Category Archives: Scale Model Projects

Cool Veterinary Model

This veterinary model of a blood separating device is a great example of going bigger in scale than the real thing. Not all scale models need to be small. In this instance the model is 6X bigger than the product it is replicating. By going bigger, the details of how the product works can be featured clearly.

This separating device takes blood and breaks it down into plasma and platelets in order to harvest white blood cells. The challenge of this veterinary model was to show the process in a clear and user friendly way.

Our model makers chose colors to represent the different processes. Yellow = plasma. Red = blood cells.

veterinary model parts

A clear acrylic tube was used to represent the flask. A silicone vinyl hose was placed inside, which gave the correct diameter and coil for the extracting piece. Colors were added using theater jells.

The resulting veterinary model looks cool and communicates the properties of the separator with accuracy.

veterinary model veterinary model veterinary model veterinary model

Aircraft Simulator Model Takes Flight

I really enjoyed watching this aircraft simulator model come together in the shop. KiwiMill model makers milled the outer shell in pieces and then assembled it to create the curved shape of the model. The detailed parts were 3D printed and added on to the model. The design of the model was modular, with sections that come apart just like the real product.

I was most curious to find out how the aircraft simulator works in real life. Turns out it is a  huge 35 foot long machine that is placed over the nose and cockpit of an actual aircraft. Images are projected on the curved screen that mimic the movements of the pilot working the controls. This way a pilot experiences flight in a very realistic way without ever leaving the hanger. What an amazing, immersive training tool!

It is useful to have an aircraft simulator model to take to trade shows or sales meetings because the real product is too large to transport. We anticipate our client getting many years of use out of this model.

aircraft simulator model aircraft simulator model aircraft simulator modelaircraft simulator model aircraft simulator model

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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.


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.

Modular scale model modular scale model




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.

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.

sales tool modelsales tool model

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


Solar Array Models That Rotate

Recently KiwiMill built two solar array models for our client, NEXTracker. First, our client wanted a portable, articulated model to represent a small section of their product – the NX Horizon solar tracker. The model is built almost entirely out of brass with acrylic panels. The panels on this model rotate and demonstrate the wide range of motion of the solar array, showcasing a 120° rotational arc, unlinked rows allowing independent movement, and face to face configuration for cleaning mode.

A second solar array model was commissioned showing just the center section of one pair of panels on the NX Horizon. This  blown up version of the first scale model focuses on the gear box and motor area of our client’s product. The panels tilt on this model as well. The materials used on this model are aluminum, ABS, brass and acrylic.

By building two models of the same product, NEXTracker is able to present different aspects of their design to potential customers, in easy to transport carry cases.

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Solar array model

Exploded View Fishing Reel Display

Recently a client asked for a display model of their product that could be taken to industry shows. The product is a fishing reel, and the challenge became how to make this into a unique attraction for trade show attendees. The design decided upon was an exploded view of the reel, using actual parts.

The exploded view concept was not just an interesting  way to draw customers in to a trade show booth. Like most well designed models, it also educated potential buyers by revealing the unseen technology that resides within the fishing reel.

The parts to the fishing reel were provided by the client. Our model makers mounted the parts on a base using piano wire, which gave the illusion of the pieces floating in space. The layout was designed so that certain parts were grouped together, while others were featured individually for emphasis.

The display was carefully suspended in a bed of rice and placed in a sturdy travel case. The entire design can be transported easily from show to show. This educational and attractive fishing reel display shows how an exploded view concept can work well to highlight your product’s inner workings.

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Exploded view fishing reel display

Exploded view fishing reel display

Goddard Rocket Desktop Model – Bulk Order

This Goddard Rocket desktop model was developed for our client in order to improve on a previous design. Our client had previously commissioned these models out of soldered brass, which would sometimes crack during shipment. KiwiMill was presented the challenge to come up with a new material for the frame of the model.

KiwiMill model makers chose a 3D printed black nylon for the frame. This nylon is both strong and flexible, minimizing the opportunity for breakage. The Goddard  desktop rocket model prototype was approved and a bulk order of 50 was produced for retirement gifts.

desktop rocket model

desktop rocket model

desktop rocket model

desktop rocket model

desktop rocket model

desktop rocket model

For a background on physicist, Dr. Robert H. Goddard, who invented the Goddard Rocket, click here. Dr. Goddard is considered the father of modern rocket propulsion, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland was established in his memory.



Custom Trophy Truck Model Excitement!

Seems like every holiday season KiwiMill is asked to make a custom truck model for a very special client. Our model makers  love this type of project. Who wouldn’t?

This year’s custom trophy truck was based off a store bought RC 1:10 scale truck named the “Yeti”.

custom truck model

The outside shell of the Yeti was removed and a custom one designed in its place. A photograph of the real truck was used to take exact measurements, which were then adjusted slightly to fit this particular off-the-shelf truck frame. The custom shell was drawn up in Solid Works.

custom truck model

The computer drawings were then used to vacuum form the custom truck shell.

custom trophy truck model

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A custom chassis was assembled under the base using ABS plastic. Other accessories were hand built including the light bars, fire extinguisher, gas tank, and ratchet straps.

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The interior of the truck model was hand built as well. A plastic figure was placed inside. It wore a custom fabricated and hand painted helmet to match the one the real life owner and driver of the vehicle wears.

custom truck model

The custom trophy truck model was masked off and painted from the inside. Vinyl labels of the logos and sponsors were applied to the finished surface.

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The truck was then mounted on a base made out of rolled, welded steel that was painted to resemble the dirt hills the real truck is driven on.

The final product turned out to be a great surprise for the client. His own custom trophy truck model, built to replicate the real one he owns and races. Very cool gift!

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Gene Sequencing Model x 2

What is better than having one model built of your amazing gene sequencing product? Having two made, of course!

KiwiMill is sometimes asked to make two replicas of the same object, fabricated simultaneously. Often one replica is used in a trade show booth, and the second model is shipped to the company headquarters for display. Having two models built concurrently can save on costs. Our model makers spend less time building multiple copies of a single design, which translates into savings for our customers.

This recently built gene sequencing model is a great example. The first copy was built at a faster pace than the second one, in order to meet a strict trade show deadline. It was shipped directly to the show upon completion. The second copy was finished up after the first one shipped, and sent to corporate headquarters.

The models are identical. The only difference being that the trade show model was shipped in a custom jigged hard-shelled Pelican case. the model will be kept in this case to be transported to future trade shows and conventions. The second gene sequencing model was carefully packed in a one way shipping box to its final destination –  the company offices – where it will reside permanently.

Consider commissioning two copies of your product. One for sales purposes, meant to travel from show to show, and another for display in the lobby of your company, boardroom, or executive office.

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gene sequencing model gene sequencing model gene sequencing model

Making an Historical Site Model of Ganondagan

Site Model of Ganondagan

This historical site model was created  for a museum in Western NY. The interactive display depicted Ganondagan,  a  community of Seneca people living in the early 1600’s. A large swath of land needed to be included on the site model, therefore the scale was quite small: 1 inch = 100 feet. With such a tiny scale to work with, the landscaping was particularly important, otherwise the model risked looking boring and monotonous. There were no buildings to focus attention on other than a cluster of tiny longhouses, and no major geological features to provide excitement.

The time of year the client wanted depicted in the model was early fall. Research  needed to be done to find the exact textures, shapes and colors which would realistically represent  this time period. The team at KiwiMill experimented with various materials to accurately represent grasses, trees, corn fields, and water at such a tiny scale.

Historical Site Model

The site model was designed to light up various areas of the landscape as well. The corn fields, wooded areas, water sources, walking paths and gathering of longhouses all needed to light up at the push of a button. LED strips were imbedded into the surface of the model and electronically connected to a control panel. The electronic knowledge required to get each area to light up correctly was complex.

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

The topography base was made out of a block of foam, and programmed and cut with a CNC router in house. The slots for the LED lights were cut at the same time using the router. Once the foam base was cut and sanded, the LED lights were inserted, the wiring underneath was completed and the extensive landscaping added.

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

When the model was completed, it was carefully wrapped and transported to the museum’s gallery for installation.

Historical Site Model

Historical Site Model

The resulting historical site model provides an educational tool for museum patrons to interact with. Check out these videos:


Making Historical Models – A Realistic Seneca Longhouse

KiwiMill was honored with the opportunity to construct two major historical models for the Seneca Arts and Cultural Center this past summer. The Seneca Arts and Cultural Center is a newly installed interpretive museum located on the existing Ganandogan State Historical Site in upstate New York. This historical site was once the home to thousands of Native American’s known as the Seneca people. Here their vibrant community, traditions,and culture are conveyed by living Seneca people telling their own story of the past 2,000 years.

The Seneca Arts and Cultural Center includes a gallery space that houses two historical models commissioned by our client. One model is an 11 foot long longhouse and the other is an architectural site model of the Ganandagon property as it existed over 300 years ago.

historical models

These historical site models were an exciting endeavor for the model shop. Model makers typically deal with precision, scale and details in their building projects. However artistic sensibilities are crucial for museum model work and KiwiMill prides itself in the ability to blend these two aspects. In addition to model making craftsmanship and artistry, historical models require a great deal of research and collaboration.

Longhouse Model

The longhouse model needed to look realistic as well as be historically accurate. The large scale of the model (11 feet long) meant that the materials used for fabrication needed to be authentic and natural where ever possible. Real sticks were procured for the longhouse frame and were tied together with actual leather strips in a similar fashion to Native American construction.

The model blankets were hand woven.

historical model of longhouse

The paper chosen for the bark walls needed to be the right weight, texture and opaqueness. The dyes used to color the paper were chosen to closely resemble Elm bark.

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The sculptures of food had to be formed and painted with realistic detail. The furs used were chosen for their scale and texture. The weapons were made from wood and metal, just like the real objects.

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Adding to the challenge, the longhouse would not fit through the gallery doors in one piece. It needed to be partially pre-assembled at the shop and then transported to the site. There the assembly needed to be finished in a short amount of time before the museum’s grand opening. All this needed to be done with out the use of artificial fasteners or obvious seams.

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

The longhouse included electrical wiring. Portions of the this historical model needed to light up as individual vignettes. The longhouse model has to integrate with the existing base at the museum and installed correctly so that each portion lit up when the correct button was pushed.

The longhouse model installed on site with figures added:

historical model of longhouse

historical model of longhouse

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Up Next: Part 2 – Site Model of Ganondagan


Making Interactive & Moving Models

Interactive features on models help to draw customers to your booth, add excitement to a museum display, and can transform a model from a boring static display to the main focus of your booth or gallery. Kids and adults alike love creating the action or turning on lights in a museum diorama, or causing water flow with the flick of a switch. A trade show display model can be brought to life by adding lights, water, moving parts, or even a miniature TV.

In this post, I’ll detail some of the interactive and moving features KiwiMill has added to the various models we have made recently.

TV in a ModelMiniature TV embedded into a Times Square Model
A trade show company came to us with ideas on how to add excitement to their trade show booth. The models were for CES, which is a consumer event, so first  people had to be attracted to the display and then were encouraged to pick up the cameras and take pictures using the zoom functions in order  to see the smallest details of the models. The TV in this model has a 1.8″ screen which was connected to a DVD player. This added movement and excitement to an otherwise static display model.

Computerized Asphalt Plant Model
This was a unique model for KiwiMill. Our client designed embedded controllers for asphalt plants and wanted to demonstrate the unique capabilities of their controllers on a working model. The client specified which parts of the model needed to function and KiwiMill created an interface to allow the model to animiate using their product. This model had numerous moving parts driven by motors and linear actuators. 

Road Construction Truck Model
This road construction truck model is used to demonstrate the numerous features our customer built into their truck. Take a look at the video below and you’ll see just how many of these we were able to build into this model including sounds, moving parts, lights, arrow flashers, etc.

Working Hydroelectric Dam
This model was built for the U.S. government to demonstrate how hydroelectric power was created. It included a valve that could be opened to allow water to flow through a working turbine. When flow and turbine were activated, the sign on top of the turbine would light, simulating electricity generation.

Display Model Delivered Direct to Trade Show

KiwiMill recently completed a display model of a gene sequencing facility. This was an expedited project completed in less than a month and shipped directly to the American Society of Human Genetics trade show in Baltimore, Maryland.

The model was designed to show of the streamlined process of genetic sequencing our clients have created with their system. Robot arms are used to move genetic material from one machine to the next, eliminating unnecessary steps in the process.

The display model was built quickly and arrived on schedule to the trade show floor. There it was placed on a lit table, serving as a center point to our client’s booth design.

Materials used included 3D printed parts, machinist board and sheet plastics. Both models fit in one Pelican case for ease of transportation. A second model is being built concurrently to reside at the corporate headquarters.

Here is a picture of the model at the trade show taken by camera phone. Look for more pictures of this project soon – and others like it – on our website portfolio, under trade show models.

display model


Summer Intern at the Model Shop

Summer is winding down and KiwiMill model shop does not want to say goodbye to its intern, Devin. One of the projects in the shop the past couple of months has involved the construction of a 9 ft long Longhouse Model. Devin has been an integral part of this project.

A longhouse is a type of long, narrow, single-room dwelling used by groups of people in various parts of the world. The particular design currently being constructed at our model shop is a Seneca Bark Longhouse developed by the Haudenosaunee people of Northeast America.

Devin has been working under the instruction of the KiwiMill team, collecting materials, fabricating these pieces and assembling them into Longhouse walls. Eventually this fully constructed model will end up in a museum opening in October, 2015.

This hands on experience at the model shop will help Devin with his long term goals in the fields of engineering and design. KiwiMill has been very excited to be a part of this internship and hope to continue this relationship into the school year.

Here is some of Devin’s work:

model shop model shop model shop model shop model shop model shop model shop