Anyone who has ever made a scale model can appreciate the challenges of working in miniature. But when you have over 65 years of experience behind you and a talented team of model makers, creating a 500mm scale model of an 11m Royal Navy autonomous vessel is just another day in the office.
We were asked to create this detailed and intricate model by ATLAS ELEKTRONIK UK, the company that developed the full-size boat. It wasn’t the first time we have worked with ATLAS – we previously created detailed models of their Atlas Remote Capability Integrated Mission Suite (ARCIMS), the next generation remote controlled and autonomous unmanned boat.
This time it was RNMB Harrier that ATLAS wanted a scale model of. The life-size vessel, which can operate manually, remotely or autonomously, was delivered to HM Naval Base Clyde in 2020. Using cutting-edge technology, the boat has the ability to survey the seabed and look for mines or other destructive threats.
Not surprisingly, ATLAS was proud of its creation and wanted a scale model that could travel the world to demonstrate the company’s capabilities.
Because of its complexity, we had to use a range of processes, including CNC machining and SLA 3D printing as well as some traditional model making and spray finishing. Having multiple processes on site allows us to be flexible in our approach to keep to strict deadlines, while at the same time increasing the level of detail to achieve the high quality we are known for. By taking this approach, we can increase productivity and keep costs within budget. We used high density model board on a CNC machine for the main hull. It was important we had a strong and stable structure as a starting point for mounting on a display stand – as well as being able to attach the 3D printed elements. We also CNC machined the windows, window frames and parts of the wheelhouse interior.
Traditional hand-making skills were used too; the handrails and whip antennae were created from soldered brass tubing. It was an intricate part of the build, but our talented team came into their own.
SLA printing was used for the most detailed parts of the build, including the wheelhouse roof, main aerial assembly, outboard motors, cleats and tie-down points and the seats. All the printed parts were hand finished before we tested the fit to the main hull. Once we knew we had everything spot-on, the parts were sent to be painted and finished. The final assembly involved bonding all the different elements together and fixing it to a mount. With the model destined to be exhibited around the world, a specialist flight case was ordered to keep it safely packaged on its many trips.
The vessel had a complex payload on the rear deck; we needed this to be printed as a single component as the client wanted to be able to lift it from the model. We had to make some adjustments to the file to allow this to happen.
Because of the size, we had to take extra care when simplifying the details for printing as we didn’t want to take away any of the intricacy of the model. Having worked with ATLAS previously, the client knew we had the knowledge and experience to deliver a model that retained all its fine detail.
Richard Savory, who was involved in the build, said: “We were very happy with the result. With each model of this scale that we create, we hone our skills even further. This model, I think, is among our best and most complete work of this type.”