Rietveld Architects LLP, a leading New York-based architectural firm has introduced 3D printing technology to increase productivity and design innovation.

Well known throughout the United States and Europe for their creative commercial and residential spaces, Rietveld builds several architectural models of increasing detail and scale to help clients visualise designs better. This is done manually, with the task usually requiring two employees to spend upwards of two months cutting, assembling and finishing components made of cardboard, foam board and Plexiglass. However, the time and expense to handcraft these complex elements limited the amount of detail in the models, which sometimes made it difficult to demonstrate the merits of the design to the client.

The firm’s partners, Margaret and Rijk Rietveld, learned about 3D printing from a contact at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and immediately understood the potential of this technology to increase productivity and produce more innovative designs.

Several years ago, Rietveld decided to explore 3D printing as a means to increase the quality and productivity of model production as well as their competitiveness in the architectural industry.

Familiar with the available 3D printing technologies, Rietveld’s leadership, after in-depth research on eight different 3D printers, selected the Objet Eden350 system.

According to Rijk Rietveld, they were particularly impressed by the ability of this system to quickly produce highly detailed, accurate models with minimal office clean-up. Piet Meijs, an associate with the firm explained that the prototyping capabilities offered by the Objet 3D printer have helped the firm to secure several new projects.

Meijs says that clients frequently request design changes or wonder how particular changes may impact the overall aesthetic; the firm’s ability to create and finish models in a matter of hours has impressed their clients.

A project executed by Rietveld for INHOLLAND University in the Netherlands, which sought to replace a small, existing building with a much larger space for its applied sciences program, is a compelling demonstration of the power and versatility of the Objet 3D printer. The new space required a flexible interior plan that preserved the identities of three distinct entities that were to occupy the building.

The components of the building’s design included a suspended auditorium within an innovative composite material glass-wall atrium, an open scissor staircase and a self-study area where students could mingle. Rietveld used the Objet 3D printer to create detailed models that brought to life a precise representation of the complex functional requirements of the university and the unique design concepts of the Rietveld team.

Rijk Rietveld notes that the architectural industry has been reluctant to embrace rapid prototyping technology because of concerns over the delicate nature of some models produced at extreme scales. Meijs comments that while these concerns may be justified with other systems, the Objet 3D printer has the technological tools and flexibility to create even the most delicate model components.

A leading manufacturer of 3D printing equipment and materials, Stratasys helps architectural firms seize more opportunities by creating complex, durable models in-house, directly from CAD data.