Feb 1, 2014
Robby Blum

If it was unclear from the majority of my blog posts, one of my many passions is computer modeling. Computer modeling is beneficial in many ways, from initial rough designs all the way down to the final built project; the model can provide unique views and detailed conditions that may have otherwise been overlooked. A lot of my projects, primarily any carpentry projects I might be embarking on, start out as computer models. In fact, just about everything that requires some kind of planning for me starts out as a computer model. These models allow me to find potential problems when I start building things and address them before they become issues. Sadly these models only exist in the digital world, but do they have to?

The world of 3D printing is a rapidly expanding industry. 3D printers may very well be joining the ranks in plotter rooms of professional offices, or even sitting next to your trusty inkjet printer on your desk.  What is currently available allows people to print 3D models of items or small parts to go in a larger contraption.  Recently announced at CES 2014 (does being an IT Manager qualify me to go next year?) is the Replicator Z18 3D printer from MakerBot Industries.

This 3D printer is not only affordable but also has a 12” x 12” x 18” print area. This is a significant step up from their previous model (the Replicator 2) which only had a 11.2″ x 6” x 6.1” print area. The technology is still a long ways off from being able to print a car, not that you would download a car, but it is making serious progress.

So there is some impressive hardware out there, now what can we do with it? Just about anything you can think of. From printing building models to be used in client presentations, to printing a phone cradle for your desk, or even a lucky charms cereal sifter, the possibilities are nearly endless.

For clients, being able to physically see and touch what their future building will look like brings some serious “wow” factor to the table. What does the future of 3d printing hold? Will we one day be able to design a building and click print? It might not be that simple but the potential is out there!

Scientists from the University of Southern California have developed a method called Contour Crafting  which allows them to 3D print concrete walls. They claim that a 2,500 SF home can be completed in only 24 hours. This method is laying the framework, both literally and figuratively, in the future of large scale 3D printed applications.

Just about everything is designed on a computer today, so let’s start freeing these models from their digital world!