A builder's capacity for three-dimensional imagination is quickly overwhelmed when it comes to the assessment of drafts for larger structures. Therefore the ability of architects to present the quality of their work in the most realistic and detailed light as possible is becoming ever more important. Architectural models from 3D printers are the top choice in this regard, as shown by a project for a social centre in Ghana.
Munich architect Wieland Schmidt is already a well-known figure at voxeljet's service centre in Augsburg, as he was one of the first to identify the opportunities offered by 3D print technology for the production of small-batch models or products. "It is fascinating to see how concrete models or products can be created from CAD data in such a rapid and uncomplicated manner. The options provided by 3D printing have also proven themselves with regard to the planning of a trend-setting social centre in Ghana", says Schmidt.
This story starts with a storm in Ghana, more specifically in Sunyani. That is where the Catholic diocese operates an educational institution that comprises more than 200 kindergartens and almost 400 schools ranging from elementary school to university. The church also runs a large number of other social projects designed to help the poor. The diocese also operated a large community hall. However, the hall was damaged by a heavy tropical storm, which tore off the entire roof, hurled it through the air and destroyed it. It was a miracle that no one was hurt, but the hall could not be saved and had to be demolished.
The decision was made to build a new social centre to continue the diocese's successful work. The new complex is designed for a multi-use environment and supposed to act as a meeting place in addition to functioning as the administration for the diocese.
This trend-setting project was planned and designed by Wieland Schmidt: "We want to achieve a lot with the new building complex. We want to build it in an environmentally-friendly manner, using materials from the surrounding area, while at the same time it is designed to be as self-sufficient as possible on an energetic level. Given the tropical heat, it is important to ensure that the building does not heat up, while the energy needs of the building will be covered by solar elements."
Of course everyone in Ghana was curious as to what the new building complex would look like in detail. (Picture2) Therefore Wieland Schmidt decided to digitalise the building data and print out the entire social centre. The voxeljet service centre used the proven method of printing on a high-performance VX800 printer.
This equipment is predestined for generating models that require absolute attention to detail and a precise representation. The VX800 generated the Christ the King Social Center in plastic directly from CAD data on the basis of the so-called layer building method (dimensions 840 x 840 x 225 millimetres). Using thousands of micro-metre fine layers, the VX800 built the entire building in approximately one day.
Following the unpacking period – a process during which excess material is removed from the model – the Christ the King Social Center became reality, at least in terms of a model. "The architectural model of the social centre was printed with a richness of detail and precision that is the hallmark of voxeljet quality. Also, the excellent mechanical stability of the 3D prints ensured that the model withstood the long journey from Augsburg to Ghana without any damages," says Wieland Schmidt. (Picture3) Once the model arrived in Sunyani, Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi and his staff took a closer look at the model from Augsburg (Picture4): "The compelling 3D model allowed us to gain a realistic picture of the building – we are very excited. The concept put forward by architect Schmidt is very impressive and perfectly tailored to our needs. We hope to construct the building as quickly as possible," said Bishop Gyamfi.
In fact, 3D printing is perfectly suited for this form of presentation. The plastic models make it easy to assess dimensions and proportions. (Picture5) Therefore more and more architects rely on the advantages of 3D printing for important presentations. At the same time, there is an increasing demand for purely white models, which has prompted voxeljet to offer a new binder type, effective immediately. The new material is called Polypor Type C and differs from the standard binders in that the finished plastic models feature a very white colour and are thus able to meet demanding requirements with respect to the model's look and feel. This means that 3D printing is becoming even more attractive, particularly for architectural models and design studies.