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.

Model Maker’s How-To: Molding and Casting Model Hands

model hand

Model Maker Joe recently shared the process by which he created a total of 300 model hands for a client in the medical field:

We had a customer contact us with the need of a class room training aid to use in a practical exercise, measuring gout build-up on a hand. I was initially tasked the job to produce 100 realistic hands with gout build-up at designated locations, using particular dimensions for the bumps.

First we set out choosing a hand model. Then I brushed on a platinum-cure silicone rubber (hardness: 10A, tear strength 102 ply, 1000% elongation at break to guarantee a stretchy, nearly untearable glove) over the model’s hand in thin (this rubber is very thick and traps bubbles) layers.

After achieving a desirable thickness, I shelled the mold with plaster cloth while still on the model’s hand. I made this exo-shell in two halves (palm and back) so that I could pull the mold out.

creating hand mold

After the plaster cloth was dry it was time to separate the two halves of the shell and release the model’s hand from the silicone glove.

molde maker hand mold

The next thing for me to do was pour a master by putting the glove original in its shell and banding the two halves together. After putting the unit in a standing base (resting on its finger tips, wrist up), I poured a polyurethane casting plastic (hardness: 70D, tear strength 3000 ply, 7.5% elongation at break) with some black tint and put it under pressure.

casting model hand

When the plastic was cured, I peeled the mold back to reveal the master. It revealed many small nodules around the finger tips and palm (most likely do to sweat) that I cleaned off. After the master was cleaned up a bit, another member of the team built up specific (height, width, length) gout swells out of Bondo, per the customer’s request, at particular locations on the hand.

casting model hand

After the art work was done I repeated the same steps above to make three working molds, but this time the polyurethane plastic was tinted with a flesh color.

We shipped the client an initial quantity of 20, and upon their review, found the hands too hard and life-like for their studies. We needed to re-tool and come up with a new game plan – a softer plastic or a fast curing rubber.

molde hands

I came up with the idea of a two part silicone mold. A hand cast out of a softer material might not hold up to being pulled out of a glove mold and the cast piece would have to be fully cured (no short cuts).

mold for model hands

Meanwhile another team member was preparing a new master cast by brushing some blackened polyurethane plastic over one of the previous working casts, to even out the skin texture. After that cured, he fine-tuned the gout buildup back to customer specifications and tolerances.

When he was done, I built three two-part molds (fingertips down, wrist up) and begin production casting of my next 80 pieces. This time I used a polyurethane casting plastic (hardness: 80A/30D, tear strength 2264 ply, 233% elongation at break) with the same flesh tint.

pressurized pot for casting

This plastic had a 90 minute demold time, but with the two-part design I was able to turn the mold (pull the product and pour the next piece)  in 60 minutes. These pieces came out of the mold with no flash and very little seam line.

casting hands

The customer was very impressed and the molded hands did what they needed to do. The client ordered 200 more castings.

molded and cast model hands

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.

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.