An Introduction to 3D Printing for Architecture - by Piet Meijs

I'd like to introduce you to our very first industry specialist  - Piet Meijs, Senior 3D Expert at Rietveld Architects in New York.

Piet is highly experienced in the use of 3D printing and rapid prototyping for architectural design. This is his very first Objet blog post, so expect to see much more of him in this space over the coming months!

Welcome onboard Piet! (Sam Green)

About Me

Before I start writing about how, why, and when we use Rapid Prototyping at Rietveld Architects, let me start by introducing myself.

My name is Piet Meijs. In 2005 I moved from a small town in the Netherlands to New York City to start work at a young, mid-sized, and very ambitious architectural firm. I started as a draftsman, but quickly secured a more leading role in the office as a Senior Associate, where I serve as a liaison to the partners, Margaret and Rijk Rietveld.

In this position, I work on master plans, buildings and interiors on various projects such as offices, residential, educational, nursing homes, etc. Aside from all of my architectural work, I also have a natural interest in, and affinity for, new and innovative technology. Because of my passion for creating new systems that are integrated with the newest technology, I helped to introduce these technologies into the office - such as a fully paperless workflow (can you imagine PAPERLESS - in an architect's office!!!) and also Rapid Prototyping, otherwise known as 3D printing.

My Experience with Rapid Prototyping

Rietveld Architects acquired an Objet Eden 3D printer in May 2008. Until then our models were made out of paper, cardboard, and plexi. By having a 3D printing machine in our office, we were able to make many test prints and mistakes and learn from them.

Once we knew how far we could push the Objet 3D printer, we had to work on our modeling techniques and on our model designs (since the design of the model can greatly influence the amount of cleaning time involved and the strength of fragile parts). We also learned how to create good-looking models in various software packages in the shortest time-frames.

Our next challenge was to work on cleaning tricks, the painting of model parts, and photographing the models. Here you can see 2 examples of models we have produced. Of course, I'll talk more in depth about what we've learned in our office in future blog posts.

Why we use an Objet 3D Printer

There were several factors involved in selecting a 3D printer, which eventually led to our selection of Objet.

Speed is always important. However we found out that our models would take several hours to print on any 3D printer. Once we learned that, we quickly realized that we would most likely print our models overnight. Once you start doing that, it really doesn't matter anymore if a print takes 4 hours or 10 hours. You just know that the model will be done when you come in the next morning. So print speed became less important to us when we had to make a choice.

Color was also something we looked at in the beginning. However we learned that the color palette we would have would still be very limited. It would have been hard for us to get accustomed to colors that didn't fit our office standards. On top of that, a color in an architectural model represents a material. Usually when we create a model for a project, the discussion is about the massing and the plasticity of the design, and not about the materialization. Color then only distracts. So color was still something we would have liked to have, but it became less important in our search for the right 3D printer.

Resolution became the most important factor to us. Since architectural models are almost always scale models, it is very important that small details are visible and that smooth surfaces are in fact smooth. Lines created by a low resolution 3D printer become amplified because they are seen next to a scale model. All of a sudden, a low resolution line is as big as a person!

After comparing the various technologies on these and other points, The Objet Eden 3D printer became the obvious choice for us.

That's it for this time! I hope my contribution to the Objet blog will be helpful for those interested in 3D printing for achitecture, and of course, I welcome any questions or comments that our readers may have. I will try to address those in my future posts on this blog.

Comments

  1. jose rabanal says:

    Hi Piet, I'm an architecture student and a physics graduate; i like what you said 'coz I'm planning on building an open source 3d printer ( Reprap, prusa mendel). It seems that the printer u bought for your firm was very apropriate. I have some questions about it, after a fast check over Object webpage. What kind of resolution u can achieve with that? It looks like you' re in 1/100 scale in your pics and they look very smooth. have u tried with 1/200? what is the lowest scale u have tried? does your printer uses ab plastic?...
    I'm sorry about those questions. I'm kind of concerned about the resolution. I' ve already visited a fablab and I was surprised with those other printers accuracy. Thank your for any information you could give me.
    Sincerely, 
    JOse Rabanal

  2. Craig Purcell says:

    Can you make sketchup models and print them ?

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