Castles In The Air? How 3D Printing Elevates Architecture

From aerospace to mass customized wearables, 3D printing brings the house down in so many business verticals — including architecture.
Imagine: The architect sits at their drafting table, their head filled with lofty designs. When it comes to helping their clients and partners see what’s in their mind’s eye, sketches and virtual renderings can only get them so far.
That’s where 3D printing comes in: one of the technology’s benefits is that it can expand design freedom.
Let’s look at four times architects were able to add new dimensions to their designs.
Sagrada Familia

A 3D model of a Sagrada Familia cathedral presented in the 3D printing software Magics by Materialise.

The team working on the world-famous Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona has been using 3D printing since 2001. But even back in the late 19th century, the architect Antoni Gaudí understood the importance of moving from 2D to 3D and would often handcraft models of the elaborate building to get a better understanding of the design.
Because many of the blueprints were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, the Sagrada Familia consortium has been creating various prototypes to visualize the complex designs. They use  Materialise Magics  software to 3D print models that have been able to replace the time-consuming and expensive process of handcrafted models.
Antwerp City Hall

Materialise’s Mammoth Stereolithography machines were large enough to print the city hall in one piece.

The Belgian city of Antwerp boasts an ornate 16th_ century city hall that is striking because of its many intricate architectural details. For an exhibition, Materialise worked with Mindscape 3D, a 3D engineering bureau, to create a giant 3D-printed model of Antwerp’s iconic building.
The only printers big enough for the job were the Materialise  Mammoth Stereolithography  printers, which can print models as large as an entire car dashboard. At around 1m70, this architectural model needed all the build platform space it could get. Besides size, the advantage of using Stereolithography technology is the level of detail that can be achieved. Even the intricate woodwork detailing inside the rooms of the city hall is visible.
Šibenik Cathedral

3D model of the Šibenik Cathedral of St. James 3D-printed in transparent resin

For this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia, it was not so much the scale of the model (1:100), but the choice of material that brought a new perspective on what’s possible when you combine 3D printing and architecture.
To show the evolution of construction that took over 100 years to complete,  3D-printed Transparent Resin  turned out to be an elegant choice. Paired with cutting-edge technology, the transparent resin allows visitors to see through instantly and within three separate replicas that show the...