If you’ve ever looked at architectural drawings, you know they can sometimes make it hard to visualize what the actual building will look like. It’s the same way with a substation.

David Hamm, a CAD specialist at Indiana’s Hoosier Energy (G&T), wanted to close this gap, so he built a 30-inch-by-48-inch (1:24 scale) model of a two-bay substation that is accurate down to the gravel pad it sits on and the warning signs on the chain-link fence around it.

CAD, or computer-aided design, allows engineers and technicians like Hamm to produce 3-D models of substations. But when a colleague wondered what a new design would really look like, Hamm was inspired to build the wood, plastic, and copper model.

It took him 180 hours, and no detail was overlooked. He painted the reclosers and other equipment with ANSI 61, the same paint used on the real thing. He braided fine strands of copper wire to mimic the different sizes of cable.

“I wanted it to be as authentic as possible,” he says.

“The substation model is not only useful for engineering and field crew assessment, but it was used at the April annual meeting for our board and guests to visualize new substation design considerations,” says Dave Sandefur, vice president of power supply.

“As advanced as the computer technology is, there’s nothing like a physical model to really understand how the design will be executed in the field,” says another colleague.

Hamm reminds co-workers that the model, although finished, can be updated as engineers make design changes. Having a physical model reduces the need for expensive changes once the substation is under construction.

“It’s always going to be a work in progress,” he says. “That’s what prototypes are for.”

Photos Gallery | Substation Model Details