Scale Models for Museums – Ice Core

The great thing about being a model maker is that you never know what challenges the next project will bring. I live in Boulder CO, the location of NCAR, UCAR, NOAA, NIST and many other federal letters. The National Center for Atmospheric Research has offices in one the most distinguished (architect I. M. Pei) buildings in my town. Overlooking Boulder, sitting on a mesa against a backdrop of the dramatic mountains NCAR is a serious research facility dealing with the worlds climate. The also house a newly revised visitors center with many interactive and informational displays. We were commissioned by NCAR to construct a model of an ice core to be illuminated and placed in this visitors center.

ICE CORE: These are cylinders of ice mined in various locations from Greenland to the Arctic. The deeper the core sample the farther back in time the ice was formed. The bubbles in the ice still contain the atmospheric elements that were present during that ancient time to the core becomes a record of how our atmosphere formed and has evolved over the millennia.

In learning about the ice cores we visited the Denver Federal Center were many cores are brought for study. This is a lab that is kept at – 27 degrees Fahrenheit. The scientist work all day wearing protective clothing to keep from freezing. I asked a lot of questions and learned a lot about ice cores and how they look.

Building the models. We ended up building two identical full sized cores that matched a section of an actual ice core for scientific accuracy. Using clear acrylic tubes I poured clear resin in over 120 layers to match the image. I used experimented enough to create a chart showing how much stirring, how much resting and how much gel time was needed to match all the different bubble densities. A relatively clear layer along with a relatively cloudy layer of bubbles represents one year of ice build up. It took several weeks of pouring and curing the resin to get the core models built. One of them is now on display in the visitors center and has become a popular draw for tourists. The second one is used in the classroom and in scientific discussions about the cores themselves.

Working Pill Picker Model

These were complex courtroom models used to help explain machinery mechanics. The models represent two competing systems for robotically delivering prescription drugs to a pharmacist or nurse in a hospital.

Our models show the mechanics of the device. We placed hundreds of medicine packs on twelve rotating belts to demonstrate the flexibility and usability of the design. The question was, did this belt driven design step on the other robotic delivery patent. The answer was no, our model showed clearly the significant difference in technology used in designing their device. An article on the trial results can be found here.

Equipment Models of Cooling Towers

These two large models show the inner workings of two cooling tower designs. Built to travel to various trade shows and marketing events, these models made a huge impact wherever they were viewed.

Literally, thousands of baffles and louvers were inserted into these models. As part of my continuing education, I learned that the process of cooling a LOT of hot water involves blowing air over the water drops as they are being splattered about by all of these baffles. The housings for the fans were built from urethane poured into a two-part mold. The rest of the structure involved assembling a lot of pieces.

Model of 911 Mobile Response

Not every transportation model is about highway redesigns. This is the Thor truck, an emergency 911 vehicle model.

The problem with natural disasters is that they tend to take down the very services that were put in place to protect us. This mobile emergency services truck can be deployed to a disaster site to keep the 911 emergency response functioning and at the ready. This concept is new and we were asked to build this model of the truck to use in a sales meeting to demonstrate it’s abilities.  Using high-intensity LED’s to mimic the halogen lamps on the truck, we lit this model creating an intriguing effect.

Prototype Shoe Model

We built this model for a light boot design for Solomon Boot Co. This prototype required that it be made of a material in a very specific density and flexibility. After building the original model, we made a two-part mold and cast the sole with a urethane that had the required properties.

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