Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Design Studio 13 - 2014

This year we printed a number of models for architecture students at Westminster University and in particular for diploma Design Studio 13. 

The project was set in a development zone in Shenzhen. The brief seemed pretty open, located within an area with no existing context and produced a wide range of proposals. Three of the DS13 projects are featured below. There were many other 3D printed models on display across the show and many of them interesting in their own right. 

Perhaps the most intriguing was the Anything Factory designed by Bryan Ratzlaff whose scheme calls for a multi-storey block split into 3 parts dividing logistics, data services and production. Interestingly Bryan previously worked as a 3D print production engineer and understands commercial 3D printing workflow, he also know to model details to the exact capability of the ZPrinter which shows in the detail of the model.

The premise for the project is the notion that 3D printing can shift manufacturing from far flung factories to local made on demand products. So the design speculates on a future where large machines are centralised in corporate additive manufacturing centres. Presumably an array of technologies producing parts that are assembled locally or sent out for assembly. 

Models printed using limited colour; white, grey and black. 

A 2D illustration of the concept

Image showing the surface texture modelled to the capability of the printer with a 1mm black rail representing the conveying line weaving between departments delivering consumables to machines and bringing creations back for inspection and shipping. This black rail is carefully modelled to pick up support from the structure enabling the 3D printer to produce this fine detail running through the core of the building.

Buildings will undoubtedly be built specifically to house additive manufacturing which often requires specialist environmental servicing in a similar way to conventional factories and labs. What would a suitable building typology for additive manufacturing look like? What kind of products would such a centre produce? What materials would they need to store? Could an additive manufacturing centre design and build itself? Will it require human intervention?

Certainly a project that asks as many questions about the future of additive manufacturing as it answers. Quite where this leaves the personal 3D printer is not addressed. It would seem to me that large multi material commercial 3D printers will always out compete the capabilities of the personal printer but that does not mean there will not be a place for both. 

Alexander Sun, who we bumped into at the opening night of the China Design Centre, printed a 1:2000 space frame as part of a huge shipping terminal - the 8th Wonder Cruise Terminal. Ambitious to the point of gratuitous engineering, an overwhelming city entrance or modern day triumphal arch, a proclaimed "international spectacle" and a statement of Chinese confidence.

The geometry of this model would usually cry out for printing in Nylon on an SLS machine. So this is not your typical plaster printed model but the result looks great. Personally I prefer the opacity of plaster models compared to the light absorbing Nylon material but I certainly acknowledge the increased strength and resilience of Nylon. In this case Alex did not have time to get the model made on SLS and opted for plaster. The part size of the structural members was 0.9mm diameter. 

The red ship was printed by Alex on a filament extruder. He also showed some very small scale master plans printed on his home machine. For student work or for any architect these machines can make a convincing contribution to presentations.  They are slow and cannot print all geometry but I expect to see a lot more extruded building models in future.

Ryan Kingsnorth's law court designed to promote openness and transparency in the functioning of the law in China. An example of British meddling in other people's business? An ironic statement on British law and trial's held in secret? From my cynical view I see this "transparent" building quickly surrounded by security fencing (for the best of reasons). Is architecture really able to influence human behaviour in this way.  Humans have a way of  shrugging off buildings that do not fit their requirements and replacing them or moving (back) to ones that do.

Anyway from a presentational point of view this model exhibits a nice use of minimal 3D printing in a less costly but highly effective context model. We often have clients requesting 1:200 models because that gives the level of detail they expect from sketch models made in the office from card and foam. I am not suggesting that 1:1000 is always a good scale for detail models but with 3D printng the smaller scales can show a great deal of design detail. 

Lee 3D was proud to contribute towards DS13's final show along with PLP Architecture, Allies and Morrison, Urban Future Organisation, Dust Architecture and Base Associates.

For more information about Lee 3D please visit www.lee3d.co.uk