Architecture is all about creating models aka prototypes, for the purpose of tweaking and perfecting the design before actually going into construction. While the use of 3D printing continues to be adapted into producing design models, architects are slowly gravitating towards the aesthetics, style and potential of 3D printed architectural models. When the architect, model and 3D printer are intertwined, the integration of the three entities produces refined architectural design in the truest sense.
3d printers begin with construction of thin layers of objects at a time, gradually building up layers immediately on top. For this purpose, various technologies and methods are used for assembling these physical versions of digital architectural models. Models use all kinds of materials, such as steel, aluminum, thermoplastics such as nylon, glass, ceramics, etc. Architects of the contemporary era use a wide range of media to develop, manifest and communicate their ideas. Simple sketches turned into CAD files and then into 3D printed models are the most appropriate for visualizing a design in its final form. 3d printing has enhanced the capacity to explore three dimensional models in developing designs and aesthetics.
One thing is certain, accuracy and beauty are what an architect looks for in his model. This is where the use of CNC comes into play. Two leading technologies, CNC milling and turning, make it possible to create shapes and cuts that are accurate to the millimeter. CNC makes rapid prototyping accurate and fit for any architectural model. These features include those complex ones that a human machinist might find impossible. For small production runs and rapid prototyping of different parts of the model, CNC is a great option. Several steps can be consolidated into one, producing architectural models in the quickest way possible. CNC is also exceptional for high gloss surfaces that precisely match the 3d CAD design.
Last year, a Chinese building company actually 3d printed ten houses in a single day using nothing but recycled materials. The engineers on that team had 3d printed prototypes of steel notes, along with a robot that could 3D print any complex metal structure on any surface. Stunning eh?
While the application of 3D printing technologies is lucrative as a method of construction, the most use out of it so far has been in creating models. Compared to traditional methods, 3D printed rapid prototyping creates an exciting forward shift in design which is beyond any other machine’s output.
Another great advancement made in the field of architectural construction was the prototype of a machine that is capable of printing buildings. If the design is fed to the CNC, it prints out the parts as required. Even though it requires to be assembled manually, this is a key advantage over other prototypes. A very detailed 3D computer model is prepared, the information is converted into cutting information using a digital process, and then 3D objects are unfolded and laid on a sheet. In this process, an exact match is found for the model components. There is absolutely no requirement of translation. In site specific architecture, along with industrial accuracy, this combines the efficiency of bespoke components.
Even though 3D printing may be considered complex, 3D printed models are far more accurate and have the potential to reduce cost. Architects do not need to engage in the technical matters of 3D printing, however, having a fair understanding of its capability can give a good idea about the extent of this technology. Increasing the value of a model as a design and communication tool is where the real value lies in this pursuit.
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