Donn McKinney has been obsessed with large battleships for more than 30 years. Now, thanks to his diligence and dexterity with 3D CAD software, he's close to producing an operational replica of the USS Missouri that he hopes will help spark others' interest in the venerable vessels.
McKinney, a mechanical design engineer by trade, got started on this project back in 1977 about the time he launched his career in electronics packaging. McKinney has always been captivated by large battleships, and even as a kid, he devoted hours to building plastic ship models while other kids preferred model kits of cars or planes. Initially, McKinney painstakingly sketched out the Missouri model by hand, but when he went to work at Xerox and got introduced to its CAD system, he realized it was time to transfer his efforts to the digital world and start the task of creating a 3D model.
Based on a full-scale model he created in SolidWorks, Donn McKinney is building a 1/32nd scale replica of the USS Missouri battleship, which, when finished, will be nearly 28 feet long.
Rather than a flat 2D paper sketch, the 3D digital model lets McKinney visualize the whole ship -- a development that made him intent on designing the full-scale 3D model. Once complete (he's about 80 percent there), the CAD model, which he's creating in SolidWorks, will serve as the roadmap to build physical, scaled-down replicas that he hopes become museum pieces or get used to engage the general public.
"I've always believed that naval history is held real close to a nation's heart," McKinney told us in an interview. "If you can have a 19-foot model behaving and acting like the real ship, it could provide a sense of what the ships were like, because they're not around anymore. I'm trying to recreate history."
What McKinney is really trying to recreate is the USS Missouri, a 900-foot battleship commissioned on June 11, 1944, which was part of bombing raids over Tokyo and provided firepower in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Leveraging microfilm records of the Missouri in addition to plans, photographs, and drawings from partner The Floating Drydock, McKinney has spent what he estimates is around two to three years of manpower to create a full-scale 3D model in SolidWorks, including leveraging the Simulation Xpress FEA module to simulate the behavior of various parts of the model.
"SolidWorks allows me to create something that is full scale and then scale it down as well as put in features like motors, sensors, and transducers so it operates like a real model," McKinney explains.