Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 in Review, Trends for 2011

As I look back at 2010 in the rear view mirror, objects seem much closer than they appear. What ‘objects’ you say? Is there a T-Rex chasing me like in Jurassic Park? No, in fact not dinosaurs, but fresh new thinkers who understand the value of iterative physical modeling in creative design. These objects are the inexpensive, fast-turnaround 3D prints made in large quantities by the architectural firms who understand the tangible benefits of 3D printing. And, it’s not just the big-name “starchitects” who are experiencing the value of 3D printing. Sure, Amanda Levete Architects, Antoine Predock Studio, Cannon Design Yazdani Studio, Foster+Partners, HNTB, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Morphosis, NBBJ, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Pei Cobb Freed, Populous, RTKL, SHoP Architects, Steven Holl Architects, and others (apologies to those I forgot to mention) have been 3D printing for some time now. But, smaller firms are now jumping in. Last year, while many architects experienced continued declines in their businesses, Z Corp. experienced growth in 3D printer sales to the AEC market. Imagine if the economic climate for architects were better?

The other thing I noticed about 2010 is the continued investment by Schools of Architecture in new technology to support their curriculums. Adding new ZPrinters in their architectural departments, in no particular order, were American University in Dubai, Portland State, U Texas Austin, Cornell (two), U Tel Aviv, U Kentucky, Instituto Empresa Univ, U Newcastle, Syracuse, Woodbury, Yale, Instituto Statale D’Arte, Mukogawa Women’s Univ, Royal Melbourne Institute (their third printer), Barcelona Institute, and New School of Architecture. At the same time, we experienced an increase in the purchase of consumables from other universities that have been 3D printing for some time. The big users last year included Harvard GSD, Columbia, SCI-Arc, UCLA, Arizona State, U Cincinnati, Catholic U, U Michigan, Pratt, MIT, USC, Penn, U Toronto, Florida, Illinois, Carnegie Mellon, UNC Charlotte, the Cooper Union, and on and on. Many of these schools are recognized in the Design Intelligence report of top undergraduate and graduate programs in architecture. Do you think there might be a strong correlation between technology investment and successful programs? Rhetorical question. I would even argue that this positive correlation is true in the commercial sector [see list of firms above].

What does Professore DeMarco foresee for 2011?

• Continued strong interest in the AEC community in 3D printing, with spending catching up later in the year to drive market growth.

• AEC firms doing 3D printing stretching the limits on build sizes to accommodate larger scale models.

• Software vendors will deliver better tools to make physical models from their BIM software.

• Reprographic suppliers, now entrenched in 2D solutions, begin to understand the business opportunity for 3D printing.

• More engineering and construction firms investing in 3D printing (a trend we see in Japan).

• Continued consolidation in the AEC reseller community with larger firms offering more complete solutions including both digital and physical prototyping.

• More guest blogs from sharp minds in our community…volunteers?