How an Architect Uses a 3D Printer

3D Printing & Imaging Science
How an Architect Uses a 3D Printer

Marcele Godoy is a Chilean architect and recent MPS graduate in the Interactive Telecommunication Program at New York University. She worked as a Junior Professor and Professor Assistant in three different schools of architecture in Chile, where she taught about architecture, physics and structures.

Marcele is interested in combining design with all kinds of disciplines and technologies that can be applied to create new ways of thinking about architecture. In her opinion, we should start thinking of buildings as things that are organic and kinetic rather than static, and we can use technology to generate physical interactivity between architecture, environment, and users.

I took some time to talk to Marcele about how she uses 3D printing in the context of being an architect.

What software do you use to create your 3D models?

I use Rhino because it’s easy, similar to AutoCad and free for Mac (Beta version) . Also, you have the possibility to work with Python if you like to design using code, or Grasshopper if you work in Windows.

What is your favorite 3d printer to use, and why?

I haven’t used many of them, but I like the Makerbot because it is a printer that you can have at home and allows you to create prototypes relatively fast. I was able to make a model in school with a very professional 3D printer, but you cannot do it by yourself. You have to go with your files and a person there will check them and print them. It’s not very useful if you are in a trial-and-error process.

What is a 3D printed project you’ve made that you’re especially proud of?

Last summer I worked on an interactive installation for the London 2012 Festival in celebration of the 2012 Olympics. I was part of the team of the collective YESYESNO, that included Zach Lieberman and Molmol Kuo. The project consisted of hundreds of weather balloons along Hadrian’s Wall in UK, and I developed the physical part of the project.

I designed and 3D printed two pieces using the Makerbot Replicator. One of them was to hold the electronic pieces on the top of a pole and inside the balloons. The other one was a kind of guide to organize ropes that held the balloon to the pole. This last piece was designed mainly because the volunteers had to assemble almost 400 balloons in a couple of hours and this pieces allowed that process to go quicker.

They are not very complex, but the 3D printer was a great tool to prototype and try different alternatives in the studio. I think these kind of home-digital fabrication machines are especially good when you are designing things that you have never seen before and what you find in the market is not enough for your purposes.

What can we expect to see in the world of architecture as 3D printing becomes more common?

As this becomes easier to use and readily available, we can explore more and more shapes that our brains cannot imagine by themselves, as well as shapes that we cannot make by hand. For architects, the potential of these machines and computer-aided design is that we can forget all that exists so far to design with no preconceptions, not only to achieve aesthetically pleasing results, but also to optimize the architectural design.

2013 MAKE Ultimate Guide To 3D Printing

  • 3D Printers Buyer's Guide — 15 Reviewed
  • Getting Started in 3D
  • Learn the Software Toolchain
  • 3D Design for Beginners
  • 3D Printing without a Printer

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Just Released! 2014 MAKE Ultimate Guide To 3D Printing

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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