A Guest Blog by Summer Intern Peter Schemel

My first weeks interning at MSB Architects have been exciting because this has been my first chance to see the day-to-day activity of an architecture firm. I was glad to find out that some of the same tools I use in school are also used here. 3D printing is one of these.

At MSB, 3D printing is a part of the process of making a building. It is used during the schematic phase when the architect presents many design possibilities to the client. A 3D model helps the client and architect visualize the project. Traditionally, architects hand crafted these 3D models laboriously over many hours. At MSB, we let 3D printers perform this time-consuming task with greater precision and speed.

So, what is a 3D printer?

First of all, a 3D printer does not use paper, it uses plastic. This plastic is heated up and forced through a nozzle, kind of like a hot glue gun.

print nozzle on a 3D printer

After leaving the nozzle, the plastic hardens on the printing bed below. The nozzle can move left, right, forward, or backward to place plastic anywhere on the printing bed.

a 3D printer in action

To start the second layer, the nozzle moves up and begins laying plastic on top of the first layer.

early stage of a 3D print

The 3D printer will lay many more layers.

layers in a 3D print

3D printers can make lots of convenient things, like this laptop holder.

holder for a laptop and dock made by 3D printing

Here is a schematic design model for a client, it took thirteen hours to print.

3D printed schematic model

Like modeling with paper or wood, there are techniques for modeling with 3D printers. Some factors I have noticed include:

  • Detail. Do I make every doorknob? Every piece of trim? Every window?
  • Scale. Should I print one small model or pieces of a big model that can be hand assembled after printing?
  • Overhang. Should I print overhangs like awnings and windows in their real depth or can they be shallower to have more support?

I look forward to learning more of these techniques so I can make cool 3D prints for MSB and school projects. 

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