Models star at OTC

By Lydia DePillis
There’s no kit manual for making an eight-foot long scale model of an oil tanker. Exploration companies don’t send instructions for how to re-create their ever-more-sophisticated inventions in miniature. That’s up to John Richard.
With dexterity that belies his thick, large muscular hands, Richard constructs a wire circuit that will illuminate tiny LED lights on a diorama of an offshore rig. It’s a mix of art and engineering, and Richard is surrounded by the tools of both: Paint sprayers and power tools, 3D printers and laser cutters, and a room full of people working on computer models.
“It’s a good feeling to know that you can reproduce anything,” said Richard.
Every year, the stars of the show at the mammoth Offshore Technology Conference are the models: Intricate reproductions of ships, plants, rigs, compressors, engines and drill bits, all nested in dazzling displays, vying for the attention of passerby.
Dozens of those models are painstakingly constructed in a featureless warehouse off I-45 in Houston, by artisans like Richard, who over 30 years in the business, has learned the process from start to finish.