Making “mini” versions of spacecraft is isn’t something I have to do for my job, but I find it useful to have a version that I can pick up and move around. Often I make my versions from paper and sometime crochet, they’re not always a perfect scale model either, that could take a really long time to make!
In my work, I don’t create mini statues, but a in a lot of engineering sometimes small models are required to be made to see how things work, to see if the materials used are up to scratch. In my line of work, usually these are now done on the computer, where you can make a model of how something works and see what happens when it is working using computer software, that way you can test what happens if something goes wrong without actually having to wait for it to happen in reality!
We use models a lot when building spacecraft, sometimes just a small model made out of paper or bits of whatever’s lying around, or a 3D printed model or even lego models to give an idea of how something might look or work. We also make full scale models of our satellites to act as a mass dummy so that we can perform vibration testing (shaking it as hard as it will get shaken on a rocket) on it to get an idea of how the spacecraft will perform before we test the real thing.
Prototyping – or building models of things to test your designs and theories – can be an essential part of the engineering process. Sometimes the only way you can see if something works is by building it and running some tests.
When you build a prototype, you can use all sorts of materials. Dyson, the company that makes vacuum cleaners (among other things), use a lot of cardboard prototyping to test out how their mechanisms will work. They also use 3D printing with cardboard and lots of glue to quickly (and hopefully cheaply) test out more complex mechanisms.
You can test with lots of things though, even the things you find in your pencil case can be used to build something that answers a question!