Re: RP in Architecture

Date: Mon Nov 24 1997 - 01:44:32 EET

Charles Overy

In a message dated 97-11-21 21:31:31 EST, you write:

>I look forward to hearing the results of your study and any more comments
>from this group as we feel it is a very exciting possibility both for the
>RP and for the architectural industry.


> While and 3-D
> drafting tools are fairly mature in the mechanical eng. industry (Ideas,
> Solidworks and the like) they are not the norm in the Architectural
> community, at least not that I have found in our customer base. (this is
> not to say that there are not a lot of architects drawing in 3-D, only
> that it is a newer approach in that industry). AS a "service bureau" for
> architectural models it may mean that we have to build 3D models from 2D
> sketches. We currently do this on a limited basis for many of our
> projects but not to the level of creating a valid STL file.

Time/cost constraints are particularly critical in architecture firms because
of the "one-of-a-kind" nature of most designs. Architects don't often have
the luxury of experimenting with anything but the most efficient route to an
acceptable design solution. With the current limitations on 3D tools, that
route rarely includes true 3D software - meaning architects continue to
satisfy themselves with 2D functions. It's my belief that the addition of
"3D printing" capability to the "3D toolkit" will change the situation
completely. When architects can use simple 3D design software and then just
click the "3D print button" to get hardcopy to play with, then you'll see
them buying more 3D capabilities and suddenly going to the trouble of true 3D
design, with the added efficiencies of good continuity from design through to
construction documents, on to building management, etc.. The greater
quantity and quality of iterations, from design, to model, to revision, will
save a great deal of money by avoiding mistakes and costly "downstream"
corrections, plus avoiding the problems of duplicate documentation.

> Along those lines is a more interesting issue that we are trying to
> define. Essentially at what point in the architectual design process
> would RP be appropriate? Certainly in manufacturing, RP has taken off
> because in many areas you can actually use the RP to make working, near
> working and even production parts. I do not think that anyone has a
> modeling envelope bid enough to make a RP house! However this route may
> be useful in some areas to make custom fittings, moldings, hardware etc.

Don't forget the "decoration" issue. For years, decoration has been
discouraged by the nature of the modern construction process and by the
diminished role of the craftsman. I think it's interesting that we may be
entering a new phase - a time when decoration can be designed by the
artist/architect and naturally and economically incorporated into
construction. The most obvious example is in use of 3D hardcopy to cast
decorative building components (in-place or prefab concrete, etc.).

> What we have found in our work is that the time a model is most useful
> in the architectural design process, the details of the space and form
> are not fully defined. For instance I think that it might be quite
> difficult to use RP to look at a roof line problem because you would have
> to create some sort of "closed" object that the RP device could model.
> Certainly the major issue for RP that is the same in both industries
> would be the ability of RP to help prevent making a costly mistake and
> help one quickly look at different design iterations.

Please see below.
> Another issue that we find interesting is that overhanging parts are very
> common on arch models and, at least in early testing of the Actua, the
> physical supports are not really acceptable. If one wants to model
> interior spaces with a ceiling, or even a roof eve or deck, you get a lot
> of supports. There are a number of ways to get around this and I look
> forward to perhaps some other comments on this problem.

Both of these two issues encourage the use of a 3D printer which can produce
either: (1) fully 3D models for some applications, or; (2) 2D and/or 3D
components for preliminary visualization, experimentation and assembly. When
one considers this need along with the fairly common desire that
architectural models be relatively large, it's particularly exciting to think
about the potential of lamination. Note, for instance, that if your software
allowed you the option of "deconstructing" all sides of the designs and
"printing them" as flat, laminated facades, you could use a good 3D printer
to produce a fold-up kit with just eight or ten layers of paper. Most
architects could get along quite well with only rarely printing anything
deeper than ten mm. With relatively little hand assembly (using
software-added fold lines, interlocks, and "glue-here" lines) an architect
would thereby only have to "pay for" only a fraction of the finished model
volume ( in machine capacity, machine time or material use, since "the 'hole'
is free"). Moreover, the "assembled" 3D model would better lend itself to
changes than a "normal" one-piece 3D model (which is fabricated in its full
3D glory instead of assembled from "flat" components). This paradigm would
be much closer to the today's standard practices with cardboard and elevation
prints, etc. - put the floors, walls, and roof together, pull them apart, cut
them up, modify them, and try them again in another way, then print another

I'll spare you the full "sales pitch," BUT :-) When you also give
these same architects the option of printing their facades in full and
detailed color (down to the brick pattern), you'll be amazed with the
results. The entire game will be changed - architectural offices won't be
able to compete without their 3D hardcopy design studies and 3D hardcopy
client presentations. Just imagine what an architect could do with only
eight or ten layers at a time: laminated, printed by ink jet (in crucial
areas only), cut with a computerized knife, and ready-to-assemble. No mess,
no fuss, just one desk away!

For many architectural design functions, nothing will ever really compete
with the physical model.

Norm Kinzie, Architect
Needham, MA USA

(781) 444-6910

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