The Art of Architectural 3D Printing

BIM technology is nothing new to the Architectural community. Since the early versions of AutoDesk REVIT, designers have been able to see in real time their developments in multi-dimensions. This coupling between the 2D necessitates of the Architectural world (sheets, sections, floor plans, etc.), as well as the 3D requirements of visual output for the customer, has made BIM technology a vital part of building and design. And now, BIM technology takes another step forward by integrating itself with 3D Printing.

The Age of Visuals

Today’s society is driven by the need to have things presented to them visually. The issue which, traditionally, has caused frustrations amongst drafters is the inability to quickly render these visuals to the client. True, there have been advancements with BIM technology which have allowed the drafter or Architect to show a simulated 3D space. However, to prototype the space, Architects have been greatly limited. With the use of the 3D Printer alongside the visuals of a software render, the potential client can see high quality conceptualisations at a low cost.

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The visuals of BIM technology allow for real time updates and high-quality rendering to be presented to the client. This image was provided by Siclari Studio of Art and Design
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The Benefits of Change with BIM

Whether you are prototyping a bridge, a resort, a residential building, or prototyping the build for your client, the project can become quite expensive especially if you have changes along the way. Yet, with a Desktop 3D Printer, a private firm can quickly print prototypes in layers. You could also print the entire building as one piece. However, if you anticipate that there may be variations of the window and door schedule, for example, you could print the external shell of the building, excluding the doors and windows. The doors and windows could then be printed once selected on the 3D Printer and added to the prototype. This would save substantial funds as (a) you do not have to recreate the entire prototype and (b) you can print the changes on-demand to showcase to the client without having to reschedule after “updates are made”.

Printing with BIM technology is more efficient. According to 3D Printing specialist Christiana Ruiz Nolasco, “creating variations of a project to present different options or to explain design concepts is easier and faster. Thanks to technological advances such as BIM design and 3D Printing, more time is invested in the design that the client needs and less in producing materials.”

Allocation where it Matters

BIM technology, coupled with 3D Printing, minimises the overall need to allocate substantial funds into prototyping. There will be the necessity to have materials for the 3D Printer, and you will need to consider the colour configurations available for your models, especially if you are presenting a landscape to go along with your building design. Additionally, you may wish to consider investing in a Raspberry Pi for OctoPrint or other such software to help optimise the 3D Printing process. Yet, even with these small costs, the Architectural firm or drafter and designer will find that the allocated funds to provide quality conceptual renders is far less than the average cost of sculpting the model.

For Architects seeking funding for renovations, historical status, or for submission packaging for larger projects, having a 3D Printed model can help to give the deciding parties the visual references that are needed to grasp the changes, especially if you print out a model of how the building exists in it current state and how it will look once all of the revisions and/or modifications are added to the project.

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BIM technology was used to design this building which utilised 200-year-old historical stone. Design and the finished part of this garage were designed by Douglas Siclari of Siclari Studios.

BIM and 3D Printing Pre-Construction

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the 3D Printing from BIM technology is that it can help to prevent costly mistakes later on down the line. By printing various models and various designs of a potential property, the Architect can identify possible areas which would not meet code, which may be structurally compromised, or areas which need to be revisited. Additionally, as the prints give a small scale but realistic portrayal of the building which is to be constructed, it could save the contractor/construction crew the headache of last minute revisions to the overall blueprint.

A Note About BIM Technology and 3D Printing

BIM technology has been integrated in several software programs. It is imperative that you learn the software as well as understand the output format requirements of the software in relationship to your 3D Printer for the best results. Keep in mind the scale, as well as the way in which the layers/elements connect. Even though you are printing the model as it will be in the real world, you might have to adjust the supports and such if the design of the building is incomplete. There are limitations to what can be printed on a 3D Printer, tweak the model until you get the results you require.

Some more articles:

Current Developments in 3D Printing

3D Printing Hot Wheels

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