Page T1.1 . 18 August 2004                     
ArchitectureWeek - Tools Department
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Morphosis Prints Models

by Martin Doscher

In many architecture firms, the introduction of computer-aided design has resulted in less reliance on hand-crafted scale models. However in some firms, CAD has enabled a happy marriage of new techniques with the old-fashioned craft.

The Santa Monica, California firm of Morphosis has a long history of handmade physical models and drawings. But as we began to integrate computers in the practice, and as CAD models became the core medium for project development, we looked for a way to produce high-quality physical models that would remain consistent with the digital models.

In 2000, we acquired our first 3D printer, from the Z Corporation. This device provides a direct link between the CAD model and the physical output. We build digital models using form-Z or TriForma, and the data drives the printer to create physical models.

Making the Model

It takes us about a day to prepare a digital model for printing breaking it into appropriate pieces, carving voids into solids to save material, and subtracting parts that will be built manually in other materials. Then we facet the CAD model into a triangulated mesh and convert it to a stereolithography- (STL-) format file. The 3D printer comes with its own software that sections the STL file horizontally into 0.004-inch (0.1-millimeter) layers the thickness of the plaster powder we use.   >>>

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An urban-scale model in the process of powder removal after production on a 3D printer.
Photo: Morphosis

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Before 2000, Morphosis's models, such as this one for the Nara, Japan Convention Center, were almost entirely handmade.
Photo: Morphosis


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