A model machinist fabricates models of components for product development. These can include scale models as well as full versions, including moving parts. Firms that design and repair machined parts may use model machinists in full and part time positions to meet their needs. It is also possible to work independently and complete projects on contract by request from a variety of firms.
To work in this field, it is usually necessary to have extensive experience as a machinist. Some components may need to be fabricated by hand, especially in the early design stages, which requires experience and skill. In addition, familiarity with computer aided design (CAD) and computer numerical control (CNC) equipment is usually necessary. The model machinist needs to be able to read technical drawings, produce parts to specification, and participate in the development of plans for mass production.
As a company puts a product into development and engineers start producing detailed drawings, the model machinist meets with the design team to discuss the specifications. They can talk about shape, size, construction materials, and other parameters. With this information in hand, the machinist can develop a model or working prototype. In early stages, designers might want to see what the product will look like, without working components or a full scale size. As the project progresses, they might need more functional prototypes from the model machinist.
In some cases, a team of people may work on model fabrication. The model machinist can make some parts of the component and may engage in activities like programming equipment to reproduce CAD schematics in physical materials. Other members of the team may produce in the development of additional parts. This can be necessary with complex projects, like building prototypes of cars, where one technician alone may not have the skills needed to produce an entire working model.
Special skills may be required for some model machinists. Some work on confidential or classified material, in which case they may need to pass security checks and sign nondisclosure agreements. Others may be involved in projects that require familiarity with harsh environments like space or oil fields, so they can build components that will work effectively in these locales. Travel to test some components may be necessary if a facility lacks the space to do so. It may also be important to keep up with developments in the field through trade publications, conferences, and other resources.