In May of this year, I joined a friend of mine, Justin Levitz from NRI in New York, as a guest speaker on his continuing education presentation for the American Institute of Architects (AIA/CES). We’ve done several presentations together, so it gave me an opportunity to reflect on why we use 3D printing in our office. The most asked question during the presentations is always: “How much does it cost?” But in my opinion that is the wrong question. The correct question should be “What is the value?”
The Value of a 3D Model
In 2008, I attended and presented at the North American Objet User Group Meeting in San Diego. Another speaker there was Michael Schrage, who spoke about the value of a 3D printed model. His presentation was very much geared towards industrial design, and at the time, so I didn’t fully grasp his message.
He explained to us that the value of a model is not equal to its cost. The cost of a model is the sum of its parts, usually material and labor. But what is then the value of a model? The value lies in its ability to communicate a design.
A 3D printed model can be used to test out several design options. These are the traditional prototypes. But when the designer has picked a solution for a specific design problem, he/she usually needs to convince someone to move ahead with that design – either his superior or a client.
Of course, the designer is already convinced that the design he/she puts forward is the best solution. This is because they’ve worked on the design for an extended amount of time, has tried several options, and maybe even prototyped various versions throughout the design process. So all that’s needed now is to convince the boss or the client that this is the best solution.
Normally, these design presentations are limited in time. The designer only has a one-off opportunity to convince the boss or the client of the quality of the design. Therefore, the better the presentation, the more likely they will buy-in. Besides more traditional 2D drawings and images, a 3D printed model can be a great tool for this kind of presentation.