Engineering models: How they can detect a thousand pictures
12 March 2019
Models have been meticulously constructed for a wide range of projects including incinerator plants, harbour and port expansions, roads, bridges, tunnels, waste and wastewater facilities, industrial design projects, petrochemical plants, aircraft interiors, breweries and pharmaceutical projects, writes Ger Crowley
U-Boat Worx 1:8 scale model of seven-man submarine.
Since engineering design began, scale models have been deployed as a tool of communication to enhance the visual understanding of the proposed project.
Leonardo da Vinci, Isambard Brunel, Jorn Utzon and Ove Arup, Gustave Eiffel and very many more have all embraced and constructed scale models to assist in the design process and to visually present the intricacies of their projects.
Major infrastructural projects
Models are now used extensively particularly in public consultation on major infrastructural projects and should always be considered a fundamental tool in any engineer’s/designer’s toolbox.
Crowley Modelmakers based in Bray, Co Wicklow, specialises in constructing and presenting such models. The firm has recently completed its second highly detailed 1:8 scale model of a seven-man submarine for U-Boat Worx in Holland for display at various boat shows and client presentations (see main image).
Physical models are used in a variety of ways that software modelling cannot replicate.
They can be tested in wind tunnels, employed as a design aid, used to examine the visual impact of a project, to understand the workings and associated problems of the constituent parts and for presentation as marketing/display tools.
The presence of a physical model at a launch, public consultation or press conference is an invaluable aid to gaining an understanding of a project.
While computer-generated images can assist, they can only show the view from one angle at any one time.
A physical model, however, can be rotated, held up and examined, looked down upon as an aerial view, moved closer or further away.
Instant 3D viewing of entire subject
This flexibility gives instant 3D viewing of the entire subject simultaneously, thus allowing the viewer to understand what is happening in detail as well as comprehending instantly the overall wider context of the project.
Models are highly cost effective in that they are a mere fraction of the project overall cost. Used at an early stage they can help by revealing design issues such as elemental co-ordination and assist in verifying differing structural options as examples.
Models can assist in initiating cost-effective solutions, bring dreams ever nearer while always stimulating the imagination.
Models, like engineering, have come a long way since da Vinci, and technology now plays a very big part in the building of complex models. Crowley Modelmakers together with the traditional crafts of the skilled modelmaker also employs laser cutting, CAM and 5 axis machining, photo etching and 3D printing.
Its ability to produce bespoke exact scale replicas is also greatly assisted by other state-of-the-art technological advances and the availability and use of various new composite materials, all of which are now commonplace in professional model production.
Models are now constructed from plastics such as ABS and acrylic, fibre glass and carbon fibre, aluminium, timber and many other materials. Their use needs to be suitable to the particular requirements of the myriad component parts of a project.
Together with the combination of interpretive skills and the imagination of the modelmaker to faithfully reproduce a comprehensive miniature representation of a complete project accurate in finish and texture that computer-generated visual models cannot truly represent.
Use of interactive models
The use of interactive models can engage the viewer in the workings of the project, often highlighting the processes involved in a chain of actions illustrated on the model. This more interactive quality can be achieved by the use of lights and active LEDs, movement within some of the elements and voice/noise simulation.
Depending on the brief and the functional requirements of the model, models vary considerably in size, scale and level of detail.
From simple town planning block models at very small scale through to more sophisticated highly detailed models at almost virtual size, where the final model function will impose its own restraints and will determine the required finish.
Models sometimes have to be completed under extreme time constraints as they often cannot be constructed until the design has been completed and signed off. But their impact as a revealing medium for press release and public presentation cannot be underestimated.
Crowley Modelmakers was established in 1974 by Gerard Crowley and in 2000 moved to its 3000-sq-ft custom built facility in Bray.
In these modern, light filled studios, a team of four highly qualified and talented modelmakers apply their creative imagination and practice to their trade to produce what have been described as magnificent authentic scaled reproductions.
Crowley Modelmakers has been commissioned to build models for engineering projects all over the world and the completed models are then carefully packed in purpose-built transit cases and air-freighted or shipped to their destination.
For the home market, models have been meticulously constructed for a wide range of projects including incinerator plants, harbour and port expansions, roads, bridges, tunnels, waste and wastewater facilities, industrial design projects, petrochemical plants, aircraft interiors, breweries and pharmaceutical projects.
Crowley Modelmakers has also specialised in marine projects, principally for export that include models of superyachts, ships, shipyards, harbour infrastructure and various marina developments.
On superyacht and ship models, a very high level of detail is a foremost requirement with deck fittings, safety features, deck furniture, masts and communication elements all precisely and faithfully reproduced.
Evolvement of project
Designers are encouraged to visit the studios while their models are under construction, thus allowing them the opportunity to see the evolvement of their project and to make minor changes and alterations during the ongoing build process.
A level of trust and understanding between the modelmaker and the designer is critical to the project’s success and this is where the modelmaker’s experience comes to the fore.
The modelmaker must have a thorough understanding and visualisation of the project at a very early stage where the continued exchange and interaction between designer and modelmaker will always ensure an exemplary completed model.
They say a picture tells a thousand words, but a well-presented model depicts a thousand pictures.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2019/03/12/engineering-models-how-they-can-detect-a-thousand-pictures/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/PHOTO-1-1-1024x669.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/PHOTO-1-1-300x300.jpgCivil3D,Arup,marine