If you are a modern day architect you might be familiar with using computer-aided design (CAD) software to create virtual 3 dimensional(3D) objects for projects. If you have been around for some time you will know that these models don’t mean much if your clients can’t touch and interact with them. Therefore designing physically scaled models of your virtual 3D objects is a better way to visualize your architectural ideas. This is where a 3D printer comes in very handy.
A 3D Printer acts as an intermediary between you as the designer and the manufactured 3D object you desire to showcase to your client or colleagues. It does so by translating you CAD project into a 3D object. The process is much faster than traditional model making methods that rely on very skilled craftsman to create a scale model. You will definitely save a lot of time when using a 3D printer but also leave your client very impressed with a good quality scale model.
The benefits of a 3D printer
Having a physical architectural model will enable you as an architect to better present your ideas and come across more clear to your client. The level of detail a 3D printer adds to your scale model can be very impressive when you try to win a client over. While it is useful to have models and mockups, a physical model makes it easier to spot a design flaw or any defects associated with your design. The low cost of creating 3D models and the amount of time saved makes it better than traditional methods used to create scale models.
Time is a precious resource and we all wish we had more of it but you can that if you use a 3D printer for your architectural designs. Most of your architectural projects might already take on the form of 3D CAD models. You can print these models in 3D by simply scaling to your size of preference and then exporting that file to your 3D printer.The 3D printing method is more favorable for designers than the traditional manufacturing methods. The time associated with creating traditional models may be calculated in days and weeks. When it comes to 3D printing, on the other hand, it might only take a matter of hours to manufacture your scaled model. Even if you have a large model to print it would not take up more than a few days.
In a production window, you might find yourself having to send detailed specification, generate quotations and purchase the client orders followed by a waiting process in which the actual job will be completed. If your model is already completed you will breeze through the production windows since you already saved a lot of time getting a scaled models for your client. Even if you have to re-print and make a change it would not be a problem because the new model can be in your hands in a few hours.The fast production of models allows you to visualize your ideas and improve the CAD designs.
The materials used and the cost to keep a 3D printer operating is lower than that used in traditional methods when manufacturing models.You might think that an extremely detailed 3D printing would be expensive but the opposite is true. The only factor that affects the cost of manufacturing your models is the quantity of the material that is used.In the event that your client makes a request for a change to an already printed model that process of generating a new one is straightforward. Firstly you would make the necessary changes in the CAD document and then re-print the model for your client’s approval.
As mentioned before the level of detail with a 3D printer is incredible. You can go as small as 0.0025 to 0.2mm with the details of your model. The above-mentioned type of precision is impossible when you are creating models by hand but would require expensive computer numerical control (CNC) machined tooling to achieve the same result. Interior design benefits the most from 3D printing. It allows more accurate duplications of textures, rounding off of furniture and the colors that would be associated with the interiors of the building. Instead of presenting a boring model you will have your client in awe when they see how close to the end product your scale model gets.
Innovation is encouraged by 3D printing. When you are able to witness the creation of your idea into a real object in a few hours, it is much easier to go and create something new again and improve on that design. If you want to experiment with different designs this way model creation allows that. This way you can make sure you only present the very best and most creative ideas to you client.
- Ultimaker 2+
The initial release of their 3D printer was in 2011. Ultimaker was able to build a solid reputation for themselves with their prosumer 3D printers. Ultimake’s specialty is printers that are able to handle complex, high precision geometries printing. The latest addition to Ultimake’s lines of printers is the Ultimaker 2+ with the highest quality printing that you can achieve on a fused deposition modeling (FDM)3D printer.
The main features that come with the Ultimaker 2+ are the ability to print different filament material types like acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), Polylactic acid (PLA), Nylon and Copolyester (CPE). You will also have the option to choose from several nozzles including 0.4mm, 0.2mm, 0.6mm and 0.8mm.
The whole machine weighs 24 pounds with a build volume of 8.5″x 8.5″ x 7.9″. In the case, the model you are printing is bigger than the previously mentioned dimensions you can simply split the model into several parts that can be later joined together with a suitable glue.When you want to work as productively as possible in an office environment it is better to have more connectivity options available to you. You would be happy to know that the UM2+ printer is equipped with WI-FI and Ethernet. You can use both these connection options to send your files to the printer to be printed out. AUSB port is at the back but it is only used for firmware updates.
An extra that is well appreciated is the ability to remotely monitor your print progress through an onboard webcam through the WI-FI. This feature is most useful if your model will take several hours to print, allowing you to focus on something else in the meanwhile and only checking in when needed. Ultimaker has their own software named Cura that can be downloaded from their website. The software gives you the ability to make use of a default setting for filaments. Therefore requiring little to no need for you to experiment in an attempt to get the best results. Simply upload your geometry and press the go button using the optimal settings and you should be fine.
The default setting can make the printer very slow. In case you find the default settings does not suit your needs you can delve into the settings and tweak from hundreds of options to get the desired result you are looking for. The Cura software is compatible with macOS, Windows, and Linux Ubuntu.
When it comes to print quality the Ultimaker simply excels. Switching to the highest available quality you will notice that the build layers are barely visible to the human eye. The printing resolution ranges between 20 and 200 microns, that is more than enough to print the most detailed scaled models required. XY positioning is within 12.5 microns and Z positioning in 5.
The higher the quality you choose the slower the manufacturing time of your model. It is noticeably slower than its rivals when you set it to higher quality.If you are someone that value speed more than quality you may choose a lower setting. This is possible through the three default quality settings that come with your 3D printer.
The type of filament that your UM2+ printer makes use of is the less common 3mm one. In case you chose to use Ultimaker’s own filament, then you will be pleased to find an NFC tag in the reels that tells the filament type and color of the printer.One thing that makes this printer good is that its manufacturer does not force you to use their filament only but you can choose whatever brand you like. The printer has a build in plate that is heated allowing you to use various material types like ABS, PLA, CPE, Nylon, and PVA.
Final words on the Ultimaker 2+ machine would be that it is a sturdy machine that provides high-quality 3D models. It is definitely built for business with their outstanding quality. If you want something even better than this 3D printer check out the review of the Ultimaker 2’s bigger brother the Ultimaker 3 below.
- Ultimaker 3
The Ultimaker 3 printer is the older brother of the UM2+ with improved features. One of the most outstanding features is the dual extrusion technology that is very useful when printing complex architectural models. The changes of having misprint with this machine are almost zero.
As mentioned before the main outstanding feature in the Ultimaker 3 printer is the dual extrusion ability. In a nutshell, this simply means that the two extruder heads make use of two different material types. For example, one head can make use of Nylon while the other PVA.The dual extrusion feature is especially useful if you want to use PVA in the head as a dissolvable support structure for your desired model.
To better understand dissolvable support structures mean that after you finish printing the 3D model, no manual clipping or sanding is needed that can leave witness marks on your model.Instead, you can simply put your model under running water to dissolve and wash away the supporting structures. The result is a perfectly finished 3D printed model in less time and whole lot less effort.
Another useful way of employing the dual extrusion feature is for aesthetic reasons. This will allow you to print two different colors, or finishes, or material types. Let put this into perspective. If you are using wood or steel based filament, you will end up with different finishes in terms of their color, texture, and luster without you needing to paint or further treat the surface of your model. In terms of printing space, you will have an 8.5″ x 8.5″ x 7.9″ printing space. This machine is also very quiet when it is running compared to other 3D printers.
You can expect exceptional and unrivaled printing quality that are well above those standards that are set by the UM2+ amongst the FDM printers. This printer also provides good detailed 3D objects. You will have to tweak the settings of this printer to find what works best for you but ultimately you won’t be let down by this printer. You models will be very precise and life like.
A final word on the Ultimaker 3 printer would be that it provides the same if not better quality 3D printing than the UM2+ printer. An added benefit, however, is the dual extrusion capability that comes standard with this printer. When you are manufacturing highly complex models an additional function build in would be very beneficial to you being able to use dissolvable support. This slows down the post-processing and maintaining while leaving you with a quality and detailed model.
- Zortrax M200 Pro
If you are looking for a reliable FDM 3D printer but don’t want to compromise on quality than the Zortrax M200 is ideal for you. This is one of the best you’ll come across. Zortrax has become reputable for making high-quality 3D printers that don’t require a tedious setup process or maintenance. If you are looking for a 3D printer that would provide the Apple MacBook flawless quality, then you should definitely get the Zortrax M200.
An outstanding feature of the M200 is the moveable direct feed print-head. This is possible through a unique perforated design-build plate that moves in the Z-axis
The aluminum chassis gives the machine an excellent build quality including the sturdy feeling components that look and feel of high value. You are spoiled with a build volume of 200mm x 200mm x 180mm. The chassis is a fully enclosed environment that allows reliable and repeatable printing, especially in materials that would make it hard to do otherwise like ABS.
Let’s start with the reliability of this printer together with the quality is the best features that come out of Zortrax. Most 3D printers will force you to make some tweaks when you set it up for the first time before it operates. Throughout the lifespan of the product, you might find yourself having to do these same tweaks again and do regular maintenance in order to keep the machine functioning optimal. The M200 3D printer is a whole different story.
The attention to detail of the M200 printer is spot on that is provided by the highest quality components being used by Zortrax. For performance, this means that it is perfect every time from the first use. You can be sure of automatic build place leving that also contributes to stability. You will not need to make any adjustments or change any settings for months of continues print. This is what makes the M200 such an incredible device because most of its rivals would require daily set up and tweak to run smoothly.
You will not need any glue or tape to make your first layer stick. This is a great addition that simplifies your 3D printing that is most commonly associated with other printers.
The M200 machine has a minimum layer height of 90 micron that is fairly standard. Where the advantage over the competition comes with the 1.5 micron XY precision. The printing quality is exceptional and probably some of the most impressive you’ll see in a 3D printer. After starting up the printer you will notice how smooth its mechanisms run. You will be pleased to know that there is no jerky movements, loud noises or otherwise vibrations from the beast of a machine. This can be credited to the quality and precision of all the components that Zortrax use to carefully construct their machines.
First layer adhesion is ensured by the perforated build plate and according to users of this product, almost zero failures have been encountered. Previous M200 printers had a fault on them, but Zortrax has since fixed the problem. You were not able to use filament from other brands than Zortrax. The limitation has been lifted by Zortrax. They went back to the software to allow it to use filament and then they have also updated the warranty just to further emphasize they do allow off brand filament to be used in their printer.
The filament that Zortrax produce themselves is very good quality at a reasonable cost to consumers. You wouldn’t have much reason to choose other brands except if you are looking for a specific color or a finish.
A wide range of materials can be printed by the Zortrax M200 3D printer. Besides printing the standard PLA and ABS, the following is also allowed that includes Z-ASA Pro, Z-Glass, and Z-Hips. Let’s look closer at these 3 additional materials that can be used. Z-ASA Pro is mostly used for indoor application but is also a UV stable material. Z-Glass is a type of material that tries to mimic the visual properties of glass by being translucent. If you are creating a glass building or a building with a glass feature this material and printer is very useful. Z-Hips provides an ultra smooth finish and usually appears like a highly matt finished material.
A final few words on the Zortrax M200 machine would be that this machine is perfect for printing architectural models where you should keep quality in mind. You would either not like your clients to wait or have any failed prints. This is currently one of the best FDM 3D printers out there. Instead of focusing on a budget, Zortrax has gone ahead and used the highest quality components for precision but in a conservative design.The result is a reasonably priced 3D printer that can claim a success rate of nearly 100% when it comes to building models and possibly the highest quality you can get on any FDM printer today. The printer is exceptional and its print quality is just unmatched by any 3D printer out there.
- MakeBot Replicator+
Makerbots latest Replicator PLA only printer in their range is the Replicator+. You get a large build volume with this model at 11.6″ x 7.6″ x 6.5″ that comes in very handy when printing architectural models. When you compare this printer to its predecessors you will find a lot of mechanical improvements that boost accuracy and reliability. A single piece of aluminum is now the re-designed Z-axis which is also very solid. When unboxing this product you will be very impressed with the looks of this product providing a sturdy and a well-engineered appearance.
MakerBot has put in great effort as a company to provide the perfect and most reliable building surface. Inside the Replicator+ you will find a flexible build plate that has a grippy surface. This contributes to the ease of removal when the product is finished but also serves as the first layer adhesion.
Just like the Zortrax, this printer comes with a build plate that can easily be removed by simply sliding it out. Part removal can thus be done safely away from the confined. “Smart Extruder+” is the name of the business end printer. It comes standard with automatic jam detection and auto calibration. If necessary you can go ahead and easily swap the smart extruder to replace it. You will find this feature very useful when the client and/or colleagues cannot be let down while you are waiting for maintenance and reprints.
Another nice feature is the ability to use the build in camera to monitor your build progress from your computer or mobile phone. If you need to check up on how far your prints are going without leaving your desk than this is a very useful feature. This works over the internet so you could be out of the office visiting a client or a construction site while still gaining access to the build in camera.
You can connect to the Replicator+ by using one of its many connection methods including SD card, USB, Ethernet, Wi-FI and their smartphone application. With this much connection options it sure is easy to make your 3D architectural ideas come to life.
You are guaranteed no setup when buying the Replicator+. No bed leveling, no calibration you can simply plug in and go. The printer has a large LCD screen and navigation when that looks good but is also very user-friendly. You don’t need any formal training in order to operate this machine. If you are computer literate, in this case, you should be to use CAD and have used any printer in the office before you would not find it too hard to operate this machine.
Looking at the accuracy of the printer it is an exception with XY precision of 11 microns and Z axis precision of 2.5 microns. One negative about this printer is that is slightly behind in parts quality when you compare it with the Zortrax M200 and the Ultimaker 2+ because it clearly shows build lines. You can, however, rely on it to print slightly quicker.
If you are an architecture student you will find the Replicator+ worthwhile if you are printing 3D objects weekly.The process of turning this printer into a continuously running 3D print factory is straightforward. You can achieve this constant production line by buying an additional print bed and a pack of grip surfaces. A great benefit when it comes to the software is that it can support multiple printers at a time. The well-engineered mechanism and chassis without a doubt could enable the Replicator+ to run for thousands of hours without any hiccups.
Where can you buy these printers?
These printers are available for purchase on Amazon. You can follow the links below to purchase or get more information right from the Amazon online store.
Buy the Ultimaker 2+ from $2,499.00
Buy the Ultimaker 3 from $3,495.00
Buy the Zortrax M200 from $2,100.00
Buy the MakerBot Replicator+ from $2,499.00
You can be guaranteed of a reliable printer for architecture models with any of the above-reviewed printers. Not is is their quality amonst the best you will find in 3D printers on the market today but they are also reputable machines. Personal preference plays a major role in the 3D printer you might ultimately choose. From the reviewed 3D printers, it is very hard to match the Zortrax M200. Its printing quality is unlike any other 3D printer on the market and most importantly reliable.