Paper Modeling Techniques-Part One. (IDSA)

By Caruso, John | The Technology Teacher, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Paper Modeling Techniques-Part One. (IDSA)


Caruso, John, The Technology Teacher


Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a two-part article on the use of paper in model construction. As the author points out, this is a rapid and inexpensive mode for visualizing design concepts. Industrial designers often use this technique immediately following initial concept sketches (or in conjunction with them) to help visualize the massing of forms, physical sizes, and determining placement of major components.

Use of the paper model in order to determine function, operative logic, proportions, and aesthetic forms of ideas and concepts is not to be overlooked. Paper is readily available and inexpensive as well as very easy to work with. Students' familiarity with this material is already strong, and they have often been exposed to the basic working methods at an early age. Paper, tape, and scissors are common working tools in any classroom or home, so no basic training is required. What is different in this suggested exercise is the definition and awareness of paper and paper types. Paper may be more accurately defined as any fibrous substrate that varies in thickness and surface texture, being made up of mostly paper fibers. This includes corrugated cardboard, mat boards, illustration boards, and foam core board, as well as photocopier bond paper, Bristol board, and museum board.

Paper Types

Paper and paperboard are widely available and inexpensive. This includes photocopier bond paper, which is usually a 40 pound stock, Bristol board cardstock, 80 to 85 pound weight, and colored construction papers. Cover stock, with a thicker paper weight of 80 pounds, is similar to cardstock and effective for basic modeling. This is similar to a thin Bristol board, available in sheets and pads at artist supply stores. Bristol board is a superior performing paperboard due to a harder and smoother finish.

Keep in mind that these high quality materials often come in two or three thicknesses and finishes. Double weight or 4-ply is a doubled sheet, while 2-ply is traditional weight Bristol board. Hot press and cold press refer to manufacturing processes that impart a finished surface to the board. Hot press is smooth with a slightly glossy surface that works well for final finish or applying stickers or adhesive foils and inks. Cold press is best for pencils, markers, and paints, as there is a slight tooth to the surface. Canson brand colored paper is typically 40 to 65 pound weight. There are thinner colored charcoal and pastel drawing papers that are good for surface lamination, but the Canson brand is best due to thickness. These are more expensive than colored "construction" type papers, but are much more durable and better able to withstand bending and shaping. These are usually available by the sheet at art supply stores.

Construction Methods

Harder and thicker boards are very durable for structural models. Complex surfaces can be made using construction similar to that of boat hulls with bulkheads to shape, hold, and attach the outer surfaces. Balsa airplane model technology is another way to think of constructing prototypes, employing bulkheads and structural ties that are inserted into cut slots. Models may be constructed as disassembly type, or glued at joints with surprisingly strong results. White glues work best with removable masking tape used as clamps. Another type of joint technique to consider is sheet-metal box type construction, most often associated with ductwork.

Paper designs can be constructed with hems and flaps that may be taped together with double-sided tape. Extensions or attachments can be designed into the part and secured with slotted fittings made with a mat knife or hobby knife. Corrugated box construction should also be considered as a basic system of quickly fabricating basic, primitive geometric forms. Showing a corrugated box flat and unfolded will give the students clues to flap design that are very helpful.

An interesting exercise for a basic study is to have students fabricate custom boxes in different sizes from a flat sheet of material based on an existing box. …

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