Nicholas Kovach
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Nicholas Kovach

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3D Printing in the Design Profession

With the collective hum of all three printers in chorus, the latest event from the AIA Dallas Technology in Architectural Practice (TAP) Committee brought a record number of attendees and a high level of excitement.

Interestingly, as suggested by one attendee, architects tend to be late adopters of new technology and this presentation aimed to change that trend.

Starting the presentation with a typical 3D modeling workflow, Colin Stanley, AIA, of Corgan, showcased a quick process for building a model in Autodesk FormIt and then moved it into the custom MakerBot Software.  With a few quick adjustments of scale and file type, he proceeded to save the file and walk it over to his 3D printer.  Many finer points of the process were discussed, as well as when the printed models "go bad" and how to prevent these issues. 

Next, working his dual 3D printers, Ryan Gathmann, AIA, of HKS | Line, ran through many of the different machines and materials used to print 3D models.  Discussing a few of his previous projects and how these models were built, Ryan compared prices and time required to build such complex models.  The case was made for using the 3D model as a tool to assist in researching conditions that cannot always be understood with photo-realistic rendering or 3D visual walk-throughs.  And, yes, clients are excited to touch and feel their buildings (in most cases taking the printed model with them as a souvenir). 

In wrapping up the presentation, other uses for this technology in other industries were discussed and the inevitable question of "Why do we need this?" came up.  Like all industry-changing technologies, 3D printing will continue to be debated on the merits of its practicality.  Perhaps the real question will soon become why we aren't utilizing this technology as much as other industries.

As a reminder, the TAP committee meets the 2nd Tuesday of every month for lunch at the Dallas Center for Architecture.  Please join us and add to the conversation on technology!