Category Archives: Shop News

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.

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Busy Summer at the Model Shop

This has been a very busy time at KiwiMill model shop. Many exciting projects have been quoted, awarded, drawn up, fabricated, finished and shipped these past few months. All of our model makers love being busy. It’s what they are trained for – going from one project to the next without a break, crafting pieces that go right out the door as soon as they are complete. It’s easy to take for granted the depth and breadth of models that leave the shop when you work at this level of  artistry, precision and speed.

Sometimes it’s nice to step back for a moment and reflect on the projects that come through the model shop during any given time period. The past few months alone have seen military vehicles, warehouses, satellites, solar arrays, nuclear reactors, rockets, tank skids, servers, radiators, bioreactors an airport hanger and a nose cone. The creative energy of our model makers thrives on this variety. No two custom model projects are the same. Every day something new is learned by our master craftspeople.

There is never enough time to revel in the accomplishments here at KiwiMill; always the next project is waiting for our attention. But I wanted to take a moment to share some casual model shop pictures of the models I have watched go out the door so far this summer.

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:


Pending Model Shop Move

model shop

Next month KiwiMill will be moving to a new model shop. Our model makers are very excited to have this building designed and renovated to their specifications. The new building is self standing, and will include everything necessary to continue producing world class scale models. There will be several individual computer work stations and work benches, a clean room, assembly area, staging and packing space, paint booth, large machinery room, cast and mold station, 3D printing area, offices and reception area.

KiwiMill’s owner has been looking for the perfect space to purchase for some time. The staff has toured the new model shop and helped design the flow of the space so that it maximizes efficiency and production. Currently the interior rooms are being gutted, rewired, dry walled and painted along with new lighting, flooring and windows. We will continue updating our blog with the progress as the moving date gets closer.

model shop

Rocket Launcher Models – The Final Chapter?

This is the third set of rocket launcher models KiwiMill has built for our client. This batch is in the final stages of assembly, ready to ship in a couple of days. Like the previous orders, these are large specimens – approximately 1:50th scale.

Tooling board and plywood were CNC routed for the bases. This provided a sturdy, solid surface to build from.

Rocket Launcher Model Rocket Launcher Model



Laser cut aluminum was welded for strength and stability to build the towers for the rocket launcher models. ABS and styrene added details.

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The treads were 3D printed.

Rocket Launcher Model Rocket Launcher Model

As wtih the previous builds, the resulting models need custom crates designed and built in our shop.

IMG_5508rocket launcher modelEven though we are coming to the end of this project, our model makers are hoping to work on additional rocket launcher orders in the future.





Quick Scale Model Build

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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!

Testimonials About Our Scale Models


KiwiMill Scale Models

KiwiMill Scale Models

Here at KiwiMill we strive to create a finished model that reflects our high standards and serves its purpose for our clients. Communication before and during the build process is key to a good outcome. Our commitment to customer service does not end when the model is delivered. We make sure it arrives safely and is well received before moving on to the next project.

Here are some testimonials we have received over the past few years About our scale model work. Positive feedback is always a welcome component of any job well done:

“It is evident that your organization put a 100% plus effort into producing these models and we want to thank you and your staff for a quality product.”

“You did a great job with great details. It did attract tons of people to our booth since no one else had something similar. Again, terrific job and well done!”

“It looks FANTASTIC!!  Great work and appreciate your due diligence to get this completed within such a tight time-frame!”

“Great job on the models! They look fantastic and we are excited to use them in DC today.”

“Worth every penny we spent on it.”

“WOW!  That looks GREAT!  Tell Scott and the team they have created another masterpiece.”

“Our client received it and said it looks great, exactly what they wanted to see. I want to thank you for a job well done. We’ll be sure and contact KiwiMill for any additional scale model work that comes up.”

“Your trailer model looks incredible!”

“I have attached a picture of the final models we set up in the Presentation room. They were very useful during the Site Visit and looked great!”

“The screw and bit models you made for us are beautiful. We are all very impressed with the work you did.”

“It is evident that your organization put a 100% plus effort into producing these models and we want to thank you and your staff for a quality product.”

Reevaluating How We Ship Scale Models

Shipping Scale Models

KiwiMill has recently changed the way we are shipping scale models. Up till now, if a scale model fit into a hand-held travel case, it was usually shipped via commercial package delivery services, either ground or air, depending on time constraints.

However, after several random instances of scale models breaking in transit, we’ve reevaluated our policy. Before making changes, we first made sure our model construction process was not to blame.

The engineering of a scale model has much to do with its durability. KiwiMill designs models with the understanding that they need to be sturdy, not just look good. Especially our trade show models, which need to withstand frequent travel and handling.

Sturdy design means choosing the right materials, the strongest fasteners, and factoring in additional supports where necessary. So metal pieces are added to plastic for strength, soldering may be used for fastening rather than glue, and hidden braces may be placed at joints.

Great care is put into making sure a custom model is built durably, with accuracy, and all the artistic details expected from expert craftspeople. It makes sense to put just as much energy into the packing of the model for shipment.

Custom jigging is part of all model pack jobs. Many smaller models are placed in hard shell transport cases, with foam inserts that are hand carved to hold the model parts snug and secure. Medium sized models will have a custom built road case with wood jigging inside that is foam or cloth-lined. Larger industrial and architectural models are placed in hand built wooden crates that are jigged inside as well.

As professionals, we don’t want to jump to conclusions or assign blame if these  packed models are damaged in transit. Yet, when we see a continued pattern of beefy, guaranteed-for-life road cases sent back to us with flanges or handles broken off during transit, it’s hard to deny rough treatment occurred.

Our new solution? Every model is now shipped strapped to a pallet. Even if it’s in a road case, it gets strapped down to a pallet and goes freight. We’ve always used this method for larger models made in our shop. We are now using it for models we would have used package delivery service for in the past.

Shipping Scale Models

Architectural Model Presented to Donor

Recently KiwiMill built an architectural model of a campus building expansion. The donor was presented with this scale model of the school building as a thank you. Having an architectural model made of new real estate can be an effective way of showing appreciation for a donor, along with naming rights of the space.

This particular architectural model was made mostly from precision laser cut plastic. It has a unique brick texture that has been spray masked on to match the particular pattern used by the college.

The architects on this project wanted the option of showing the various HVAC parts that are commonly found on the roofs of buildings. While they are not often depicted in architectural models, KiwiMill built the scale HVAC equipment and provided the pieces loose, so they can be added to the model if desired.






Satellite Models!

KiwiMill was excited to return to its roots recently when we were asked to build mother and daughter satellite models for a valued client.

While satellites, military models, and architectural models have historically been a mainstay of this model shop, more recently our model makers have been making a name for themselves building trade show models for industries like medical, large equipment, oil and mining, and energy technology.

It was fun to return to a project that our owner and senior model makers are very familiar with, as well as introduce new staff to these fascinating spacecraft.



Model Maker Teamwork

Kiwimill Model Maker Shop

There’s nothing like a fast turn around, high stress project to showcase the model maker teamwork that KiwiMill has developed into a  unique style of doing business.

With less than two weeks to produce two 1:10 scale helicopter models, KiwiMill model makers have relied heavily on their well-balanced skill sets and even keeled approach to working together. Everyone has come together with their individual talents – CAD drawing, CNC programming, 3D printing, molding and casting, hand finishing, spray booth application and masking.

Beyond the tight time frame there has been a long anticipated, but still disruptive, employee exit, multiple machinery break downs and the usual minor shop mishaps and supplier logistics. Our model makers have dug deep into their skill sets, overcome the set backs and expanded their abilities as a team.

We are nearing our deadline, and every model maker and programmable machine are cranking out parts and assembling and finishing them. The CNC mill is cutting tails and fins. The 3D printer is growing rotor parts. The CNC router is finishing up the final body half.

Meanwhile model makers are casting rotor blades, sanding tooling board and ABS, custom jigging the shipping crates and gluing together model parts. Everyone is looking for where they can help – all with the singular goal to produce 2 world-class models for an upcoming trade show.

Yes, there have been long nights, and a weekend full of overtime coming up. But everyone is committed to the project and highlighting the teamwork that makes these miracle jobs a reality at KiwiMill. Best of all, they do it without even realizing it. I’ve noticed, though, and I’m proud to work here with them.