Rapid prototyping turns CAD designs into physical models in just hours, writes Cathy Strongman, and could soon allow architects to create 1:1 models of building components.
Rapid-prototyping technology (RPT), which is the automatic construction of physical models based on virtual designs from CAD software, is transforming architectural modelmaking. The automotive, aeronautical and medical industries have embraced this technology for years, using it to create models of everything from hearing aids to the giant wings of the Airbus A380. As threedimensional CAD packages become more commonplace, the opportunities that these machines offer architects are multiplying.
Although the most basic machines cost around £25,000, RPT is not limited to large practices because a burgeoning industry of out-of-house service bureaus – such as ARRK Product Development Group, Cadventure and Ogle Models + Prototypes – will turn a model around in two to three days, with simple models costing under £50. This low cost, combined with the speed and accuracy of the process, has persuaded architectural practices of all sizes to invest in RPT models. Ben Addy of Moxon Architects is currently using this technology for a competition model. He says: ‘We have a number of “nested” forms within forms that would be very hard to do in any other way.’