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Wake up and smell the coffee because the day has arrived. Freddie Garside and Jonathan Etchells of ONE17 lift the lid and give you the lowdown on a designer’s new best friend.
SOMEDAY MY PRINTS WILL COME
Virtually all architectural and interior design work is one-off. With buildings, the prototype is more often than not, not the finished scheme. This makes it terribly difficult for designers to explain their proposals at an early stage to clients and other interested parties such as planning officers.
Drawings can only go so far and even the advent of computer programmes capable of creating 3D models were generally limited by the fact these models were viewed on a flat screen.
Before computer drafting became commonplace the usual recourse when wishing to give the best possible idea of a scheme was to make a model.
Models hold a fascination for designers and observers alike. Their tangibility and occupation of space mean no static drawing or animated film can ever really compete.
Consequently, modelmaking used to be a key skill for architects. Hours spent with cardboard, balsa wood and glue, scalpels and steel rulers could produce some wonderful results. Larger offices even developed dedicated modelmaking studios. But time is of course a valuable commodity and models – even the simplest – were not cheap. Fewer clients became willing to pay the price and computer companies promoted the slick image, produced at far less cost, as the way forward.
Like a Sleeping Beauty, the somnolent power of the model remained in the background, patiently awaiting the kiss of new technology to reawaken its potency and enable it to return to its rightful place in the designer’s armoury.
Enter the 3D printer. A demonic microwave oven that can absorb the digital cryptograms of the computer model to produce a proper miniature building or component as miraculous as the alchemy that turns sugar flour and eggs into cakes.
ONE17 is the proud possessor of a 3D printer and it has revitalised and revolutionised our ability to make models once more. Freddie Garside and Jonathan Etchells are responsible for 3D printing within the office and here explain the hows, whys and wherefores of the process plus an idea of how it has changed our working methods.
Freddie first. “ Most of our projects are drawn in three dimensions on the computer using CAD (computer aided design) software - ArchiCAD. From this CAD model, we generate plans, sections and elevations, at different scales and levels of detail depending on the requirement: planning applications, building regulations applications, working drawings etc."
“ We believe it’s important to stay ahead of the game, so we’re always searching for different ways to present designs to our clients. A couple of years ago we invested in the UP BOX 3D printer by Tiertime, which has allowed us to take a computer generated design and print a physical maquette of it with very little extra work. Examples might be small-scale models of buildings, site models and isolated details. This has proved immensely helpful for clients and others to appreciate schemes in a three dimensional physical format, rather than just a flat two dimensional image."
“Not only that, it can dramatically aid the planning process on some contentious submissions. A site model might mean a planning officer or committee can better grasp the design and scale of a scheme in context with its immediate surroundings. This was recently proven on a large-scale residential submission we made in a conservation area, where the site had previously been subject to a number of refusals. Following feedback from the planning department, we produced a scheme where the model we provided played a vital role in portraying the proposal, and gaining an approval."
“3D printing has also dramatically changed the way in which we develop designs for our DYEHOUSE range of furniture and homeware. We are able to produce numerous prototypes, sometimes at full size, which is much faster and more cost effective than it would be for a manufacturer to produce a normal prototype. Lanterns, candle holders, door knobs and benches are just a few of our products that have gone through this process. Perhaps our best known product developed in this way is the DYEHOUSE FALL bench which is currently on view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.”
Jonathan explains the actual process involved in 3D printing. “The process begins by converting a CAD drawing to a file format that can be read by the 3D printer, importing it into the printer’s software and choosing the desired print settings."
“A spool of thermoplastic filament is loaded into the printer and fed through a brass nozzle. Numerous thermoplastics are available, however from experience we tend to use PLA (polylactic acid), which we find produces a higher level of consistency and importantly is also biodegradable. The nozzle is heated to 200˚C+, which turns the solid filament into a gel form as it passes through. The nozzle is attached to a 3-axis arm that allows it to move in the X, Y and Z planes. The melted material is extruded in thin strands and is deposited layer-by-layer (0.2mm thick) onto a perforated platform, where it cools and solidifies almost instantaneously. When a layer is finished, the process is repeated until the print (or maquette) is complete."
“The time it takes to produce a model varies significantly depending on the scale and complexity. Our 3D printer is limited to prints with a maximum build envelope of 255 x 205 x 205mm. Most of the architectural models we produce are larger than this size, so we tend to divide the model into sections where joints will not be noticeable and glue them together."
“Once the model is complete, it’s removed from the platform and inspected for any flaws that may have occurred during the print. If necessary we can use filler, sanding and painting to fine tune the print, and obtain the desired finish. After every print, we analyse the process it went through, to determine whether we could improve on any factors, such as speed, quality or consistency.”
There is no doubt that 3D printing has revolutionised the way ONE17 produces and presents 3D models, adding quality, durability and a much higher level of detail in a fraction of the time it would take using traditional methods. More often than not we load up the machine, leave it running overnight and come in the next morning to a small but perfectly formed version of a design. If we could get it to produce coffee and croissants as well our lives would be complete.
To find out more about 3D printing please visit