Emerging in the mid-80s as an astonishing new tool meant to accelerate product development for engineers, 3D printing did not remain a secret for long. Major players in automotive and aerospace applications were some of the first to embrace 3D printing technology for product development. Architects were not far behind as they discovered the magic in streamlining project development and boosting client presentations through 3D printing.
Continuing to stamp its impressive mark within manufacturing and industrial applications, the additive manufacturing industry is now expected to increase to $47.5 billion by 2028, expanding steadily. Specific 3D printing applications related to architecture like construction are projected to reach a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 100.7% from 2022 to 2030.
3D Printing in Architecture Allows for Expanded Modeling
The allure of additive manufacturing in architecture begins with one major theme: the ability to make complex parts that were previously impossible with traditional methods, whether in rapid prototyping or 3D printing high-performance parts. Led by a long and growing list of classic features, from speed in 3D printing production to accuracy in parts, additive manufacturing offers the ability to make strong yet lightweight products, and provides accessibility to the most advanced materials and technology.
3D printing is disrupting and improving manufacturing in applications like architecture and construction, whether companies are recreating intricate ceiling designs more efficiently than making hand-carved pieces, or elaborating on necessary parts like stair railings with detailed designs not feasible via conventional methods like Injection Molding. Architects may also be experimenting with a variety of industrial 3D printing processes like ceramic additive manufacturing. Ultimately though, the bottom line still remains a deciding factor for designers comparing traditional manufacturing vs. additive manufacturing in architectural applications.
In remaining agnostic to technology, the priority at Shapeways is to recommend the best material and method to each customer, depending on the project. Injection Molding is available for Shapeways customers who may have had so much success with a project that they are ramping up for mass production and find that transitioning into Injection Molding is most cost-effective. For other architectural customers, CNC machining may provide the better option for high production of precise parts that require a smoother surface finish.
Additive vs. Traditional Depends on Preference–and Cost
For architects interested in creating detailed models, they may find no contest in terms of choosing Material Jetting technology with materials like High Definition Full Color. The options are endless, whether architects are presenting on a smaller scale or want to design a sophisticated representation of an entire city block, including elements like landscaping and infrastructure.
Customers like Verner Architects seek out materials like Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic] with Selective Laser Sintering for the ultimate in prototyping and end-use materials. Additionally, in creating a six-foot-long vanity statement piece in Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic], they took advantage of the incredible design freedom afforded by SLS technology, as well as the ability to consolidate assembly of parts.
Others engaged in 3D printing for architecture may customarily turn to AM processes when customizing low- to medium-volume production of parts. While they have the ability to offer bespoke products to their own consumer base, exponential time and expense are also spared without the need for machining, tooling, or lead times in 3D printing for architectural models and parts.
Researchers go into further detail in the recent article, ‘Benefits and costs of additive manufacturing applications: an holistic evaluation guideline:
“One of the most remarkable aspects of Additive Manufacturing which has enhanced its position among other manufacturing techniques is the flexibility which not only enables economical low volume production by eliminating the need for tooling, but also provides product designers with a degree of freedom that no more limits functionality in favor of feasibility of the process. This feature provides manufacturers with two remarkable opportunities regarding the design: faster time-to-market, and almost real-time design changes that happen as improvements and optimizations are made to the original design.”
There is Much Left to Discover in Architectural 3D Printing
Architects engaged in 3D printing enjoy the rewards of laying the groundwork for excellence in prototypes and functional parts, enjoying a more sophisticated design process and accelerating product development. These benefits are accompanied by advanced technology and materials that lead to freedom in design and the ability to iterate quickly and without limits. 3D printing disrupts conventional processes and breaks down barriers in manufacturing.
On-demand 3D printing has changed the landscape of manufacturing forever for Shapeways customers too, allowing them to create parts like architectural models, interior statement pieces, or exterior parts, and then store their inventory on a digital file. This means that businesses no longer have to deal with the possibility of overproduction, or storing tremendous numbers of parts on site or in warehouses. 3D printing on demand for architectural applications means greater security in uploading designs, the ability to 3D reduce and optimize parts, and increased efficiency.
As researchers point out in a forward-looking review, ‘Applications of additive manufacturing in the construction industry,’ in regard to 3D printing in architecture and construction, the list of materials and techniques grows, but there is still much to be discovered for these applications:
“Examples of potential advancements include use of multi-materials (e.g., use of high-performance materials only in areas where they are needed), in-situ repair in locations that are difficult or dangerous for humans to access, disaster relief construction in areas with limited construction workforce and material resources, structural and non-structural elements with optimized topologies, and customized parts of high value.”
Architects and progressive construction companies still look to the day when entire subdivisions can be 3D printed at a fraction of the cost and time. These ambitions in architecture extend to offices and wide-ranging infrastructure too, also offering the benefit of sustainability in environmentally friendly materials, without waste.
Enjoy the benefits of this advanced technology and a wide range of materials from Shapeways for 3D printing your creations with accuracy, complex detail, and no minimum or limits in terms of mass customization or single part orders. Shapeways has worked with over 1 million customers in 160 countries to 3D print over 21 million parts! Read about case studies, find out more about Shapeways additive manufacturing solutions, and get instant quotes here.