It's no secret that 3D printing is revolutionizing how things are being made. The technology is used in the design, prototyping, and creating of complex parts during automobile manufacturing. In the medical field, 3D printing is used for surgical tools, prosthetics and even the bio-printing of tissues and organoids. BIM technologies integration has now opened the door to 3D printing in the architecture and construction industries. Both fields are fully embracing its potential.
Our firm uses 3D printers to make large scale models, as well as complex pieces of larger models. During the conceptual design phase, this allows us to rapidly iterate different concepts with ease. As the design advances, it also allows us create site models for client and community presentations with greater precision and detail. With even larger scale printers, it's becoming possible to prototype full-size design elements.
3D printing has also been integrated into the construction process. Some companies are using the technology to build entire shells of buildings. Although an entirely 3D printed building is not currently feasible, utilizing this method for parts of a structure has already proved advantageous.
For the 3D printers to be effective it is critical they are used where their strengths will have the largest impact. Designers must start to work within the strengths and weaknesses of the technology. In the same way that the standard brick size has influenced window openings or building height, the restrictions and advantages of 3D printing will affect the buildings design.
BIM technology allows printed components to be built more accurately, while costing less and producing less waste—the goal of every project. Another advantage is that printed portions of a building can be constructed more quickly and with less manpower. With today’s new rules of social distancing and heightened safety measures, it is a clear advantage to have certain aspects of a project require less people to get the job done. 3D printing might also be a clear solution, as the technology advances, to areas suffering from housing crises in the future.
As architects, it is our responsibility to find ways to allow our designs to be executed in the most efficient means possible. If architects can design in a way that lends itself to 3D printing technology, it will be to the benefit of the project, our clients, our firm's efficiency, and even the environment. The possibilities of 3D printing seem infinite and we can't wait to see how the technology further advances our industry and the future of design and construction.