Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How do Architecture, Engineering and Construction, AEC, Professionals Use 3D Printed Models?

Just as with building information modeling (BIM) software, 3D printing is becoming a strategic necessity for Architecture, Engineering and Construction, AEC, firms. The question is no longer “should we do it?”, it is “how do we implement 3D printing into our practice today?”. You can use a 3D printed model in the same way that you use handcrafted 3D models and renderings. Applications include client presentation, massing, detailed models, building performance analysis, clash detection, and building construction phases.

The following examples illustrate how firms of every size use 3D printing to improve design quality, client satisfaction, marketing effectiveness and regulatory relations.

Regulatory Approvals

3D printed models can be combined with other elements to quickly, easily and affordably create multicolor presentations to clients and team stakeholders, helping to close deals and win faster approvals.

The China House model courtesy of Autodesk, Inc.

Bentley MicroStation plant model printed on a ZPrinter 650, courtesy of Shinryo International and Team-S.

Autodesk Ecotect Analysis model courtesy of Autodesk, Inc.

Massing Model

Classic white massing models convey exterior form and proportion. Contemporary design shapes are well suited to 3D printing.

Urban Planning

3D printing this Midtown Manhattan cityscape from CAD and GPS data is quicker, more affordable and more accurate than handcrafting the model.

Midtown Manhattan model, printed on a ZPrinter 650, data courtesy of Parsons Brinckerhoff

How do you use 3DP at your firm? Has 3DP changed the way you work? What are some other, unanticipated benefits of 3DP?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

3D Printing Just Made Easy

Today’s guest blog was contributed by Alexandra Yessios, VP of Sales & Marketing, AutoDesSys.

It may be a little known fact, but AutoDesSys was the first company to support the .zpr file format to facilitate 3D printing with Z Corp's printers. As a matter of fact form.Z was the first 3D software that used the technology to send these files. Reading in one of the blogs that a certain 3D program is a "great receptacle", one cannot help wonder why, in the decade we live in, such a "receptacle" should even be necessary? The answer of course is obvious: Because most 3D programs can't handle the data at the level required by a 3D printer. What is even more troublesome is that many professionals consider this normal, being led by software companies to believe that this is the state of the art. All this means good business for the service firms that are hired to translate 2D and 3D data to the solid data that 3D printers require. Economic downturn undoubtedly can be blamed for affecting this business. But at the same time one cannot help wondering how much of this can be attributed to the effect that savvy customers are creating, as they become better educated and learn to use the 3D programs that actually support 3D printing directly.

About a year ago AutoDesSys introduced a new modeler, bonzai3d. bonzai3d is the younger sibling of form.Z, aimed at conceptual design, but it is packed with enough power and robust geometry to model just about anything. This also means that the models it produces are ready for 3D printing from the outset and not as an afterthought. Everything in bonzai3d is readily editable (parametric) and fluently changeable through real-time Booleans and live sections, so that quick conceptual sketches can easily evolve into detailed and finished models. At any time during this process objects can be 3D printed as physical models become more and more indispensable parts of the design process.

While all this seemed like a dream only 15 years ago, today 3D printing is both affordable and accessible largely thanks to printers offered by Z Corp. It has been a pleasure to work alongside and closely with Z Corp. to become the first company to support color 3D printing when it was first introduced in the industry not too long ago. The rest is up to choices: state of the art software should be used for state of the art hardware to get a no hassle job accomplished!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

KTH Royal Institute of Technology Expands Scope of Architecture Education with 3D Printing

Today's guest blogger:  Julie Reece, Director of Marketing Communications, Z Corporation

I thought this might be interesting to readers of our AEC's a brand new customer case study detailing how the acclaimed Royal Institute of Technology integrated Z Corporation 3D printing with a ZPrinter 650 into their curriculum to teach students advanced building fabrication techniques and to unlock the vast design talent of those who they believe will shape 21st century architecture.  Read the complete case study.

Performative Design Studio, thesis project by Petra Lindfors. Instructors: Marcelyn Gow, Ulrika Karlsson and Daniel Norell

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Digital Fabrication in Academia and Industry

Today’s guest blog was contributed by Matt Trimble, founder of Radlab, Inc, Boston, MA, and visiting instructor in architectural technology at the Wentworth Institute of Technology and the Boston Architectural College.

As new fabrication technologies become progressively more integrated into academic curricula, particularly for architects, engineers, and industrial designers, the significance of merging academic exploration with industry production tools is becoming increasingly evident. In some cases students are working with industry tools to become better prepared for future endeavors. In other instances, students are working with industry tools with the opportunity to actually inform industry of previously unseen potentials. Each of these goals is similarly valid and important, but the latter is far more interesting.

The invention of personal computers, coupled with a steady increase in memory capacity and computer processing power allowed for a noteworthy technological migration in the '70s and early 80's. Sophisticated computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines, previously sustainable only by large corporations, started to become accessible to small machine shops. Since then, rapid prototyping technologies have evolved into a cohesive family of tools for production and exploration, including 2 axes of motion with waterjet, plasma, and laser cutting, 3 axes of motion with 3D printing, 3 and 4 axes of motion with CNC table routing, and 5, 6, and 7 axes of motion with robotic arm operations. Not only have these machines maintained and exceeded their prior status of importance to a variety of industries, but they've become, and are becoming, personalized. In the same way that you used to buy a 'desktop' computer, you can now buy a 'desktop' laser cutter, 3D printer, or CNC mill. The new possibilities provided by this kinship of computer controlled machines allow for new possibilities in prototyping, manufacturing, and the exploration of a wealth of undiscovered design solutions.

Within the context of academia, the production of new ideas, techniques, and inventions is manifold. However, it is through the medium of tools, with the goal of innovation, that these tend to come to fruition. Design and engineering programs around the world are still just beginning to grapple with CNC tools, but students are quickly becoming more adept at thinking, reasoning, and creating in an intensely algorithmic fashion. I teach a course in design computing and digital fabrication at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. Students there, both graduates and undergraduates, are learning about digital-physical workflows, time management, cost estimating, research, sketching, modeling, scripting, and prototyping. Students are also beginning to understand different machining protocols and infrastructural issues, including sensitivity to machine-specific tolerances and calibration. Periodically pulling back from the scope of the individual project, students also develop an appreciation for large-scale manufacturing methodologies.

Wentworth student work from left to right: Andrew Potter, Suzanna Gal, Aki Yoshida

In Towards a New Architecture, Le Corbusier reminds us that “Everything is possible by calculation and invention, provided that there is at our disposal a sufficiently perfected body of tools.” While Le Corbusier was writing about an age enamored by mass production, our obsession is one of mass customization. To a large degree a new “body of tools” is precisely what is responsible for this modal transition from mass production to mass customization.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Model Shop or Desktop?

3D printing vendors work hard at engineering and manufacturing systems which are office compatible. There has been a shift in recent years from operating 3D printers in a model shop environment to a shared office location. As these systems become more user-friendly, the multi-user office environment makes a lot of sense. But, seriously, do we really need a desktop 3D printer? Remember when personal ink-jet and laser printers first hit the market? While they made perfect sense for the home environment, very few professionals (with the exception of Human Resource managers) could justify a desktop printer in their office. After all, unless your job involves constant production of highly confidential documents, it makes no economic sense to have your own desktop printer (just ask your IT director). How many of you have a 2D printer on your desk?

The same is true for 3D printers. No matter how low the price, these systems are ideal for sharing. It’s all about collaboration. So, gather round your 3D printer in the hallway, chat about your favorite sporting team’s win or latest political incumbent loss, and marvel at how 3D printing technology enables you to bring your design to life!