How 3D Printed Models Are Changing Architectural Design
by Mark Grayson
A team of cutting edge architecture firms are using 3D printed models to find exciting ways to deliver dynamic, colourful representations of their designs.
A great example of this is Friedrich Schiller University new Jena campus. Using an online portal implemented by RP Platform, Dresden-based architect Friedemann Rentsch commissioned a high-quality print of his design from 3Faktur, a leading additive manufacturing (AM) firm based in Germany and Hong Kong. His design — incorporating around 18,500m2 of space — will be turned into a full-scale construction, expected to be completed by 2019.
Why are architects starting to embrace 3D printed models?
Firstly, 3D printing is solidifying (excuse the pun) its reputation as a tool for rapid prototyping. Early adopters quickly realised the potential of the technology for creating intricate scale models to be used in their projects. Here are some of the applications:
- Providing an attractive 3D illustration of a concept design to potential clients
- Testing the model within a scale representation of its intended surroundings, so designs can be considered in context
- Creating different iterations of the design as the project evolves, with models created quickly, on an as-needed basis.
One of the major benefits of using 3D printing is to speed up the process of creating a model for clients. A disadvantage of creating such models by hand has always been the fact that it can take several weeks for a single model to be created, thus slowing up the architectural workflow. However, a 3D printed model can be finalised and approved for construction quickly, and – crucially – demonstrate equal, if not better, build quality than those which have traditionally been constructed by hand.
Despite the clear benefits of 3D printed models, architects must thoroughly evaluate their in-house expertise before deciding to purchase 3D printing technology for their office, or whether the best decision might be to rather outsource to a specialist firm. Of course, creating 3D printed models in-house is a speedy and flexible process. However, the challenge is whether an architecture firm can recreate the consistent quality and in-depth knowledge of professional additive manufacturing companies. Either way, 3D printed models of architectural plans may be a valuable tool in how architects present their ideas to clients going forward.
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That being said, there are limitations to the simple 3D printed model alone. The property industry, to which architecture is – of course – inextricably linked, is becoming ever more tech savvy. Clients and investors expect to see cutting edge technology, of which 3D printing is just a part. The true key to unleashing the full potential of 3D printed models of architectural plans is to integrate the models with augmented reality technology, allowing viewers to see a true-to-life representation overlaid via a tablet or smartphone screen when viewing the 3D printed model itself.
3D printing is emerging as a technology that could have a thoroughly transformative effect on a wide range of industries. However, in order to be impressive, it must either be integrated with another, equally impressive technology or be of such high build quality that it immediately stands out. With virtual and augmented technologies fast infiltrating the PropTech scene, particularly in the architect’s office, where beautifully rendered 3D simulations are the talk of the town, 3D printed models may form just a small part of the technological revolution going on at the heart of our society.