Case Study: 3D printing 80 Iconic Buildings for the A+D Architectural Museum

We’ve printed plenty of architectural models, but this one was at an entirely different level—because it was 80 of them at once.

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Problem

We were approached by the A+D Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles with an ambitious project: creating 80 large 3D printed models of famous buildings around the world, each 3D modeled by an architectural student. The museum also had a very short timeline for the project--they needed the buildings ready for display within five weeks to fit into the exhibit schedule.

Solution

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Due to the large scale of this project and the limited time we had to complete it, it was critical to have a well-defined plan early in the process. By analyzing all of the 3D models, we were able to determine an estimated print time for the entire order, which ended up being over a thousand printing hours. This enabled us to determine how many printers we would need to dedicate to the project to complete it on schedule, accounting for risks such as print failures.

Because the buildings were going to be used for an exhibit at the museum, print quality was an important consideration. Many of the buildings had complex designs that would have required support material, which often results in a lower quality surface finish on the supported surfaces. To avoid this, we split many of the 3D models into multiple pieces, which we could then 3D print in an orientation that would minimize support material. After printing, we attached the pieces together to create a higher quality final result.

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We also scheduled our work into a number of print batches, each of which we would complete and ship to the museum as soon as it was complete. This allowed museum staff to begin the process of planning the exhibit and arranging the buildings, which helped them stay on schedule to open the exhibit on time. This is something we offer for larger-scale orders, where the client might need to have a subset of the parts in-hand as quickly as possible.

Result

We completed the entire set of 80 buildings and delivered them to the museum in plenty of time for the exhibit to open on schedule--you can see a picture of the completed exhibit on this page.

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This was a project where 3D printing made the most sense for production versus traditional manufacturing methods. Each building model was unique and needed to be printed with high detail to have the most impact as a display piece. However, due to the size of the models (many were over 12” in each dimension), it wouldn’t have been realistic for the museum to print these models with an in-house 3D printer. With our experience handling large orders and numerous large-format 3D printers, we are well-suited for this type of large-scale 3D printing project and were able to ensure this exhibit was a success.

Interested in finding out more about our services, or want us to print your architectural model or museum exhibit? Send us a message here.

Al Billington