Creating a Model

Here’s a Q & A with our designer, Aaron, about the model creation process!

Models are a tangible way to communicate design ideas. They take printouts of rendered images and bring them to life with elements that people can see and feel. Models are capable of conveying depth, dimension and texture that renderings simply cannot.

When it comes to designing a model, it’s important to define its purpose, determine the scale of the model and identify the details you wish to highlight. And maintaining realistic expectations is key. It always takes twice as long to create a model as you think it will!

What is the approach to designing a model?

The approach is to start with the functional needs and see what the requirements of the model are. After making sure it can do everything it needs to, we determine what look and feel the client is going for. A recent model we created had a clean, realistic look. We chose to go with a printed graphic instead of realistic textures. In the end, the most important thing is to be consistent, so the model looks cohesive, and to be sure all the objects and features look like they are from a material and color palette that work together!

What materials did you use to create these models?

We used a variety of materials: printed vinyl graphics, 3D printed models, sculpted wood, bondo and Sintra board. A variety of electrical components were used such as LEDs, fiber optic wires, Raspberry Pi computer boards, switches, relays and other circuitry.

What are the steps in the design process?

We start with a basic floor plan with callouts and diagrams. From there we move into a 3D rendering followed by several rounds of revisions, graphic design and production. Then we create a final wiring diagram to tie the physical elements into the functional and interactive elements.

What are the steps in the building process?

  1. Finalizing the 3D model with accurate sizing and layout
  2. Production meeting to discuss materials and the creation process
  3. Meeting with production teams to create the various elements
  4. Creating production graphic files and working with printers to create desired finishes
  5. Creating wiring and circuitry and testing connections to make sure all elements are ready for programing
  6. Working with the client to program various scenarios into the model including LED lighting, laser fiber optic output and touchscreen functionality

What scale do you use?

We primarily use a 1:87 scale (HO scale) which is a large model train scale. The interactive house model we created recently is larger and not totally to scale. It was built more for function and to show how a smart home works.

How do the models evolve?

The models start with a very limited set of functions, but more interactivity and more complex electronics continue to work their way into the designs as the client’s needs change.

How are technology and electrical integrated?

The technology is ever evolving and allows us to create models with more and more features. Computer-controlled LEDs, touchscreens and fiber optics help to visually demonstrate real-world scenarios. This includes electrical grid scenarios utilizing various sources such as solar, wind power and traditional power supplies and demonstrates how a break in the system is perceived and resolved to keep the grid up and running.

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