Wednesday, November 30, 2011

3D Printing Ultra Thin Architectural Models...Sometimes Less is More!

This week’s guest blog comes from David Munson –

Fund-raising concerns for the construction of Palm Beach Day Academy's new expansion in Florida, designed by HMFH Architects, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, lead to a large 3' square at 3/32” = 1' scale, finished architectural model to communicate their vision. We were hired to make a finish model and it was primarily 3D printed in many pieces and assembled on a wood base along with traditionally made elements like the ground and roof planes. The facades, canopies, awnings, cars, people and brick sidewalk, were all 3D printed.

All elements were very thin including the facades which had hidden structures behind them. This allowed for handling during depowdering and infiltration which prevented warping and provided a structure to glue the foam core roof to. The facades here are really being treated as a curtain wall for 3D printing.

For the paper thin canopy which has a minimal structural design, we created a temporary structure to protect during depowdering and hold it so it didn't lose shape during infiltration:

Since this model resides under a dust cover and no one will be touching, it opened up the possibility of going so thin and delicate. I've noticed that as long as the whole part is light and perhaps has a temporary structural support, we can even simulate canvas like we do here in the main canopy. The only trick is getting it through the depowdering stage because after it has been infiltrated, it’s quite strong. The awnings in this project are also ultra-light and the curved ones had special structural temporary elements which protected it until it was infiltrated. 


  1. This is beautiful work. I would love to see the geometry you used to support the awnings. >special structural temporary elements which protected it until it was infiltrated
    Were they run vertically or flat.



  2. Thanks, they were run flat with slightly thickened structural members. The curved awnings had smooth, curved, temporary objects under them. They were blown clean and the CA was brushed on rather than normal dipping because they really couldn't be handled until they were infiltrated.