Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Create More Client Enthusiasm with 3D Printing

Andrew Chary Architect, P.L.L.C. is a seven person residential design firm in upstate NY. As their website states, "(We) strive to create 'Heirloom Architecture.'" This timeless approach to design produces superior built environments that hold the capacity to be cherished by patrons and family for countless generations.

As Andrew Chary describes it …“We enrich our clients’ lives through immersion in the design process, and nothing works better for immersion than a 3D physical model. We first saw a ZPrinter at a trade show in 2007, and we were so impressed that we bought one within weeks. I quickly figured out that I could transform my business process to use ZPrints in many different ways to communicate and inspire my clients.”

Multi-piece large home ZPrinted model, with Andrew Chary Architect, Lake Placid printed on top of driveway.
Andrew continues … “We practice architecture to have very personalized projects built and enjoyed. With ZPrints, we have been able to get quicker approvals of details.”

Realization of Details with screen shot and close up of ZPrint on boat house corner column.
"The ZPrinter has enhanced our credibility as gifted artist architects, and has made us the “go-to” firm in our region for winning difficult municipal applications."

Lake house and boat house.
For Andrew Chary Architects, it’s all about leveraging 3D printing for design inspiration and client enthusiasm. For a more comprehensive view of Andrew Chary’s design process, view the webcast: How Andrew Chary Architect Leverages 3D Printing for Smarter, Competitive Design 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Create More: Design Detail with 3D Printing

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCPA) of New Haven, CT, has a strong culture of model making. In the words of Wesley Wright, designer and director of digital fabrication at PCPA, “Model making is a given in our design process. We make. We make models to communicate.”

PCPA owns several different model making tools and chooses the appropriate tool for the job at hand. Most of their early concept models are created with Z Corp printers. They used an older generation Spectrum Z510 for several years, and recently installed the newer generation ZPrinter 650 which has become their workhorse for in-house model production.

For a recent conceptual design study, PCPA printed a highly detailed (and extremely thin) canopy model using zp150 composite build material on the ZPrinter 650.

This type of intricate organic model would be difficult to impossible to build with other construction tools. And, the beauty is that the model was printed in 3.5 hours using only 8.7 cubic inches of materials (approx $35 material cost).

Here is a view showing the canopy in context with the rest of the building massing model.

You can see from the plan view below how fine the features can be printed. The thinnest sections (really the entire print) measure only 0.6 mm (0.025 in) thick.

For PCPA, it’s all about creating more design iterations to refine their designs and communicate more clearly. View this free online Webcast for a more comprehensive view of PCPA’s design process.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Creativity and Constraints

This week's guest blog is from Scott Harmon, Z Corp VP of Business Development.

Creativity and Constraints.

These two go together like oil and water, or here in Boston, Yankees and Red Sox. They are the great paradox of design and engineering. Constantly at war with each other. Battling for supremacy. When constraints win out, designs and products are dull and uninspiring. When creativity wins out, designs and the final products are novel and catch the notice of customers, but budgets are wrecked, timelines are blown and no one seems to notice.

Inside this conflict is where innovation lives. Innovation is when companies deliver products that exceed customer expectations, and do it on time and under budget. Failure on either attribute is still failure.

So the question is, how do you wrestle these two beasts to the ground? How do you deliver a design and final product that your customer wants, and do it faster and less expensively than ever before? It shouldn’t come as a big shock that a 3D printer company would say “prototype more,” and we do. But the new frontier of prototyping is less about completing the job faster at less cost, and more about creativity. How do you make sure that the final product that you are delivering is the product your customer wants?

The answer is obvious, but relatively few companies actually do it. How about showing your customer the product long before it’s a product? How about creating with them?

When I was a product manager, I was always frustrated by how we showed new product ideas to consumers. We would brainstorm some ideas and have an artist draw them up on a sheet of paper. The images would have explanations for various features and such. Then we would show it to groups of consumers and discuss it. I’m sure you have all been there. It was maddening. You’d get really helpful feedback like “That’s not possible.” or “Would it come in yellow?” The boss was not happy to see the bill for a focus group with those kinds of results.

These days you can put a physical prototype in front of the focus group for less than the cost of the focus group. You can get a real response from your customers about what works for them and what does not from a prototype with the color and feel of an actual product. If you want to make sure you customers love your products, give them the product long before it is actually a product.    

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Create more…innovation: MIT School of Architecture and Planning Completed research on Palladio’s Unfinished Villas

In his blog on July 20th, Z Corp. CEO, John Kawola outlined Z Corp.'s "Create more" vision for continuous innovation.  Our next few blogs, by Julie Reece, highlighted real examples of our how customers are creating more with 3D printing.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is an independent, privately endowed educational institution committed to teaching and research. MIT is world renowned, with eight Nobel Prize winners on its faculty, and comprises five schools and one college encompassing 34 academic departments, divisions, and degree granting programs, as well as numerous interdisciplinary centers, laboratories, and programs whose work cuts across traditional departmental boundaries. The Department of Architecture, within the School of Architecture and Planning is the oldest architecture department in the United States. The department offers degree programs in Architectural Design, Building Technology, Computation, History, Theory and Criticism, and Visual Arts.

Challenge: Accelerating Architectural Model Development
The Department of Architecture at MIT is the oldest and one of the most highly respected architectural programs in the United States. For years, faculty and students employed manual modeling techniques, using a variety of materials ranging from paper and cardboard to foam board and plastic, to create scaled, architectural models. However, manual modeling carries drawbacks that from a practical standpoint limit its actual use in architectural courses and MIT-related research projects, according to Lawrence Sass, assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Architecture.

“Models are important for visualizing, imprinting, and sharing architectural ideas and concepts,” Sass says. “But manual modeling takes too much time; requires manual skills and a level of craftsmanship not directly related to architectural ability; and cannot adequately represent complex buildings or ornate architectural features.”

Sass speaks from personal experience. As a Ph.D. student at MIT in the late 1990s, he undertook as a research project the completion of Palladio’s Italian Villas. Andrea Palladio, who is revered today as the greatest architect who ever lived, revolutionized Western architecture in the 16th century by authoring definitive texts that remain valid today. The principles Palladio set forth are evidenced in the 40 villas he designed for rich, powerful nobles in the Veneto area of Italy, which surrounds the island city of Venice. While Palladio designed floor plans for all 40 villas, only 19 were actually built.

When Sass set out to construct models of Palladio’s unfinished villas, he discovered that the ornate columns, cornices, and moldings were difficult to model by hand, especially within the time allotted for his project. Sass suggested that MIT purchase a rapid prototyping system that could produce the model components needed to complete his research on Palladio’s villas, support future architectural researchers, and enhance the school’s educational experience by accelerating the development of architectural models.

Solution: Z Corp. 3D Printer Produces Fast, Clean Architectural Components
The requirements for a rapid fabrication system devoted solely to the production of components for architectural models are similar to the criteria for machines used to prototype consumer and industrial products. The system had to be fast, so that many students and educators could access it; had to produce complex geometries, to represent ornate architectural features; had to produce clean models, without internal support systems or breakaway parts; and had to operate in a classroom setting, without the need for specialized laboratories and/or operators. These selection criteria narrowed the choice down to a 3D Printer, and MIT did not have to look far to find the system best suited to its needs.

Sass and his department advisors at MIT chose a Z Corporation 3D printer to meet its architectural modeling needs because it was the fastest 3D printer available, produced clean models with no internal support structures, produced models with complex shapes, could be operated in the classroom, and utilized technology first developed at MIT. “As a Ph.D. student, I saw the benefits of using a 3D printer to produce architectural models to complete my Palladio project,” Sass recalls. “As a future member of the faculty, I saw even greater benefits for using the Z Corp. 3D printer to improve the educational experience of students.”

After successfully completing his Ph.D. dissertation with the help of the Z Corp. models of Palladio’s unfinished villas, Sass later joined the faculty of the Department of Architecture and began thinking about ways for students to use the 3D printer in an actual course. Because the 3D printer handled the complex geometries involved with the Palladio’s work well, Sass realized it was more than sufficient for producing more modern architectural concepts. The graduate-level “Advanced Course in Digital Fabrication” that Sass developed in 2002 was the first architectural course of its kind. Its purpose is to teach students about how to apply rapid prototyping techniques to architectural design. During the course, students collaborate within design teams to produce a skyscraper or tower design as both a digital model, using solid modeling software, and an actual physical model, using the Z Corp. 3D printer.

“We want our architectural students to stretch the limits of their creativity, which usually results in complex geometrical shapes that you simply cannot build with your bare hands,” Sass explains.

Results: Cutting-edge Course in Architectural Design, Ties with Top Firms
By installing the Z Corp. 3D printer, MIT’s Department of Architecture not only helped Sass to complete his research by constructing accurate, scaled models of Palladio’s unfinished villas but also to implement a cutting-edge architectural course in digital fabrication that has garnered the notice of leading architectural firms. “The class has been a huge success,” Sass stresses. “The students enjoy the collaboration process, learn a lot, and establish contacts that can help them build professional careers.”

Students in the heavily over-subscribed course had the opportunity to present their tower models to representatives of the Computer Modeling Group at Norman Foster and Partners, a leading architectural firm based in the United Kingdom, during a class trip to London. Another top firm — New York-based Kohn Pederson Fox Associates — is already working to apply some of the concepts developed in the class by incorporating aspects of building prototyping into their professional practice.

“From the time of Michelangelo up through the current day, architects have always used models to represent important buildings. The Z Corp. 3D Printer enables us to create clean models and components quickly and easily and allows us to expose the architects of tomorrow to cutting-edge modeling and fabricating technology,” Sass says.

Check out the viral 3D printing YouTube video!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Create more…communication: Multicolor 3D Printer a ‘Bargain’ for OBM International

In his blog on July 20th, Z Corp. CEO, John Kawola outlined Z Corp.'s "Create more" vision for continuous innovation. Our next few blogs, by Julie Reece, will highlight real examples of our how customers are creating more with 3D printing.

Clients hire OBM International (OBMI) to think in three dimensions. The world-class architectural firm demonstrates its prowess in this skill every day by designing luxury hotels, resorts and mixed-use developments around the world.

The creations speak eloquently for themselves. When designs are still in the concept stage, however, OBMI conveys the impact of its ideas through 3D printing.

Before turning to 3D printing, the 72-year-old firm, headquartered in Coral Gables, Fla., USA, presented project concepts to clients by creating vivid, two-dimensional photorealistic renderings or computer animations. In its early years, the firm used traditional 2D plans, sketches or the occasional handcrafted model.

Challenge: True Client Understanding
Although these approaches were effective, the third dimension, depth, was sorely missed. Two-dimensional renderings failed to accurately convey a sense of space, mass or scale, nor any clear line between landscaping and building. Wide angle and telescoped perspectives altered shapes. Still images and animated fly-throughs told the observer where he must look rather than giving him the freedom to walk around the model and look where he pleased.

“Two-dimensional renderings can be deceiving,” says Robin Lockhart, Associate and Senior Production Manager for OBMI. “They’re simply not quite ‘there’ for the lay person.”

Handcrafted models, on the other hand, are laborious, time consuming, expensive, and less accurate than 3D printed models. The rare laser cut model could cost OBMI upwards of $100,000 – more than the cost of two or three 3D printers – and take months or more to arrive.

OBMI had monitored the development of 3D printing for several years from afar, but for most of that time the equipment was out of reach due to its high costs.

OBMI’s CEO, Doug Kulig, noticed that 3D printers were reaching a tipping point in their market. Costs were plummeting and printer capabilities were soaring. Assigned to study the 3D printing options, Lockhart performed an extensive investigation of 3D printers from three vendors. “Z Corporation had the best combination of quality, color capability, footprint and office friendliness, ”Lockhart says. “Moreover, we distributed 3D files to prospective vendors, and Z Corporation was the only one that could print us a sample model.”

Z Corporation 3D printers are the fastest 3D printers and the only ones capable of printing in multiple colors – two layers per minute in 24-bit color at 600 x 540 dpi resolution. Other 3D printers billing themselves as color capable are in fact monochrome machines that can print only one color at a time. Another vendor’s expensive offering had intrigued Lockhart until he realized OBMI would have to build a “science lab” to house it. The ZPrinter consumes far less space (42 x 31 x 50 inches), without the odors, noise, and caustic chemicals of other technologies. “We feel great about the choice we made,” Lockhart says today.

Strategy: “3D Printing” Architectural Models
OBMI architects perform their 3D design work in Google SketchUp CAD software. They use the ZPrinter’s multicolor capabilities for landscaping, topography, streets and other surrounding features, and then set off the designed buildings or interior in white, the architect’s traditional choice. This combination provides visually stunning models that are also easy to comprehend by all parties.

In house, OBMI uses 3D printed models for design critique and assessment. Lockhart anticipates the practice will yield increasingly superior designs and service.

Results: Clients Are Impressed, and “They Get It”
“‘Wow!’ That’s the usual response to the models,” reports Lockhart. “Someone inevitably asks, ‘how the heck did you do that?’ Clients are fascinated with the model and impressed with us for presenting it. The mood of the meeting brightens. Their choice in architects is affirmed. Before we’re done, clients usually order more models for marketing their hotels and resorts.”

As fun as it is to impress, the models also inform. “We now have a new way to communicate to clients in a form they can deeply comprehend,” Lockhart says. “The spatial element really comes through. You can’t really know a building from a flat screen any more than you can drive a car by watching a Formula 1 race. And there’s something about walking around a site, even a scale model, that reveals the truth of the proposal. Clients crouch down to see it at eye level. They can touch it. They can peer down a hall. This transparent communication produces informed decisions, eliminates costly redesigns and increases client satisfaction. 3D printing has proved to be the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of our architectural presentations.”

“Both in house and with clients, 3D printing has brought that missing dimension to our daily practice fairly easily,” Lockhart adds. “We now have the best machine to suit our needs, all the options, at an affordable price. The many and varied benefits of 3D printing make the machine a bargain.”

Check out the viral YouTube 3D printing video!