There are two main applications of 3D printing for architecture:
- 3D printers to create low-cost architectural models used as study models during the creation process.
- 3D printers to build realistic and detailed architectural models, often used to promote a project by showcasing the final result in 3D, in a visually striking way.
3D PRINTING COST-EFFECTIVE ARCHITECTURAL MODELS
Cost-effective architectural 3D models can be produced using 3D printers during the design phases, in order to test and iterate on different concepts. Using a reliable 3D printer offering a decent print resolution is important if the models has a lot of details. A large build volume can be critical for larger architectural models, in the case of urban planning models for instance.
The Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM, also known as FFF) technology is well adapted for 3D printing basic architectural models. Most desktop 3D printers are FDM/FFF and use plastic filament as consumable.
One of the main advantages of 3D printing in architecture: productivity gains. Indeed, 3D printing can save time in the early design and creation phases by reducing the lead-time for architectural model production and allowing quick tests of concepts and iterations. While it can take several days to build an architectural model manually using wood or foam, 3D printing can deliver results in just hours. A 3D printer can operate overnight for the larger models, which take longer to print.
LOWER PRODUCTION COSTS
3D printing allows to easily test many concepts early in the project, and quickly identify potential issues, which would be harder to spot on computer simulations. For this type of 3D printed architectural models used to assess volumes and general structure of the building, no need to use a 3D printer with a very high print resolution or fancy materials. These architectural models need to be 3D printed using a single plastic material and a small number of colors, thus keeping the production costs to a minimum.
3D PRINTING REALISTIC ARCHITECTURAL MODELS
3D printing is often used to produce visually striking architectural models, in order to promote a project by showcasing a realistic miniature version of the final result. These models are very helpful to visualize the final building. In real estate projects, such models can be used in very early stages of construction to help potential buyers get a clear idea of what the final building will look like. Such architectural models require 3D printers with specific capacities:
- A high print resolution to produce detailed models
- A wide range of 3D printing materials with different properties and textures
- Multicolor 3D printing (although the coloring finish is most often done in post-processing)
Again, there is always some degree of post-processing before the 3D printer model is ready for use, especially in the case of durable and realistic 3D printed architectural models.
The 3D printing technology developed by IVI GROUP is one of the most suitable for architectural firms seeking to create sophisticated and reliable 3D models in place. 3D printers using resin-based 3D printing technologies such as SLA or DLP are often used by architectural firms to produce complex models with a very high level of detail.
AIDING VISUALIZATION TO MAKE A STRONG IMPRESSION WITH 3D PRINTING
3D printed architectural models can be great to visualize the final version of a building or any architectural project in 3D with many lifelike details. Some advanced 3D printers can even print outdoor terrains and render various textures and colors, for awe-inspiring results. Showing a beautiful architectural scale model of a building usually helps promoting a project and attracting new clients or investors by making a strong impression. 3D printing is a great new tool for architectural firms willing to improve the model production processes but some manual work will remain:
- in the preparation phase to make sure the 3D model is optimized for 3D printing
- in the post-processing phases to clean, polish, assemble and paint the 3D printed models or parts
CREATING ARCHITECTURAL MODELS OF COMPLEX STRUCTURES
With 3D printers, architects can create architectural models of complex structures such as domes with arches, which are almost impossible to produce by hand with conventional fabrication techniques.
3D PRINTING ARCHITECTURAL MODELS COST
3D printed architectural models can be produced in-house or outsourced to an architectural modeling company equipped with additive manufacturing systems. The price of the 3D print will depend on several factors, among which:
- the size of the model to be 3D printed: the larger the 3D model is, the longer the print and the more material needed, therefore the more expensive it is.
- the level of details required for the 3D printed model: 3D printing a highly complex architectural model takes longer than a basic one with few details. It can also require to be printed on a specific 3D printer offering a higher print resolution, and the model is likely to require more preparation before being sent for 3D printing. Therefore the more complex the model, the more expensive.
- the quality of the materials: high quality and exotic materials with specific properties are expensive (high resistance, flexible, textures etc) , so depending on the desired final result, the budget can increase if expensive materials are being used.
THE BEST 3D PRINTERS FOR ARCHITECTS AND THE ARCHITECTURE INDUSTRY
The best 3D printing technology to print architectural models
The best 3D printers for architecture can be either FFF/FDM using plastic filament materials or SLA/DLP (using resin materials
- Extrusion 3D printing FFF and FDM, using PLA or ABS filaments as consumables, is used by most desktop 3D printers and is perfectly suitable for 3D printing architectural models.
- Resin 3D printing SLA or DLP is recommended to produce architectural models with a high level of details.
To select the best 3D printers for architects, it can be interesting to consider the following features:
- a large build volume: one of the most important things in 3D printing architectural models is the build size. We listed the best desktop 3D printers with a large build volume. All the desktop 3D printers on this list are suitable for use in the architecture industry.
- the ability to 3D print fine details: architectural 3D models often have a high level of details and thus the 3D printer used to build them should have a sufficient print resolution.
- a wide choice of filaments: if you use an FFF 3D printer, it can be interesting to have access to a wide choice of compatible filaments (colors, exotic materials, physical properties.
- an good 3D software: this is particularly important if you’re new to 3D printing or have little experience on the subject, the 3D software used to prepare your 3D prints can make a big difference on the outcome in terms of quality and time spent, and ultimately drive the ROI of using 3D printing up or down.