Can 3D printing boost your architectural creativity?

Creating a link between sketch, screen, imagination, and reality.

Models create a link between sketch, screen, imagination, and reality. There’s nothing like a physical model to explain and understand a form. While both the process of creating models and analyzing them can open up creative dimensions, building them by hand takes time and has limitations.

Luckily, the benefits of models in the design process can be attained without sacrificing all that time. 3D printing technology has developed to a degree where printing has become easier and faster than ever, making printing models in every part of your design process a breeze. 3D printing can in itself help with boosting creativity by opening up a world of design possibilities previously unattainable. You can finally bring alive those designs and shapes that have been impossible or too time-consuming to realize by hand.

Before, the time spent pre-processing, calibrating and maintaining printers could take as much time as building the model you wanted to initially print. However, with the solutions today you can actually save time with 3D printing. The time saved can be used for designing — and other creative pursuits.

Creative 3D Printed Model of a Proposal for Malmö Concert Hall and Conference Center by Studio Libeskind, Source: radiiinc.com

Creative 3D Printed Model of a Proposal for Malmö Concert Hall and Conference Center by Studio Libeskind, Source: radiiinc.com

Unleash the full potential of your creativity

Creativity is at the heart of design. Seeking the inspiration to boost that creativity and unleash its full potential can sometimes be challenging. Testing and trying out designs and shapes by hand has been linked to increased creativity, but is time-consuming. Luckily today there are time-saving tools that help to improve your creative process and let your imagination run free.

The inside of a 3D printed model with complex parametric design. Masdar Headquarters in Abu Dhabi by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture. Source: Columbia University

The inside of a 3D printed model with complex parametric design. Masdar Headquarters in Abu Dhabi by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture. Source: Columbia University

Design is an iterative process. Models can provide a medium for deeper understanding of your design — and make you realize the possible iterations or developments in a way that an image on a screen can’t. But constant revisions and redesigns can prove tiring and again, time-consuming. However, with effortless 3D printing you don’t need to reduce your capacity and creativity to just one optimum model — print a model at every design iteration, of every idea, with high accuracy and flexibility. Once you build a digital 3D model you can easily create and print it out as many variations as you like. Eliminate those irritating practical limitations and start experimenting.

Picture every idea you have and try out how it fits in its given environment. Source: “Digital Craft: 3D Printing for Architectural Design” by Bryan Ratzlaff

Picture every idea you have and try out how it fits in its given environment. Source: “Digital Craft: 3D Printing for Architectural Design” by Bryan Ratzlaff

Models are often created in the last stages of the design process when the designs tend to be more or less final. However, 3D printing models in the early stages bring your visions alive from the beginning, generating a quick feedback loop with your team, and more valuable and constructive feedback. Different perspectives on your design can result in new ideas that might have been lost without the added tangibility.

Experiment with forms

Nature and its complexity have always inspired great architecture. The Kunsthaus Graz was inspired by microscopic images of sea creatures. The Sagrada Familia was largely inspired by trees.

The complexity and sophistication of natural forms can be hard to incorporate into scale models made by traditional methods. However, as Avi Reichental said, a 3D printer doesn’t distinguish between the most rudimentary or the most complex shape. 3D printing gives you the possibility to add more of the complexity observed in nature and apply it to structural building shapes.

A 3D printer can prove a valuable tool to construct more innovative designs that push the limits. Increase your design spectrum towards parametric, biometric, organic and generative designs and embrace the full inspirational potential of the complexity of nature.

One example of an innovative parametric design by Zaha Hadid. Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan. Source: Archdaily

One example of an innovative parametric design by Zaha Hadid. Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan. Source: Archdaily

Integrating 3D printed models in your design process can help you get physically in touch with your designs — effortlessly. Combine the accuracy of a virtual 3D model with the tangibility of a physical object and create a fast feedback loop early in the design process. When you spend more time designing, and less effort prototyping, you open up a world of possibilities for creative thinking. Not to mention easing communication! The communication benefits of 3D printing are so numerous, we’ve written an article about it.

Are you curious to start your new architectural projects with 3D printing but you have still questions or concerns? Talk to us! We’re currently developing a 3D printer for architects — Join the discussion on Facebook or sign up for notifications on our development.

Julio Tiusanen