How 3D Printing Opens Up Possibilities for Architects

Architects are no strangers to building models by hand, which involves lots of foam, card, pins and glue. When woodwork is involved, the process is also messy, noisy, and highly time-intensive. Making one model can take months!

While the traditional way of making models will always be prevalent, 3D printing in architecture streamlines many architects’ workflows. Architects can make model iterations in CAD, send them to print, and let their printers do the rest.

Make Architects

“We still have a wood workshop, but it’s a hassle to move big lumps of timber,” said Paul Miles of Make, London, “The noise and dust are completely different to the clean and quiet printers in the office.”

Make Architects uses 3D printing to produce models and parts for architectural displays, from concept to customer product. One of the company’s notable projects was a 1:1000 scale context model of East London, where 3D printing made 850 building models with accurate shape representations.

Make uses Ultimaker 3D printers, achieving 90% time and cost savings versus woodworking and other forms of traditional model making.

Watch this video to find out more:

Mainz State Museum


Another interesting application of 3D printing in architecture is this extraordinary exhibition of six historic cities for the Mainz State Museum.

The Form 2 and Form, 3 by Formlabs, were used to make model cities of Worms, Speyer, and Mainz – —the so-called SchUM cities— representing the period 800 and 1,250 AD. The displays contain over 650 parts, all printed with Formlabs’ technology.

“We compared this to different technologies, and we found out that Formlabs technology is way better for us because details are much more visible, and the aesthetics are more fitting to what we need,” said project designer Aliyah Mahmood.


Additive manufacturing is also used to produce one-of-a-kind architectural elements for production buildings, like this one from HS-HITECH, which used HP Multi Jet Fusion to create the design for the geometric glass structure.

HP Multi Jet Fusion was used to conceptualise custom-made joints for the geometric building, providing proof of concept for the joints. In this case study, 3D printing enabled the designers to create a fully glazed space unlike anything else.

The final product is called Blobee, a modular building made of glass with joints that allow the panes of glass to be connected.

Why 3D printing in architecture? 

Architects can use 3D printers to manufacture parts and models for displays and conceptualise components like joints. Engineers can test elements together on the same day, such as interlocking and overlapping features.

As 3D printing has gotten faster and more accessible with lower pricing, it has become an essential tool to design and develop three-dimensional mock-ups, concepts and context models. The cost savings are enormous, with final models being 3D printable within a few weeks rather than a few months.

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