3D Prototyping

The successful development of each project’s enclosure system design includes effective communication of engineering and performance strategies to clients, contractors, and executives. Two-dimensional drawings and renderings may not convey the design elements which lay beyond the surface.

Enter – the 3D print.

3D prints of 30 Hudson and Comcast Technology Center.

Prototyping in the Design Process

Three-dimensional full-scale reproductions offer a tactile and visual engagement that cannot be achieved without the physical model. Such prototypes also allow the design team to experiment with new ideas and numerous design iterations up-front avoiding costly oversights further into the project. A bolt assembly can be printed in hours, or a vertical mullion extrusion overnight. The physical model is more than a visual mockup – the printed form acts as a functioning assembly with pieces able to snap together and verify design tolerances.

The most common prototype developed early on is of the stack joint. The significance of this location is it is where four units intersect, the units anchor back to primary structure, and where considerations for movements such as live load deflection, thermal expansion, and seismic movement are accommodated. Aesthetically, this joint garners attention as it is typically the largest joint within the envelope system.

3D Printed Tools for Manufacturing

Buildings with unique geometries require novel approaches to simplify their complexities. One method to assist the fabrication and assembly shops is to develop tools to assist in collecting data, or implementing it.

For instance, the complex geometry of The Spheres at Amazon was controlled by geometric work-points on the outside face of glass. That does not mean much to the steel fabricator when assembling the frames, so Enclos designers had to 1) translate the data to a set of top of steel work-points, and 2) produce 3D-printed appendages that allowed for laser-scanned survey data to collect the true work-point data during quality control. 3D printing can be very helpful in simplifying the manufacturing process of customized facades.

3D Printed Tools for Field Operations

It is well understood that geometric accuracy in a virtual model is more precise than on-site operations. In other words, the dimension with four decimal points that a designer can pull from model space, must be translated to a readily attainable measurement for field crews. Often times, this gap in translation is an opportunity for 3D-printed tools to simplify and ensure consistent measurement or layout during surveying. Such was the case on Pacific Gate where a custom anchor layout tool was developed to assist in the layout operations along the continuous curve of the facade.

Applications of 3D printing in facade contracting not only assist early communication of system details, but also prove invaluable in the constructability phases of a project. We strive to get to full, 1:1 scale as early as possible, helping guide decision-making with tactile conditions in front of the project team.



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