How do I make a physical model like this? (Laser cut/CNC or other?)

Hi all,

I’m planing to make a very detailed architecture master plan, but I have no idea where to start. I know many people here have diverse experiences in making physical projects. Would you please guide me how would I achieve this type of work?

I’m looking into RhinoNest, but I wonder what software can easily manage those wood building blocks. Those building blocks have different W,D,H.

The quality level shown in the image is what I want to have in the end. I noted parts that I’m curious about.



The white building looks like it might have been 3D printed using a powder-based printer (Z-Corp), although is it possible that it has just been painted. The lower building looks to have been CNC milled and the fillets are simply the result of the radius of the cutter.

Don’t see enough of the ground to be able to discern its manufacturing technique, but it’s probably also milled in wood with a CNC mill, the other possibility is that thin layers of wood have been glued to a base to create the contours.


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@Helvetosaur Mitch, that’s really helpful.
So what should I prepare digitally? Should I model them as solid or cutting lines? or both?
Would you please give me some directions to prepare this?

Here is the link to Jame’s work, there are more pictures.

I appreciate if your “green eyes” can turn off my red lights.

Thanks for the valuable hint~

One more thing Mitch, there is a white mesh-like model, any idea how to make that part?


Well, all of that looks to have been done by a professional architectural modelmaker using a variety of media and techniques (as all good modelmakers do). The white buildings do look to be 3D printed, but there may be some other parts added that have been fabricated differently, such as cut/milled out of plastic and glued together.

The facades of the bigger existing buildings (those that have windows, etc.) are laser-cut and engraved wood, the transparent parts have been either laser cut, CNC milled/engraved or both. The screening is probably just some perforated plastic or metal sheet, attached to a transparent plastic backing material. The blocks representing the masses of the surrounding buildings have likely just been “hand-shaped” out of what looks like pine wood using table saws and sanders. The trees are actual dried plant stems sprayed white.

It is wise to consult a professional modelmaker if you are about to embark on the fabrication of a project like this. As for preparing the 3D computer model, a combination of 3D and 2D is usually required. For laser cutting or 2D CNC milling, 3D objects will have to be “disassembled” into 2D cutting files. For 3D printing and 3D milling, you will need models in 3D as solids. The modelmaker may be able to assist you with some of this, or at least be able to specify what they need to work with.


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Thanks Mitch, I will see what I can do about this.I appreciate your help. Those are really good information bookmarked…

@Helvetosaur Hi Mitch, after doing some research, I found many professional architectural modelmakers across the U.S. and I believe I will be using the service for one of my projects.
But, for general projects that only have boxy forms, I want to make them by myself since the craftsmanship is one of the essential factors to look at in architecture portfolio. So… I’d like to have your suggestions in terms of tools that I will need if anything that comes to your mind.

I’ve been looking at tools from Dremel, but I have no idea which tool kit or specific tools that can be the best suit for my need. Would you take a look when you have time? I appreciate any help at this point.

This is of course highly subjective, but most of our model makers don’t often use rotary tools such as the Dremel. They do use them, but it wouldn’t be the first tool added to a kit. If they are building wood models, it is often a small table saw, band saw, jig saw, and more and more of them have added laser cutters to their kit. More often than not though in our industry, model makers are working in museum bard, foam core, and foam, where X-actos reign supreme.

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