Monday, 24 June 2013

Architects - beware of consumer 3D printers!

Recent discussions at Lee 3D with architects investigating 3D Printing of architectural models have shown a disturbing trend towards architects buying consumer 3D printers that just don't work for them.

Three practices of different sizes illustrate the experiences encountered with these machines: 

Firstly, a one man band approached Lee 3D annoyed that his machine was not working and that when it did it was unable to produce the geometry he wanted to print - his machine was a single material machine that meant there was no support material and therefor the machine is entirely limited to certain geometries. He asked if the ZPrinter/CJP machine we use can print lolly pop style trees at 1:1000 scale - which of course it can - and in colour too.

Secondly, a small rural practice had their duel extruder machine back in the box it was delivered in. The complaint here was that the machine was much too slow to print anything of any substance and again the geometry was a problem. This machine can print support material so in theory it can print overhangs etc. However the support material needs to be broken away from the model which meant their delicate models were damaged in the process. In this case the ZPrinter parts we made for them impressed in both level of detail and speed of delivery.

Thirdly, a large 100 strong practice where the model maker has built a 3D printer from a kit. This involved a large investment in time and effort and ultimately only lead to very limited parts that needed significant finishing to include in models.

Despite these three seemingly entirely negative experiences I can report that owning a machine did enable all of these users to work out how to create suitable 3D software models that would, if their machines were capable, 3D print successfully.

I would suggest that the £1,000 - £2000 and time invested would be much better invested in working with a good bureau (Lee 3D) to understand the software requirements and then to produce a great set of models of sufficient quality that could actually be used on live projects or to win new business.

One advantage of going to a bureau is that there will be (should be) a huge amount of experience available to avoid mistakes and to guide customers towards a high quality product. Another advantage of using a professional level bureau is that they will have professional level kit that takes away the risk involved in buying kit for in-house use. 

To illustrate the point the image below shows a bracelet printed on a consumer 3D printer. Its actually pretty good in that it is flexible and reasonably robust and the geometry is interesting. But you need to realise it the printer is limited to this kind of geometry - whereas the colour 3D print in the background is pretty much geometry independent and is is printed in one take with full colour (model makers trees and acrylic cover added afterwards).

Visit the Lee 3D website for more information about colour 3D printing.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Lee 3D at the AA Projects Review 2013

Use of 3D printing has changed so much over the past 6 or 7 years at the Architectural Association. Back in 2006 there were just a handful of students presenting 3D prints at the AA and few if any at other colleges. These pioneer models were 3D printed at Cadventure where I was then forming the fledgling 3D print bureau. In the following years 3D printing snowballed at the AA and each year since has seen a seasonal rush of architectural students phoning around desperately looking for someone to print their models. 

In the following years,under the guidance of Jereon van Ameijde, the AA bought first one then two ZPrinters. The presence of in-house 3D printers at the AA and many other architectural colleges, provided a supply of 3D print skilled students to the profession and this has been one of the major driving forces that has enabled 3D printing to flourish, especially in London architectural practices.

Fast forward to 2013 and Lee 3D launched just in time to 3D print some great models for this years AA summer show. Nowadays 3D printing is taken for granted and you are much more likely to find 3D prints used as just another tool with parts integrated with other media. Here are a couple of images of some models that we snapped on the opening night.

Models 3D printed by Yiming Huang and Jon Wong at Lee 3D 2013.

AA Projects review will be open to the public until 9th July

Colour 3D Print Pioneers at the AA
Stand out students in 2007 featuring Max von Werz who was one of the very first AA students to use colour 3D printing.

Stand out students in 2008 featuring Adam Furman who was the most prolific and radical of AA AA students in the exploration of colour 3D printing.

Visit the Lee 3D website for more information on colour 3D printing.