plan new ways of meeting these goals by bringing more prospects in to your booth, and creating excitement about what you have to offer once they are there.

More industries are turning to scale model makers to build the center piece for their trade show booth. There are numerous reasons for turning to custom models to sell products. The actual item may be too cumbersome, over-sized, tiny or delicate to display at multiple trade shows. It might lack the visual impact that is called for in the highly charged atmosphere of trade show exhibitors. Emphasizing particular product features may be necessary to stand out from the competition.

While in recent years various multi media has been added to showcase a product’s potential, nothing quite matches the impact that a 3D replica provides. Prospects want to see and touch the product. They want to walk around it and view it from various angles; examine up close how it functions. Custom scale models give a tangible understanding of what is being offered in a format that everyone can easily understand.

Utilizing the newest techniques,  model makers can add features that help a product sell itself. Cut away designs, LED lighting, clear bodies that show interior components all add interest and perspective that allow the product to tell its own story. A working model can even show a product in action. Using electronics, the model can be made to function like the real thing. These special features make for an extra engaging display, making it easier for the sales team to demonstrate the product’s advantages.

A scale model display, complimented by multi media ( pictures,music, animation or videos) makes for a powerful impact. Trade Show participation is a big investment that needs to pay off in terms of exposure and ultimately, sales. It makes sense to use the most powerful tools possible to attract and focus potential clients on your product in a way that leaves a lasting impression.

photo credit: EDubya

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Production Processes for Multiple Scale Models

Custom scale models are often one time only builds. Model makers are given an object, picture or design, they draw up the parts in 3D and set about constructing the item. Whether the finished product ends up in a museum, sales office, board room or trade show booth, it is often a one-of-a-kind model that won’t be repeated.

Occasionally, though, a model shop is given as assignment to make multiple scale models of the same design. Sometimes these are requested all at once, and other times a model shop will repeat models on an as-needed basis.

It is these types of projects that turn the model shop into a temporary production facility of sorts. A systematic approach is developed to create multiple parts in an efficient, orderly fashion. Using fabrication techniques such as casting, CNC milling, 3D printing and lasering, multiples of the same part are created.

When it comes time to assemble parts for duplicate models, jigs are designed. A jig is a tool used to control the location or motion of another tool. The jig’s primary purpose is to provide repeatability, consistency and efficiency.

Creating multiple scale models of the same object requires certain upfront approaches that would be unnecessary for a one-time build. Duplicate models are still custom-built, but fabrication techniques and production processes are controlled and streamlined in order to create a consistent product, over and over, in a reasonable time-frame.

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