When response is needed quickly, SAIC’s Expandable Shelter System (ESS) is the solution for military, homeland security, law enforcement and commercial use. It’s a self-standing, self-contained, rugged and secure entry shelter that transports readily by rail, ship, aircraft or vehicle. Shippable and stackable at 8×20 ft, it expands to 20×24 ft, with approximately 400 square feet of space inside. It’s a space that can adapt and reconfigure to multiple uses such as communications center, field kitchen, medical facility or sleeping quarters. Each unit allows for self-sufficient electrical power, climate control and satellite communications. Multiple units can be strung together.
KiwiMill was given the task of building the scale model for this superior-designed shelter system. The scale model was built in 1/8 scale using sheet metal, acrylic and brass hinges for the main body with the addition of ren board, ABS plastic, brass tubing and evergreen strips for the generator. The key feature of this model is its functionality. It operates much like the real thing, doors opening and the shelter expanding in the same fashion as the actual shelter.
In the shop right now is a 7 ft asphalt plant model with working parts. Anything that moves in a real asphalt plant will be replicated on the model as well. It won’t actually function as in turning tar & stones into asphalt, but it will be nearly capable of doing so in miniature.
The client wants to demonstrate how the machine operates or how it is controlled. Doors and chutes that are moved primarily by hydraulic cylinders in a real asphalt plant will be demonstrated with 12 volt electric linear actuators on the model. Those parts in a real asphalt plant that move with gear motors – like augers and buckets – will have miniature gear motors on the model.
Our model makers create drawings in AutoCAD of the doors and chutes, in an open position and closed. That way the “throw” can be calculated, which is the amount of swing needed to open them fully. Then it needs to be determined what length actuators will best represent that throw. The working parts on the model need to be built and the actuators installed on them and tested for accuracy. An important factor to consider is whether or not the actuators can show on the finished model design, or need to be imbedded or disguised. In this particular industrial model, the actuators will be part of the visual presentation.
The gear motors are chosen for the model based on the scale speed necessary to make the parts turn. How much torque is needed? – what sort of load does the gear have to move? This will determine how powerful the motor needs to be. Generally if the part needs to move fast, less torque is required and if the part turns slower, more torque is called for. This particular model has a 218:1 gear ratio as the miniature motor needs to move quite a bit of mechanics.
Finally you have to tie together the different voltage strengths of the various actuators and gear motors into a controller that sits in the base of the model. This programmable code (located in a circuit board) will be the power source, or “the brain” of the working model parts. It will control when power is needed and where in the model to send it.
How many people won’t admit that they have trouble reading blueprints or maps? They might smile and nod as they look over a 2D plan, but not everyone’s mind can translate the information spatially into a 3D image in their head. When it comes to safety training and emergency preparedness, do you want to leave things up to chance with a map? Probably not. If you are going to take the time to sit people down and run through a training exercise or plan of action, it makes sense to do everything in your power to make sure everyone understands the procedures being discussed.
How more frequently would you train personnel on a particular apparatus or piece of equipment if you had a realistic replica to work with rather than the real thing? Gaining experience with a product, or learning how to maintain or maneuver equipment is imperative, but not always possible to do with the real thing safely, cost-effectively or without risk of damage through mishandling.
Training models can be of assistance in both of these scenarios.
A scale model of a particular space – be it a building or other structure – reveals its anatomy accurately and clearly. Exits, entrances, traffic flow, escape routes, locations of important objects, all become readily recognizable to the observer. It makes training procedures to follow during an emergency or other incident more understandable. Instead of everyone pretending that they understand the 2D image presentation of where things are located and what directions to follow in particular scenarios, more people will actually be on board. In an emergency, this lay person’s understanding may make the difference between a positive outcome and a hugely negative one. And isn’t that the purpose of preparedness training after all?
Similarly, using a replica of your product or products to train personnel on, is often more cost-effective and efficient to execute. Realistic training models of your products are less expensive versions of the real thing. They can be used in training exercises without risk of damaging the actual product and without the time or logistical complications of procedures done within the real environment. From firearm simulators likeBLUEGUNS, to loading and packing training tools for industrial purposes, models are able to improve performance in an economical, yet productive, way.
Sometimes a scale model is more interesting before it is painted and detailed, rather than after. This is a model of a generator, which will be part of a larger model of an ESS (expandable shelter system). Looking at the unfinished model allows the observer to notice the variety of materials used in its construction.
OK. Maybe the scale model looks better when it IS finished….
A little talked about aspect of a model maker’s job is to figure out how to pack and ship a finished scale model. No matter how intricate and difficult a build might be, nothing compares to the challenge of getting a model safely to the client in one piece. Scale models can be delicate works of art (though certainly not all of them are) and white glove handling by a dedicated carrier is not always feasable. Shipping companies like Fed Ex and UPS are reasonably priced but do not generally ensure (or insure) that models will arrive unscathed. It’s up to the model maker to give as much thought to the way a scale model will be packed as he has to its design and construction. A project isn’t complete until you get word that the model has been received undamaged.
Different packing methods are used for different types of scale models. Smaller projects (under 2×3 ft) are usually packed in premade hard shell boxes called Pelican cases. They come with solid foam inserts that are then carved to fit the model snugly inside. Similar to how a camera or cell phone is sometimes packed when you buy it at a retail store.
Some models are not as hardy and will be unable to lay in the foam openings without damage. These projects are often secured at their base to a crate and the rest of the model is encased in a protective shell and wrapped securely with packing tape. Mummified in a way.
Some crates are built in the model shop, particularly for bigger pieces. Wood crates were custom made for these trade show models, secured on shelves with screws. A local courier then transported the crates to the client.
A scale model might be delivered by the model making company itself, anchored by way of wooden blocks and screws to the bottom of a truck floor. Some common carriers may pick up a model on a skid or pallet, depending on its over all size. Often the shipper is UPS or Fed Ex. With these carriers, there is a chance of the model being dropped, or otherwise roughly handled and occasionally a project will need to be returned for repairs or the model makers will go on site to fix damage in transit. It’s easily one of the most frustrating parts of the job, but skilled model makers know exactly how to repair their work.
A trade show booth should draw potential customers in to explore, interact with, learn about and bond with your product. What better way to meet these goals than with a scale model of your product? A trade show model can represent your design with the utmost accuracy while drawing attention to the features you want to emphasize.
It’s often easier to transport a scale model than the product itself, and costs less.
Your scale model can be touched and examined close up to see how it functions.
A demonstration of your working model draws customers in to interact personally with your product.
A 3D model is vision friendly – not everyone can imagine 2D objects in space.
Cutaways, see-through design, high impact colors and working parts draw attention to your product’s special features.
Custom cases are provided to house and transport your model safely to various shows.
Everyone loves models, making them natural magnets at trade shows. Customers are drawn to these replicas more than the actual product, sparking curiosity and interest in what you have to offer. Interacting with a scale trade show model creates a lasting impression that can translate into more sales.
Model maker Mike built these cutaway scale models of MedClean sanitizing systems. Used as a sales tool, they were created from off-the-shelf Peterbilt trucks. A cutaway design shows the sanitizing components mounted to the trailer floor. The components were made from a rubber molded resin material. Using ready-made models as a basis for a custom job can be appealing to our customers who are looking to save money and/or time with their scale models.
The shop has been busy in the New Year building an industrial model of a cooling system for a server facility. It will be used as a sales model by our client, APC.
Update:Check out the last 4 pictures.
Rarely will a model be damaged in transit. They are packed with extreme care. While shipping companies vary in their reliability, regardless of using UPS, USPS or Fed Ex, occasionally a model does arrive to the client with problems, no matter how well packed. It’s a frustrating part of the business, but model makers know how to fix their creations. Short of handling the delivery personally, which can be done in some instances, this is just another challenge in a model maker’s day.
The Team at KiwiMill was asked by their client to create a scale model of Times Square to be used in a Kodak trade show booth at CES. The model makers used Google Earth to download pictures of this NYC icon. Looking at commonly sized objects in the photos such as people, windows, doors and vehicles, the team was able to estimate measurements for the buildings. The model was built primarily of styrene and acrylic, in N scale (1:160). Graphics were then added by using images off the internet, including vector logos, resized to meet the needs of each structure. Finally, a miniature 1.8 inch video screen was imbedded into the model, hooked up to a DVD player.
KiwiMill created 4 distinct model displays for our client, MSM, designers of the Kodak trade show exhibit at CES 2011. The purpose of the displays were to highlight the motion capture abilities of newly introduced cameras. Trade show participants could explore highly visual scenes through the camera’s lens while visiting the Kodak booth.
Our model makers were given the task of designing four separate model displays incorporating motion, color, lights and intriguing visuals. The themes were the following:
a realistic miniature scale model of Times Square
a vignette of real objects in a Las Vegas casino
a stylistic sculpture evoking the atmosphere of a night club
a whimsical display capturing a snowboarding sports scene
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.
The Patriot MIM-104 is a surface-to-air missile (SAM) system used by the United States Army and many other nations. The prime contractor for this system is Raytheon. You can read more about this system here.
This scale model was built mostly from scratch with one exception. The cab and chassis are a die-cast model that we used as a starting point for the truck in the pictures. When a high-quality mass-produced model is available in the proper size, we will often use it as a starting point for out model. Not only does this save a lot of time, a mass-produced kit often has small, high-detail parts included that would be cost-prohibitive for our customers. When a model is mass-produced (in the 10,000s or 100,000s) the small details can be injection molded. The injection molding process has high up-front capital costs but low per-piece costs for large runs.
The tires were designed in CAD and then output to our in-house rapid prototyping machine. They were then molded in RTV silicone and cast with urethane resin.
We used 3D CAD geometry supplied by our customer to design and fabricate this model.
More than 50% of the parts on this model were drawn in CAD and output to our 36″x24″ laser cutter/engraver. We use this not only to cut the shapes we need in various plastics, but also to add details by engraving the surface.
Small parts, including the hand rails and round rods are made of brass and are often brazed or soldered for strength.
Structural parts of this model such as the trailer chassis are made from brass to create a strong base for the rest of the details.