Benefits of using 3D printers for architectural models
Why are 3D printers so useful for architects anyway? What is the point in buying a 3D printer if you are an architect?
3D prints allow people to visualize and have a tangible guide to something before it is actually brought to fruition. It allows for testing and getting a better feel for dimensions.
Modeling has long been a part of architecture, but with 3D printers, you can create a model quickly, and even make changes on the fly and have another model ready while your clients are still in a consultation. 3D printing has made everything much more immediate for architects.
Features to consider before you buy a 3D printer for architects
What sort of features do you need to look at? How do you judge a 3D printer and its merits for architecture? The market is still a relatively new one and people are still trying to work it out. Plus, new and upgraded 3D printers keep coming out. The features below are what we have used to judge the 3D printer reviews above.
FDM, also referred to as FFF, is a popular style of printer, standing for Fused Deposition Modeling. These heat filament and then feed it through a tube into the design via X, Y and Z axes.
SLS – Selective Laser Sintering uses a laser to create and mold new layers. This can be quite specialist and dangerous if not done correctly.
SLA – Stereolithography printers use resins which can be quite messy to operate.
Materials you’ll need to print
Different filaments provide different structural and design properties, and also have different environmental impacts. Some of the most common materials include PLA, which is derived from plants, but isn’t great for use outdoors, ABS, which is a great option for durable and sturdy modeling, and PETG.
There are also wood-based filaments and other unusual filaments to give a different look and feel to the design.
Software can get a little confusing when it comes to 3D printing. For a beginner, in the majority of situations, we recommend sticking with the proprietary software that should come with your printer. Software tends to work in the STL format, and AutoCAD is also able to communicate using this file type.
Naturally, the printing size is limited to the size of the chamber and how much space there is on the bed. The build volume is specified in the 3D printer descriptions on the list.
Designs can be broken into smaller parts and stuck together.
How quickly can a print be created? This is measured in mm/s. If you want to print off lots of designs in a short space of time, printing speed will naturally become more of a priority for you.
User friendly features relate to both safety and ease of actually using the machine. Safety features include automatic shutoffs for heated beds, and automatic nozzle retraction.
The most user-friendly options also tend to have a display allowing you to see exactly what you are doing with the printing process at all times. You might even be able to print from USB or SD cards without using a computer.
Warranties on these products can vary, but they tend to be between 3 month and one year. One year of protection is fairly generous, and the wear and tear on these products often means manufacturers aren’t as comfortable giving long warranties.
The cost is another area that can vary hugely. If you are looking for the best value 3D printer for architects, then you might be able to get something under $1000. More expensive models may be required if you are looking for more advanced features, with models going up to many thousands of dollars.