Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A 3D Printed Model is Worth a Thousand Words

Today's blog is by Julie Reece.

Every month, we feature a “part of the month” that our customers and dealers can download and print on their own ZPrinters. This month’s part was created by our Russian channel partner, Cybercom.

OMSK Dormition Cathedral
Modeled by: Nikita Istratiy
(using 3DS Max)
Printed on ZPrinter 650
Let me stress that this model was not painted. It was printed in full color on a ZPrinter 3D printer. I can talk at length about how the ZPrinter creates far more accurate architectural models than handcrafting models, for a fraction of the time and price, but I believe in the old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Imagine the possibilities – you can print several of these models at once and give them to the client, zoning board, construction crew, and community groups. The amount of information conveyed in the 3D printed model is infinitely more than a 2D rendering, which results in faster approvals. You can even print several different versions of the design at one time in order to steer the client toward your desired design – the possibilities are mindboggling. Ultimately, what it means for you are better designs and more business.

If you haven’t yet adopted a 3D printer in your architectural firm, I am interested in learning why.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Printing 3D Building Components

Normally in this space, we write about design process improvement using 3D physical scale models for better collaboration and communication.  This week, we will touch on some innovative research being done with 3D printing technology at U. Cal – Berkeley.  Prof. Ronald Rael has developed a new process that enables the printing of production-ready building components. Following is his guest blog.
Printing unique, one-of-a-kind building components that are generated quickly and economically to produce large scale -objects, is the current research of Ronald Rael, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and founding partner of Rael San Fratello Architects. This year, he has developed a cement-based polymer and a new process that, for the first time, employs conventional rapid prototyping hardware to produce strong and durable building components that cost far less than conventional rapid prototyping materials—up to 90% less than comparable printing materials. The material can also reach strengths of up to 4,700psi in compression, which is comparable to the strength of concrete. This advancement in material output from digital modeling software ushers in a new era in building materials, and a new synthesis of design and production.

The SeatSlug, a biomorphic interpretation of a bench, demonstrates how this new digital output process generates end-product structural building components directly from 3D software models. The design is inspired by flabellina goddardi, the newest species of sea slugs discovered in California in 2010, and by the infinite tessellations of Japanese karakusa patterns. It is constructed of 230 unique rapid-manufactured components. The sinuous form, subtle translucency and glossy finish engage viewers with a memorable aesthetic experience—a tactile personal encounter with a technological breakthrough.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Create More … Design Process Improvement in 2012

Two weeks ago, I summarized preliminary 2011 results and commented on industry trends for 3D printing in the AEC community.  Final results exceeded expectations – ZPrinter business in the AEC vertical market grew more than 30% in units and 50% in revenues year-over-year.  Now, let’s take a peek into the crystal ball for 2012.

Based on a stronger than expected finish in 2011, I will go out on a limb to predict that this year will see many more AEC firms diving into 3D printing to improve/accelerate their design process.  This will happen in two ways. First, those firms that are bouncing back from the recession, and have always wanted their own 3D printer, will finally make the investment they could not justify during the past two years.  What evidence do I have for this prediction?  Z Corp. had a 40% increase in new AEC customers last year compared to the prior year.  These new users were not the typical ‘starchitects’ that adopted 3D printing in the past, but rather small-to-medium sized firms that are trying to differentiate themselves from regional and national competitors.  Half of these new customers are from North America, which should lead the growth in 2012.

The second way that AEC firms will invest in 3D printing will be through service bureaus on a project-by-project basis.  There are service bureaus all over the world that specialize in architectural models.  Savvy designers will use their services to print models which will help them collaborate on project teams.  Once the clients, principals, and other project participants see the value of 3D printed models during the design process, these firms will move into the first category described above.

Other thoughts for 2012 …

The first release of the new AMF 3D printing export standard should have some positive impact for 3D printing as a whole, but will not be really felt until the content creators (i.e. the CAD/BIM suppliers) add this feature to their design software products.  Many developers are already finished with their 2012 feature enhancements, so we may not see the AMF export option appear in popular design software until calendar 2013.  For those nimble software developers who support AMF early on, their users will benefit by having color, texture, and material properties exported along with their design geometry.

Bigger is better – the trend toward larger build sizes will continue in 2012 as more users migrate toward bigger 3D printers.  In 2011, more than half of all ZPrinters shipped to AEC customers were ZPrinter model 650 [15x10x8 inches build size].  The press likes to talk about low-end inexpensive printers, but the fact is that real production work is trending in the other direction.  Larger build size has two benefits:  scale model size can be increased without splitting pieces; and more design iterations can be printed in one job which increases throughput and helps enable innovation.

More “shelf space” – with Z Corp now part of 3D Systems, the reseller community has the potential to grow dramatically.  This means that more companies will be serviced by more local resellers and 3D printing professionals.  Those of us in the business are always amazed when we go to industry events and talk to people who have never seen a 3D printer.  The fact is that even though this type of technology has been around for 20+ years, many folks (especially in AEC) are just hearing about it.  Having more authorized representatives out in the trenches will move 3D printing from the aisle shelves to the end displays.

Wishing all of our readers a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!