3D printing is now more accessible than ever, bringing a whole host of benefits to those making use of it.
n recent years, desktop 3D printing has become increasingly affordable for small practices. 3D-printed models are proving popular with both clients and architects; they are a great way to evaluate concepts and spatial quality, test design iterations and identify problems. 3D printers can also be used to test out ideas at different scales. This allows them to work at larger masterplan scales of 1:500 while at the same time understanding proposals at more intimate scales, ensuring a holistic design. Many practices create 3D visualisations in Revit or SketchUp, and it is easy to make these suitable for 3D printing. Only a few steps are required: exporting the model as an STL file into the slicing software, preparing it for printing, and exporting the final file to the 3D printer. The process is easily achievable and brings additional benefits to a pre-existing resource. A variety of 3D printing options are available, including stereolithography, Digital Light Processing, fused deposition modelling and selective laser sintering, but fused filament fabrication machines are generally the most affordable route. The process involves depositing thin layers of molten filament to form a model, allowing the user to create intricate detail, cavities and voids. There is usually a trade-off in terms of printer cost versus speed of production, but, once running, printers can be left to their own devices, cutting staff time spent on modelling. Depending on the printerâ€™s sophistication, quality can vary, but even fairly modest printers should be adequate for design models â€“ and if polished models are required, these can always be outsourced.
Pro Landscaper Africa | April 2018
A range of software to suit all budgets is emerging, from industry-specific heavyweights such as Netfabb and Fusion 360, to more beginner-friendly opensource applications, such as Cura. Other free and useful software for refining models prior to printing includes Meshmixer and Meshlab. Similarly, a broad range of printers is now available, with prices spanning 10 thousand to 100 thousand rand depending on the model. A range of benefits Printed models offer a number of benefits. They are ideal for encouraging client engagement and can eliminate the ambiguity that arises from misunderstood drawings. They have the tactile quality that clients and investors love, and communicate height, scale and massing more effectively at client presentations than a render produced from the same digital model. In-house 3D printing reduces long lead-in times for physical models and allows a greater degree of control,