Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Does 3D Printing Have To Do With Sustainability?

This week’s guest blog is by Scott Harmon, Z Corporation Vice President of Business Development.

Over the last several years there has been a global push to improve sustainability. Sustainability in general seems like a pretty complex topic. It seems to combine efficiency, environmentalism, renewable energy, recyclability, etc., etc. I think back to my days camping as a kid. The motto was ‘leave it better than you found it.’

Rapid prototyping in general makes strong contributions to corporate sustainability. Reducing waste represents one of the key objectives of most sustainability efforts. Smart companies are doing everything possible to reduce the amount of waste material generated throughout their supply chains. Improving quality, reducing packaging and miniaturization are all methods that companies use to reduce the waste they generate. Interestingly, architectural designers have created specific certifications to improve how architects approach challenges in sustainability.

Intelligent use of 3D printers to make prototypes and scale models reduces waste in many different ways. By pushing errors and changes earlier in the design cycle, prototypes and scale models reduce the waste streams caused by those errors. When you catch an error in the prototype, you cut less steel and waste less plastic. In architecture for example, the savings are even more dramatic because the scale is so large. When you use prototypes and models to create better designs, you reduce the number of final products that get thrown in the trash.

However, despite the positive contributions that rapid prototyping systems make to corporate sustainability efforts, there are enormous differences in the waste streams created by these processes. I have heard stories of companies whose RP systems generate more waste than printed part material, at enormous dollar costs. Support material, shaving uneven surfaces, dissolving chemicals, etc. contribute substantially to the total cost of prototyping. These systems generate significantly larger hidden costs as those waste streams get flushed down the drain.

Z Corporation obviously prides itself on having the most efficient 3D printers in the industry: no support structures, no cleaning material disposal, no disposable build platforms, no chemical waste water, recycles 100% of the build material. Less waste today, better world tomorrow.

Is your company is starting to think about a more sustainable design process?

See Al Dean's Develop3D blog: Z Corp's Recycling Smarts

Free AEC Event (New York City):
How Leading Architects Leverage 3D Printing for Smarter, Competitive Design (Microsol Resources)
March 15, 2011, 5:30 - 8:30 PM

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Imagine an industry event in Monaco – imagina2011

Bonjour! Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of giving a keynote address during the Architecture day at imagina2011.

My biggest challenge was to speak slowly enough to enable the translators to communicate in French. Images work best in any language, and images of 3D models worked even better. The talk was entitled Complementing Digital Mock-Ups with 3D Printing for Integrated Project Delivery. You can guess what I covered in this presentation, but just in case you are new to this blog, here is the abstract …

While BIM and digital mock-ups have become increasingly important in AEC, the use of physical mock-ups remains critical in the design and approval process. In particular, affordable and fast 3D printing has enabled designers, architects and engineers to create multiple models to help accelerate approvals -- internal reviews, client buyoff, and regulatory agency go-aheads. Innovative firms, large and small, have incorporated 3D printing in their workflow and use physical models extensively during the schematic/concept phases (not just final presentation models). The speaker will present the benefits of 3D printing for AEC with several case studies and applications. A brief overview of workflow and scaling decisions will also be covered.

I found imagina2011 to be quite unique because it blended multiple disciplines such as healthcare, geospatial/urbanism, media & entertainment, and real-time simulation with architecture and digital design. Exhibitors ranged from the usual suspects like Dassault, Bentley and Autodesk to niche suppliers that I’ve never heard of before. Our French channel partner, 3D Avenir, brought their ZPrinter 650 to the conference and kept busy talking to prospects for three days.

A highlight for me was the presentation from Zaha Hadid on the use of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) for the SOHO China galaxy project.  The complexity of this project drove home the importance of physical prototyping, both scale models and full-scale sections to demonstrate construction for double-fold geometry.

Free AEC Event (New York City):
How Leading Architects Leverage 3D Printing for Smarter, Competitive Design (Microsol Resources)
March 15, 2011, 5:30 - 8:30 PM

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wikipedia Features Z Corp. 3D Prints for 10th Anniversary

Today’s guest blog comes from Elizabeth Gullam, director of marketing, Ideate Inc., a Z Corp. channel partner in the northwest USA.

Happy Birthday, Wikipedia!

The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit celebrated its tenth anniversary last month - what a milestone!

Whether fact-checking something at work or helping with kids' homework, many of us use Wikipedia as a go-to reference. And think about it...Wikipedia is written collaboratively by largely anonymous Internet volunteers who contribute without pay. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles. How powerful is that, having a community share knowledge?

Not long ago, our friends over at the design build studio Because We Can worked with Wikimedia to remodel their offices. Jeffrey McGrew and his creative cohorts did an amazing job. When it came time to put together the components of the Wikipedia 10 design concept, Jeffrey was asked to provide small 3D printed models. Needing to print 3D models that could be used, photographed, touched and passed around, Jeffrey contacted us to make his Blender model come to life.

Using the Z Corporation ZPrinter 650 in our San Francisco office, Ideate printed 14 of the 3D Wikipedia globes that appear in the Wikipedia 10 campaign, as shown in the photo above, in less than a day. The ZPrinter 650 works great for multicolor physical prototypes of real world objects, design elements or scale model buildings. We were glad to have a small part in helping Wikipedia look good on their birthday!

Next time you look up a word on Wikipedia, tip your hat to the community of users who are working diligently to build a powerful, multilingual, Web-based, free-content encyclopedia.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

SolidWorks Enters AEC Market

Last week at SolidWorks World '11 in San Antonio, TX, a new product called SolidWorks Live Building was introduced by SolidWorks management. The software was described as a conceptual process and planning tool aimed at owners and planners. The product marketing manager showed a demo of interior office design and build out of Dassault Systemes' new campus in Waltham, MA. In addition to doors, stairs, windows, cubicles, and offices, there was a solar energy analysis shown. Here is a link to a YouTube video that captured the demo on screen -

The software was described as an “on-line offering based on the V6 platform available later this year.” While journalists and bloggers debate the merits of SolidWorks Live Building versus Autodesk, Bentley, Google, and other major AEC supplier offerings, I have a different take. My view is “Bring on more 3D design tools!” The more that architects and designers work in 3D, the better it is for the 3D printing industry. As somebody who has been promoting 3D design since the early 1980s, it has been, and continues to be a long transition march from 2D to 3D. Perhaps a new tool like SolidWorks Live Building will give those late adopters out there a reason to look at new 3D technologies, both digital and physical prototyping.

Please share your thoughts on SolidWorks entry into the AEC market, especially as it relates to your design process.