From showcase models to testing mockups. From freelancers to big companies. Here’s how 3D printing is used by architects worldwide and how they can do their job better with an all-in-one 3D printer.

Architectural mockups and a laptop.
Architectural mockups made using ZMorph VX All-In-One 3D Printer.

For years now architects are struggling with building precise mockups of their visions. They can be very simple, just to pitch an idea, or as much detailed as possible, to show the final design. Most of us would agree, that a tangible, physical object is a more representative visualization than a digital 3D model. However, making physical models takes time and money and that can be a crucial factor of being present on the market. 

3D printed architectural model of Centennial Hall.
3D printed model of Centennial Hall. More pictures here.

This is where 3D printing can become a knight in shiny armor, saving the day. Not only the materials for 3D printers are cheap, but they do the job basically for you, allowing the architect to rest or work on something else. Add to that the multitool capabilities of machines such as ZMorph VX and you have a device that can do the dullest work for you.

Scaled architecture 3D printed models.
Scaled building models 3D printed using ZMorph VX.

How is 3D Printing Used in Architecture?

Let us repeat – concept physical models are an essential part of an architect’s job. It’s the easiest way to pitch an idea to a client. Digital models or paper sketches don’t do enough justice and with a physical mockup, the designer can show complex geometries, scale, and even how the building will correspond with the nearest landscape. 

Various 3D printed architectural mockups.
Thanks to 3D printing architects can make various models in just several hours instead of weeks of work.

It is now easier than ever before to transform a CAD design into a detailed physical mockup using 3D printing. Not only today 3D printers offer a high-quality outcome, but they also can be used with a wide variety of materials and colors. PLA filament, thanks to its popularity, can be found in any color you wish, including multi-color, glitter, and so on brands.

But not only full mockups can be done on a 3D printer. It’s easier to visualize some specific parts of the project – for instance, an unusual wall pattern, a very unique bridge solution, or a proposition of interior furnishing. Pitching your ideas to clients has never been easier.

ZMorph VX Multitool 3D Printer.
ZMorph VX offers high-quality 3D printing for architects.

Time as a Crucial Factor

If you have ever done any kind of architectural job and had to prepare a large-scale mockup you probably know how long it can take. What used to take weeks, even months of work, now can be 3D printed in one day minimizing a human job to gluing parts together (if they exceed the 3D printers workspace). Of course you have to prepare a G-code using a slicer software such as Voxelizer, but it’s still time-efficient.

Multi-material architectural mockup made on ZMorph Multitool 3D Printer.
Human work is limited to gluing parts together and finishing touches. The rest can be done by an all-in-one 3D printer.

3D Printing and Architecture – Examples and Use Cases

We’d like to start with a less obvious example of 3D printing and architecture. We’ve recently contacted a British architectural studio Hassell that prepared a design for a Mars habitat. They wanted to use 3D printing robots to build a base on the red planet, that will serve both as a shelter and a science lab. On top of that, the Head of Design Technology at Hassell thinks that ZMorph VX would be a convenient addition to the Mars habitat.

Model of a 3D printed Mars habitat.
Model of a Mars Habitat. Project: Hassell; photo: Naaro.

With a multitool 3D printer you can make more traditional models but there’s a wider selection of materials available because of additional workflows. To picture that have a look at the multi-material architectural mockup. The building was 3D printed with PLA, landform CNC cut from plywood, and the little trees laser cut from paper. 

Multi-material architectural mockup.
Final version of the multi-material architectural model with illuminated building

Another solution can be of interest for developers and city planners. This model of a housing estate is 120 x 150 cm in size and features amazing details. What some time ago would take weeks or even months to make, today can be done in several hours using advanced technology such as 3D modeling softwares and 3D printers. A human touch in the form of small trees and fences can be added at the end to make it look more realistic. 

Housing estate model 3D printed on ZMorph Multitool 3D Printer.
3D printed housing estate mockup.

All-In-One 3D Printer in Architecture

As you can see from the examples above, all-in-one machines such as ZMorph VX have a lot of potential to improve architects’ workflow. Not only you can 3D print simple models on such a machine, but also you can CNC mill in plywood or laser-cut paper and cardboard, popular materials used for architectural mockups. If that’s not enough, ZMorph VX officially supports almost 50 materials for subtractive and additive manufacturing.

ZMorph VX All-in-One 3D Printer as a tool for architects.
ZMorph VX Multitool 3D Printer can be a perfect solution for architects.

This boils down to a personal workshop that can do it all. Because space is often important, ZMorph VX fits on your desk and the toolheads can be used interchangeably. One day you’re CNC milling in plywood to make a landform for your design, and the next day you’re 3D printing a scaled model of a building that will be placed on the base. And it’s not only plywood and PLA. You can 3D print your models from more durable ABS, transparent PET-G, or even flexible TPE if you need. Materials for CNC milling, on the other hand, include plastics such as PTFE, POM, soft metals like aluminum, and composites; Dibond, carbon fiber, textolite, to name a few. 

Switching toolheads on ZMorph VX All-In-One 3D Printer

With such a machine you don’t have to purchase 3 different units and that significantly cuts your expenses. Even if you mainly limit yourself to 3D printing, as you can see from the examples above, CNC machining can be a very nifty addition.

Author

Content Manager at ZMorph

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