Architecture is known to be one of the most competitive professions.
Architectural firms compete for clients with each new project introduced. As a way to stand out to clients, architects have started dipping their toes into the world of 3D printing.
3D printers help architects achieve their goal of designing the best buildings and spaces in an ideal and efficient manner for their clients.
3D printing opens a door to numerous possibilities with architecture whether it is developing more detailed projects or allowing for better use of time. At the same time, it moves architects away from their traditional time-consuming, labor-intensive methods.
Let’s dive into the increasingly important role of 3D printers within architecture.
Table of Contents
- Best 3D Printers for Architects At A Glance
- How Do 3D Printers Help with Architectural Projects?
- Considerations When Buying a 3D Printer for Architects
- Product Reviews
- 1. Ultimaker S5 (Best Choice)
- 2. Dremel DigiLab 3D45 (Best Choice)
- 3. Flashforge Guider 2 (Best for Beginners)
- 4. Creality CR-10 (Best for Advanced Users)
- 5. Formlabs Form 3+ (Premium Choice)
Best 3D Printers for Architects At A Glance
How Do 3D Printers Help with Architectural Projects?
When it comes to things like buying new outfits or painting a picture, you never quite know what looks good until you see it for yourself in the end. Architecture is just like that: an architect won’t know what works until a design is laid out in person.
3D printing enables teams to print thousands of models each year. Models include custom and context models, interior design projects, house prototypes, and custom intricate designs. These 3D printed models allow architects to create the best possible layout for their projects. It also makes it easier for architects to present what they have in mind to their clients.
Before the rise of 3D printing in architecture, architectural models were made exclusively by hand. Architects would use materials like wood, cards, and foam boards to display projects.
So, what exactly makes these 3D printed architectural models different from, and better than traditional scale models?
The most obvious difference is the printing speed of being able to 3D print models in comparison to creating traditional models. 3D printing architectural models cuts the time to only hours for architects, a significant difference from the weeks it can take to create models by hand. Unlike humans, 3D printers can also operate non-stop overnight which can be useful for larger and more complex prints. With this extra time, architects can focus more on their clients and better meet client needs. When isn’t saving time a good thing?
Along with the drastic difference in production time, another benefit is that 3D printing models are not as labor intensive as traditional handmade scale models. Traditional models are great for capturing ideas but limited overall in what an architect can truly present.
Another plus is that 3D printing models allow architects to experiment with a variety of materials and colors. This results in more detailed architectural models as 3D printers can incorporate the tiny intricacies and finishing touches of projects.
Better visualizations for clients can further result in stronger first impressions. In fact, models are way more detailed as 3D technology allows for both external and internal detail. These models are an effective way of making a lasting impression on clients. Use and show of models inspires better communication and even motivates clients and investors. With accurate models, 3D printing ensures the best quality while also being able to add variety from a range of materials.
Of course, we can’t forget to talk about the costs of 3D printing. The use of 3D printers in architecture is 100% cost effective. In the long run, the investment of 3D printers for architectural firms saves a lot of money since the 3D printed models created are low cost.
By 3D printing models, architects are able to utilize just enough of the material they need. On top of saving money, 3D printing in architecture is eco-friendly as it optimizes material. Overall, there is less material used and fewer people used when utilizing 3D printers compared to the traditional design process.
The flexibility to create multiple copies of designs is another plus of 3D printers in the field of architecture. With this flexibility, architects can give investors and clients their own copies, further allowing clients to engage in the overall planning process.
With 3D printing, architects are able to test concepts quickly with iterations in the early stages of projects. With an almost completely digital workflow, it is easy to make updates and change models early on.
Finally, architects are able to combine 3D printing with traditional model making. This could include adding touches like grass and lights. This results in a stronger and more significant impact for the final model giving it a more realistic view.
From all of this, we can conclude that increasing the 3D printing speed will increase overall production making the entire process for architects more efficient and more productive while saving time and money.
Considerations When Buying a 3D Printer for Architects
Considering what 3D printing adds to the field of architecture, it’s clear that finding the right 3D printer for an architect can definitely be a gamechanger. There are hundreds of options for 3D printers out there, but it is important to consider various factors of 3D printers when purchasing one.
Factors we will cover when buying a 3D printer include build volume, print speed, print quality, compatible materials, software compatibility, and wifi compatibility.
Now that you know a bit about what features on a 3D printer can benefit architects and architecture firms, it’s time to get into the best options. In each of the sections below, we’ve gone over the best 3D printer for architects.
3D Printer Type: FDM | Materials: Tough PLA, TPU 95A, ABS, Nylon | Build Volume: 330 x 240 x 300 mm
First up we have the Ultimaker S5, developed by Ultimaker, the same company that develops Cura, the most popular 3D slicer program.
Although this is one of the pricier printers, we would say that this printer is definitely worth it. The printer is equipped with a wide range of features when it comes to both the software and hardware.
It may seem like a lot to take in, but the Ultimaker S5 has made a significant mark in the field of architecture as a reliable and versatile printer. It is known to be one of the best 3D printers for architecture firms.
First, the printer is really easy to set up and overall user-friendly. The printer accommodates a variety of 3D printing needs. It can handle a wide range of filaments and even has the feature of dual-extrusion! (2 spools of filament at once).
When it comes to the filament, it is recommended to invest in higher quality spools, like those sold by Ultimaker or other reputable manufacturers.
Using Ultimaker filament, the 3D printer can automatically adjust the printer to the correct material settings. You also have the option to present the filament thickness anywhere between 0.6mm and 0.06mm. The thickness can yield different overall print quality.
The print head movement of the Ultimaker S5 is extremely smooth and precise resulting in high-quality prints. Additionally, among its many features, the printer lets you swap out the print cores whenever you want. This means that you can change the thickness of the extruded material at any time.
Additionally, it is very easy to keep an eye on the progress of your prints. The printer comes with a camera in the corner, letting you remotely check on prints.
Ultimaker S5’s software makes it an extremely competent printer. The software comes with numerous features, all of which only benefit the final print. Putting aside the excellent rep of the Ultimaker S5’s software, you may need some time to get used to it. Taking the time to understand the software will reduce the chances of failed prints.
Ultimaker makes it its top priority to minimize failed prints, taking extra steps not seen in other printers to ensure this. The extra steps can be seen with the Ultimaker S5’s bed leveling and filament features. Bed leveling is done automatically to avoid your print from peeling off the bed or warping. The printer also tells you if you run out of filament which is very useful when you are printing complex parts.
Ultimaker S5 is a pro when it comes to more complex and complicated models. The printer is capable of anything you might want to toss at it. While the printer will print highly detailed models, you must be patient! It will take its time, but in the end, the print quality and detail produced by the printer is definitely worth it.
The Ultimaker S5 is priced a little under $6000, so it’s definitely on the pricier side of architectural printers. However, for this price, you get a pretty expansive print volume of 330 x 240 x 300 mm. Additionally, the built-in enclosure on the S5 combined with the high-temperature bed that can reach up to 140 °C, you’ll be able to print basically any filament material you want (e.g. ABS, ASA, nylon, etc.).
This printer is good for anyone who needs prints with advanced materials or dual filaments. It is an excellent choice for professional printers who want sizable print volume and great material handling. While the Ultimaker S5 is a sizable investment to make, it’s certainly something to consider– especially for professionals and those working on complex projects.
3D Printer Type: FDM | Material: PLA, ABS, PETG & Nylon | Build Volume: 254 x 152 x 170 mm
Up next, we are taking a look at the Dremel 3D45 printer. Dremel DigiLab 3D45 is an easy-to-use, intuitive printer. On top of its accuracy in the printing process, the 3D45 also has some other usability features that make it worth the high price tag for architects.
The Dremel 3D45 has a built-in enclosure that allows for printing temperature-sensitive materials like ABS. While the enclosure surrounds the print area, the front of it is clear so you can watch your prints without opening the door.
Digilab 3D slicer is the software that comes with the printer and can be extremely useful when you know how to work it. The software is based on the open-source Cura platform and offers a lot of adjustable settings that you can use to control how prints are made.
The printer’s touch screen is another one of its many features. The touch screen is used in loading filament and printing from a USB thumb drive. It is also easy to network multiple printers together into a print farm and control them all from one place. Additionally, the leveling process is simple (leveling is semi-automatic with a two-point system).
Overall, the Dremel 3D45 is a very easy-to-use and intuitive printer with only a few problems that need addressing.
Similar to the Ultimaker, the Dremel 3D45 also has the ability to automatically adjust its settings when using filament from the company’s manufacturer using a RFID reader. It is able to print a range of materials including those that require high printing temperatures and advanced materials.
However, there are issues with some sorts of filaments. Nylon has trouble trying to stick together. And, the printer does not handle third-party filaments well. When printing with third-party filaments, there is a big difference in quality.
The printer also comes with a camera which allows you to monitor your prints remotely. You can even make videos of your prints in time lapse! However, some reviews do mention that the camera lags a bit (we didn’t have this problem).
Other than the issues with third-party filaments and the small camera lag, Dremel Digilab 3D45 meets and surpasses all the criteria for other aspects of the printer. This includes monitoring prints, changing filament, and bed leveling among others. It proves to be a capable printer of very detailed and complex prints.
This printer is easy for beginners to use but also advanced enough for experienced users. If you are looking to buy this printer, it really depends on how you plan to use the printer. It’s good for beginners, but I might recommend that professionals and experienced makers look for a printer more versatile than Dremel.
Check out more beginner-friendly 3D printers here.
Dremel 3D45 is a relatively larger printer, offering a print volume of 254 x 152 x 170 mm. With this much space, you should be able to print whatever architectural models you want.
3D Printer Type: FDM | Materials: PLA, ABS, PETG & TPU 95A | Build Volume: 280 x 250 x 300 mm
The Flashforge Guider 2 holds numerous improvements from the original FlashForge Guider. The printer is manufactured by a globally respected 3D technology brand.
Flashforge Guider 2 comes at an affordable price for a printer that offers high quality and precision. Along with the printer’s high accuracy, it can print models with a great surface finish. It is a heavier printer given the different parts and devices that comes with being a professional printer. While the build volume is not as big as some other printers, the space is plenty.
The printer has a removable print plate making cleaning more convenient and easier. Additionally, automatic bed leveling makes it convenient to work with the machinery.
The printer itself has a sturdy and enclosed case making the printer a pretty quiet machine overall which is great if you want to put your 3D printer in your studio. Check out the best quiet 3D printers here.
The 3D printer requires the proprietary software Flashprint. This is a slicer with a powerful printing control option and is available in MacOS and Windows. It is also easy to service compared to other printers!
The printer overall boasts many great features. From assisted bed leveling to a clean user interface, a sturdy build, all the way to support for various filaments, the printer exceeds the requirements of being accurate, repeatable, and dependable.
Unlike the Dremel 3D45, every print comes out in high quality regardless of supporting various materials and filaments.
The Flashforge Guider 2 is good for professionals and enthusiasts alike. It is said to be an excellent choice for those looking for something affordable at an almost industrial level.
3D Printer Type: FDM | Materials: PLA, TPU, ABS | Build Volume: 300 x 300 x 400 mm
Next up we have the Creality CR-10. Creality never fails to impress with their 3D printers. After reviewing this printer, we can confidently say Creality CR-10’s hype/rep is well deserved.
Capable of handling large projects and detailed prints, the Creality CR-10 is perfect for architectural purposes! Among all the other printers on this list, this printer is the most affordable printer, and for a great value.
It is great for printers at any level, whether you are beginning, intermediate, or advanced. You can use it for experimentation and prototyping. Its appealing and simple look draws in many customers.
Creality CR-10 is well known for its large print volume of 300 x 300 x 400mm. In fact, the printer is available in 3 different volumes. The only difference between the 3 variants is the bed size. Although you may not need it, the printer is able to be in operation for up to 200 hours. This gives you the ability to create large projects.
The printer is also flexible in letting you switch between the power supply voltage. There is a switch on the side of the control box where you can switch the printer’s voltage between 110 and 220 volts.
When it comes to software, unlike other printers on this list, you are able to use any software you want with the CR-10! The printer does not make use or purchase a specific software giving you a lot more flexibility.
Filament wise, Creality says the printer can handle a variety of filaments in addition to flexible TPU filament. Be aware that there are some issues with materials that are reliant on consistent heat like ABS.
Creality CR-10 offers USB connectivity. This allows you to manage your prints from anywhere. The USB adapter also makes it easy to swap from computer to printer as you can find the settings you need online and feed it into your printer. Additionally, the LCD screen allows for easy navigation and control for print preparation and calibration.
It may take some time getting used to the printer and getting it to work to its best quality. At first there may be some layer skipping problems. After some trial runs and testing, Creality CR-10 will be working to its best capacity. It is suggested to tighten screws and connectors and crucial to have good printer settings as the printer will only print as well as your settings. The settings you set will determine the kind of prints you receive in the end.
Overall, the printer offers an extremely great, and high value for users on any level. It is flexible with various filaments and software preferences. Like with most Creality 3D printers, there are only a few minor troubles and issues that can easily be addressed.
In addition to its high quality prints and large print volume, the Creality CR10 is priced under $500 making it an extremely appealing option for customers!
3D Printer Type: SLA | Material: Resin | Build Volume: 145 x 145 x 170 mm
Finally, we come to Formlabs Form 3+ printer. The Form 3+ is the sequel to their original Form 3 printer, and, while it’s the second priciest printer on this list, it’s got a good reason for being so.
The most obvious difference between the Form 3+ and the other options on this list is that it’s not your traditional FDM machine. Instead, the Form 3+ is a resin printer, using stereolithography technology to create models out of resin with UV light.
This technology is a lot more precise and accurate than FDM printing, so you can print models that have a lot more detail. The printing process is a little more confusing because you have to deal with UV light and resin instead of easy-to-understand filament, but the results are very worth the struggle.
As for build volume, you get a good bit of space on the Form 3+. Additionally, the Form 3+ can print pretty 20-40% faster than the original Form 3 so you can get your hands on models much quicker.
PreFrom is the software used for Form 3+, and all of Formlabs’ printers. The software allows you to import and slice your models, generate your supports wirelessly and send it over to the printer, and create a que. The software also lets you monitor current prints looking at how many layers are left, the print history, and also how many prints are left through the web dashboard.
There are some things to watch out for, though. First off, you have to keep your resin away from external light like sunlight as it can cause printing defects. And, you also need to keep your resin pretty cold when it’s not printing.
Overall, this printer is a fascinating machine but not for everyone. Its complexity makes it more catered towards experienced and professional 3D printer users, but it might be worth the hurdles if you want the most detail in 3D prints.
At the end of the day, any one of these 3D printers is a great consideration for architectural purposes. While these are only a handful out of the thousands of 3D printers out there, each is suited to different levels and degrees for your architectural ventures.
For those looking for the least expensive way to get into printing architectural models, I’d recommend getting the Creality CR-10 as it’s very upgradable and also inexpensive. For those looking for a more professional FDM printer for architectural models, the Ultimaker S5 or Dremel 3D45 is probably the better option.
Lastly, if you’re looking for the best 3D printer for architects, then no other than the Formlabs Form 3+ is for you. This printer is for those who believe that every detail counts on a model. The machine’s SLA technology and high-resolution LCD provide maximum detail in prints to make your models as accurate and visually appealing as possible.
Regardless of the printer you end up with, you can be happy knowing this is just the beginning for 3D printing in architecture!