HOW TO GET THE BEST 3D PRINTED ARCHITECTURAL MODELS
On a regular basis we have people and companies from around Australia approach us to 3D print scale models of their buildings, developments and projects. The results are very impressive and we often get positive feedback from our clients including hotel developers in Brisbane pitching to investors, apartment planners in Sydney looking to better understand their space and an Architect in Melbourne who uses 3D Printing to show clients his plans and drawings. However there is usually more preparation that goes into these models than most but done properly you’ll be wowing your audience and giving them a real foundation to see the projects potential .
Below we’ll run through common issues and how to get a well priced robust model from your current full scale (1:1) CAD models.
BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR ADDITIVE MANUFACTURE
The first step taken is usually for you to internally decide on a budget, as downstream this will affect the size of the models and therefore to what degree the files may need to be adjusted to account for small details.
As a guideline on 3D Printing costs:
- A building printed at a size of 360 x 300 x 300mm will cost between $2,400 to $8,900 + GST
- A building printed at a size 0f 250 x 200 x 200mm will cost between $1,200 to $2,700 + GST
- A building printed at a size 0f 150 x 100 x 100mm will cost between $180 and $420 + GST
The reason for the variation in cost depends mainly on how much material your part will use, how much machine space it occupies and how risky it is to print. The larger the part the more this has an effect.
You can optimise the cost with the following techniques :
- Hollow your building and any other thick enclosed parts out and remove the base, so you end up with a ‘shell’ of the buildings. This significantly reduces the amount of material used and therefore the cost.
- Nest parts of the building in your file if possible.
With a budget in mind we can work out how to get the largest scale for your structure whilst coming in at/under cost. The size is one of the most important factors and is influenced by price, however other considerations are detail sizes, maximum printable size, orientation and likeliness to warp/deform due to thermal stress.
Min. Detail Sizes
In almost all architectural jobs we’ve done the original files need to be modified to account for details that become too small to print when scaled down from the full size. Anything under 1mm at printed size has a risk of being broken during the cleaning of the parts, so if something is 10mm thick full scale then at 1:10 scale it will be 1mm which is fine, though at 1:20, 1:100, 1:200 etc scale then this becomes undersize. The common workarounds to this are either to remove it all-together if they are ‘nice to have’ but not ‘need to have’ details, or to thicken/exaggerate the details at full size so that when they are scaled down they are thick enough to print.
Particular features to keep an eye on are stairs, balustrades and railings, pipes, windows etc.
Max. Printable Size
The largest we can print in one go is 340 x 340 x 580mm so the model will either need to be smaller than that or split into sections. If you are wanting to do a development for example try splitting it into lots.
SECTIONING AND SHELLING BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES
If a part is too large to print in one piece it’ll need to be sectioned into smaller pieces which can be printed and assembled afterwards.
It’s best to try avoid cutting the part on a uniform section where a join line will be obvious, aim to cut it somewhere more obscure or somewhere that will be covered by something else.
Shelling a model is an important step in aiding it’s printability, it will also help reduce cost. The idea of shelling something is basically to preserve the outward appearance of the building etc, though inside is completely hollow and featureless. If you do want interior detail like rooms, fittings, furniture etc then you can include this and an alternative is to have the roof separate so that you are not trapping large quantities of loose powder inside.