Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Create More...Ideas: Oversized Architectural 3D Prints

In last week's blog by Z Corp. CEO, John Kawola, he outlined Z Corp.'s "Create more" vision for continuous innovation.  Our next few blogs will highlight real examples of our how customers are creating more with 3D printing.  Today’s guest blog and customer example comes from David Munson of Munson3D.

There is an inevitable conflict that arises from time to time when creating architectural models. We typically work out a desired scale and model extents to get a final model size. The scale is driven by the level of detail desired. The extents may include contextual buildings beyond the property line needed to tell the story of its design.

When the size of the model is beyond the machine's build chamber, some division of the model is in order. For many models this can be accomplished in Z-Edit Pro. Users of Revit and/or 3ds Max Design may prefer creating 3D printer files in their native programs. For complicated 3D splitting, which may be needed to hide seams in more sophisticated model designs, I believe that Max Design is the way to go.

In Revit, Section Boxes work really well. They break the model into geometrically clean sections quickly and easily. However, they are limited to boxes, so more complicated divisions are not supported. But if one is dividing into simple rectangular pieces, using Revit is much easier than using Max Design where one may need to invoke the dreaded Boolean command.

For a more complicated scenario let me take you through a New York City School project I recently completed. Working from the Max Design model used to create the renderings, we settled on the scale and model extents. Note that we are making a traditionally large architectural model using 3D printing techniques along with some traditional made elements.

Next, the Max Design model is divided into .02” thick slice planes. The model goes through a phase of designing for 3D printing. Even the elements that are not going to be 3D printed should be modeled. Then you can communicate with your client the model design with visual precision before physical production starts and have templates for the hand or laser cutting of foam core, plastic, etc. along with the precise files for 3D printing which will fit together like a sophisticated, custom architectural puzzle. .

For this model I printed about 20 parts. It is more important to slice where you can hide the seams than to fill out a build chamber. The sidewalk in the front is on an incline and has curb cuts, etc. so I decided to 3D print it. I made a notch on the building facade where the sidewalk connects so this was a complex 3D connection. Thanks to the precision of 3D printing, it came out great!

Fitting them all together, even the non-3D printed parts, was made easy by computer modeling all the pieces first. The facades are 0.1” thick with a structural grid behind them to prevent warping.

Even the cars and people were 3D printed!

The texture mapping created for the renderings is actually printed in the final, physical model!

For examples of how AEC customers create more with 3D printing, visit:

See the now famous viral 3D printing YouTube video