Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Experiences at SIGGRAPH 2010

Today’s guest blog was submitted by John Penn, architect and principal of JWP Design LLC in Phoenix, AZ.

During the last week of July, the Los Angeles Convention Center hosted more than 22,000 people from 79 countries at the SIGGRAPH 2010 conference. JWP Design exhibited at the show from Sunday through Thursday. We hauled our ZPrinter 650 in a trailer from Phoenix to LA without incident. With support from Z Corp’s marketing team, we set up the booth and we were ready to go by noon Sunday.

 Everyone involved with the conference was impressed with the ease of use and speed of our best-in-class, full color 3D printer. We printed three builds each day. Two short builds, each two hours long -- one in the morning and one in the afternoon -- then a longer build each night. The system was printing or recycling powder almost the entire show. Students helped run the printer and post-process the parts. We were at the center from 8 am to 8 pm or later every day.

There was a lot of excitement about 3D printing in color. A lot of people who had never seen this technology were amazed! Even the people who already knew about Z Corp machines were impressed with the sample models we had on display. The feature detail and the color produced by the ZPrinter 650 with our zp150 build material were impressive to most viewers. We got quite a bit of traffic. There were more people to talk to than time available, and the days went by quickly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

MIT Building Model

Folks who follow the 3D printing industry know that Z Corp. was founded in 1995 based on technology that originated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). So, when it came time to produce a new brochure for the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry, it was no mere coincidence that the MIT building entrance at 77 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge, MA, USA would grace the cover.

Some have asked where the model came from. Here is the answer …

The MIT lobby at 77 Mass Ave. was designed in Rhino by Marcel Botha from the MIT Architecture department. He provided the digital model to Radlab Inc. [founded by two former Botha colleagues] to print on their ZPrinter. The Rhino digital model was originally made up of both polysurfaces and surfaces. Radlab revised it so that the entire model was closed polysurfaces suitable for 3D printing. In the underside of the dome, Radlab exposed some of the structural details that were initially hidden behind the ceiling to decrease the overall volume and weight of the dome. Given the number of rooms and balconies in the model, Radlab also made sure that all cavities had doorways and openings for excess powder to escape later during the depowdering stage.

The model was printed and finished, then presented as a gift to Dr. Robert Brown, President of Boston University and former MIT provost. This scaled replica of the neoclassical MIT lobby captures the smallest details of the domed entryway, including the Ionic columns, interior balconies, and stoic podiums.

Visitors who enter the Z Corp. lobby at 32 Second Ave. in Burlington, MA, USA (not quite as impressive as 77 Mass. Ave.) will see the MIT model perched on the reception desk.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ZPrint v7.11 Support of FBX Expands 3D Printable Market

Recently, Z Corp announced the release of ZPrint v7.11 software. One of the deliverables in this new release is the support of the FBX file format. FBX is being used by Autodesk for interoperability between its primary Content Creation software.

From the web site above … Autodesk® FBX® asset exchange technology facilitates higher-fidelity data exchange between several Autodesk content creation packages—Autodesk® Maya®, Autodesk® MotionBuilder®, Autodesk® Mudbox™, and Autodesk® 3ds Max® products—and provides support for certain third-party and proprietary applications. Whether you are using FBX within an entertainment pipeline or as part of design production, files are more seamlessly transferred, more data is retained, and workflows are more efficient.

For more history on the FBX format, visit:

What does this all mean for 3D printing? Now a new direct geometry data path exists from applications that do not export STL. This means that more Autodesk community users will be able to print 3D physical models from their native applications which export FBX files. For example, Autodesk Navisworks®, the project review/clash detection/simulation application can export FBX files, but does not export STL files.

While this new file format support is generally good news, there is a ‘gotcha’ to be considered. Z Corp initially developed ZPrint v7.11 with FBX files generated by Revit2010 which exported color and texture information in the FBX file. In the recently released Revit2011, Autodesk changed their FBX support in a way which makes colors and textures unavailable to outside applications like ZPrint. While this change helped Autodesk achieve their stated goal of giving a better ‘looks the same in all our applications’ uniformity, the real effect is to change FBX from a useful 3DP color export format to a format mostly useful for transferring data between Autodesk applications.

On the plus side, at least there is now a geometry data path from applications that do not export STL. Color and texture must still be added in other applications like 3dsMax or ZEdit Pro.

I am eager to hear from Navisworks users and others with experience in exporting FBX files.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Success with 3D Printing – Solo and Complementary – For Communication

Today’s guest blog was submitted by Matthew Mondo, Affiliate AIA Member, and Vice President at Impact 3D Models, LLC –

With the rapid development and seemly infinite amounts of uses for 3D printing, users are always interested to see what makes this unique technology stand out. While the most visible use is communication, what’s important is how the physical model is used to communicate the message. Many of us are familiar with how 3D printing can rapidly communicate ideas among internal design team members, but it is beyond the design office where 3D printing really stands out.

Many of Impact 3D Models’ customers have used their models to communicate ideas, whether it is an architectural firm showing their prospective client a ‘hard to describe with words’ design, or a product design firm displaying their concepts to their client with 3D prints. It may seem obvious to daily users of 3D printing, but to people unfamiliar with the process, viewing a 3D physical model allows them, in less than a minute, to understand a design which would normally take twenty 2D renderings and several hours of discussion to accomplish. Designers that want to take their presentations to the next level utilize a multimedia approach, including full color renderings and virtual walk-throughs, with their 3D physical model sitting in front of the customer to provide them with the ultimate spatial relation and communication tool set.

Whether you have your own in house printing equipment or utilize a professional service bureau to produce your models, custom 3D models are both a cost effective and extremely useful way to communicate your designs and gain stakeholder approvals!