Trade Show Model Pack Up Time

The trade show models are finished. Final details have been applied, displays blown off and cleaned up from sitting in the dusty shop and photographs taken for the company portfolio. (Check back for pictures of the final displays in the near future).

Finishing up a project in themodel makingworld means undertaking yet one more assignment : the design and creation of shipping crates. Model makers uniquely know what is the best way to transport their wares. Measurements are taken and boxes are built according to the specific needs of the model itself, as well as the client.

After careful placement in their crates, the trade show model displays go out the door to our valued client and on to the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Safe travels…

Model Maker Shop Safety

Upon entering the shop portion of KiwiMill, I’m struck by the vast amount of large equipment: machine lathe, various table saws, a turret punch, laser cutter, bridgeport mill, CNC mill, band saw and paint booth. How does a model maker keep it all straight? More to the point, how does he stay safe? Add to the large machinery the hand-held tools for welding, sanding, routing, brazing, soldering, drilling, molding, painting and casting, and it seems clear to me that safety must be as inborn a trait in model makers as the ability to think visually in 3D.

Talking with KiwiMill’s production manager, I find that while safety is inherently part of any good model maker, there are a few simple practices and tips that can help keep a shop injury-free:

Know the equipment you are working with:

  • Visually familiarize yourself with the machine, how it operates, the way the blades are spinning.
  • Know what materials can be cut on it.
  • Understand the nuances of the equipment, what its reputation is and what can go wrong.
  • Be aware of where your hands are, and where they’ll end up if the material you are working with breaks, flies off or disintegrates.
  • Predict what direction a piece will go if it comes loose and position your body out of that pathway.
  • Find out what debris (dust, chips) will be coming off the product and use goggles and/or mask as needed for protection.
  • Read up on the Material Data Safety Sheet of a particular substance to understand its particular properties.

A confident, proactive attitude works best:

  • Always ask someone if you don’t know how to operate a piece of equipment.
  • Stay focused on the task you are performing.
  • Have a healthy respect for the machine but don’t approach it with fear.
  • Don’t rush through a movement.
  • Take breaks from repetitive or frustrating activity.
  • Watch out for each other while operating equipment. Notice if something looks or sounds strange and don’t hesitate to point it out.

Keep a well-maintained and well-stocked shop:

  • Have plenty of fire extinguishers throughout the shop.
  • Provide goggles, safety glasses, headphones and masks.
  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Contain oily rags, and towels in a special bin to avoid spontaneous combustion.
  • Keep machines and tools well maintained and blades sharpened regularly.
  • Don’t allow loose clothing or any dangling objects near a rotating piece of equipment.

While it turns out safe work habits are not simply a trait you are born with, they are based in common sense practices, that with experience, become second nature to a professional model maker.

model making

December Model Shop Work

Model shop workers at KiwiMill are busy this week creating  trade show displays.  The  conception or design phase of the project – determining how and with what materials to build the displays and ordering and gathering those materials – has given way to fruitful days of action fabricating and assembling these creations. Soon it will be time to provide the detailing and finishing touches that will bring the team’s vision alive in a final product for the client.








KiwiMill Model Makers Are Moving

KiwiMill model makers (formerly A & M Model Makers), recently moved to a larger space with nary a pause in production. The newly designed space offers a more efficient layout and additional equipment to continue to provide clients with state-of-the-art designs in the shortest time frame possible. Superior quality, in a safe environment, remains the paramount focus at all times. KiwiMill is very excited about its new model shop.

Patriot MIM-104 (PAC-3) Missile Launcher Scale Model

Patriot Missile Launcher Military Model PAC3 


 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.

Model Highlights

  • 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.

YouTube Video: