Models Bring Products to Life

Models can come in a wide variety of forms ranging from quick mock-ups to very realistic representations of the intended product. One of the most valuable models is a foam core model. Foam core board is a combination of heavy paper sheets adhered to both sides of a polystyrene foam substrate. The resulting board is very light, rigid, easy to work with, and inexpensive. There are a number of box, block, and curved shapes that you can make using simple techniques and basic tools. I typically use a sharp, high quality utility knife, an X-acto knife, and a good aluminum straightedge. Throw in some spray adhesive, permanent double sided tape, and some hot glue and you can make a great representation of almost any product.

There are a couple of challenges that need to be considered when planning a foam core model. First, foam core can only create flat surfaces and simple curves. Compound curves and flowing transitions are not feasibly attainable with this material. Second, finer details, if critical to this stage of design analysis, will need to be created using other methods. We have used high density foam, rapid prototype (FDM in our case), on-model drawing, and acrylic (to mimic glass) to add the necessary level of detail for proper evaluation at this stage.

A foam core model is intriguing because it is often the first time a client will see their idea in “real life”. Up until this point in the development process, their experience has been limited to sketches, renderings, various CAD iterations, and, maybe, very crude mockups used to evaluate scale or general form. The foam core model allows for the evaluation of overall scale and form together without the distraction of color and material choices. This often leads to revelations about details and form that can be addressed at this stage rather than causing a costly delay later in the process.

Many clients are not aware of the availability and advantages of foam core models. We understand the design process and the complexities of bringing a new product to market so we make sure our clients become familiar with the options and their various advantages as part of the process to building a great product.

by Patrick Scranton | Industrial Designer