3D Modeling Brings Bounty of Benefits to Builders

As construction techniques change and endeavor to become more efficient, 3D printing will become more recognized for its ability to cut costs and preserve resources

By Jerry Ropelato

In recent years there has been a non-stop rush of new uses for 3D printing in several sectors, including medicine, entertainment, gaming, and manufacturing. But the technology is bringing a true sea change to architecture and building.

Although evidence of architectural blueprints dates back to the 2nd century, the modern-day blueprint has been around since the 1940s. Computer-aided design (CAD) was one of the last significant innovations to architectural models but the advent of the 3D printed model is really shaking up the industry.

3D modeling software and printing technology have advanced dramatically in recent years, making it attainable and affordable to develop cost-effective, highly detailed, fully scaled, complete 3D models with high accuracy.

Here’s what a 3D-printed architectural model can do today – quickly and cost-effectively:

Help designers understand interior impacts. A digital rendering often leaves gaps in planning and designing an interior space. These plans lack depth and may do a serviceable job at the beginning for architects and builders, but as important decisions are made, they, along with property owners and designers, need the detail and precision a 3D-printed model can provide. Actual proportions and sight lines are hard to visualize on a computer screen. While the rendering is considered “3D,” it really is just a 2D image made to look three-dimensional. This makes a 3D- printed model a much better representation of the outcome of the project itself, as it is a true 3D object. It’s nearly impossible to gain perspective within a space with a rendering. Other elements like flow of traffic, furniture layout, and decorative effects like lighting can only be demonstrated properly in 3D. Very soon, we predict, no building will be designed without an initial rendering supported by a detailed 3D-printed model.

Bring exterior elements to life. A rendering can show one side of a building, but a 3D model presents multiples sides of a structure at the same time and in relation to other structures. 3D- printed models give a fuller picture of how your structure will work with all the elements. These including how large your building is in comparison to neighboring structures as well as parking lots, streets, traffic signs, foliage and topography. In the industry we say rendering is an idealized version of your work—almost an illusion. But a 3D-printed model is the real deal, warts and all! It shows your intended environment to real scale. Simply put, 3D-printed models engulf you in the experience. Builders and construction crews also relish having the models on hand throughout the construction process to continually reference.

Optimize materials and resources. The future of construction is going to include entire structures that are 3D-printed. These dramatic construction changes are going to come about as costs for 3D printing materials come down and methods—like those that create precise concrete “truss structures”—become more recognized for their ability to cut costs and preserve resources. This method is likened to using a piping bag for squeezing out icing for a cake. The tool inhibits waste by only using the exact and precise amount of concrete needed according to the measurements.  The method is already used often in Dubai, which is probably the world leader today in integrating 3D printing into their construction. It is anticipated that by the year 2030, 25 percent of Dubai’s construction projects will be completed with 3D printing.

Bring a complex and detailed structure to life for potential investors. Some of the work we’re most proud of at WhiteClouds involves printing 3D models of hospitals, theaters and other culturally important projects for use by those seeking outside funding. According to Utah’s Hale Centre Theatre Director of Development Quinn Dietlein, “Holding the Hale in your hands has brought the project to life for potential donors, and has helped them better visualize the performing arts centre and how it enhances the surrounding community.” WhiteClouds’ 3D- printed model facilitating the remarkable planning and construction of the $75 million, 130,000 square-foot performing arts centre has been instrumental to its highly successful capital campaign.

We’re pleased to be in on the “ground floor” of the exciting work 3D printing is enabling in the construction industry. The technology today is at an exciting precipice, changing the way major industries – such as design, architecture, and construction – change the face of the American landscape.

Jerry Ropelato founded WhiteClouds in 2013 and serves as Chief Executive Officer bringing over 30 years of Internet Media, Technology Product Development, and Manufacturing experience. For more information, visit www.whiteclouds.com.

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