Creating a 3D model is a great way for any architect to impress a potential client. Bringing the model to life makes it easy for a client or customer to understand your vision in all its glory — and 3D printing makes this easier than ever.
How 3D printers help with architectural projects
✅ Cheaper 3D printed architectural models
It can cost thousands of dollars for an architectural model if you go down the traditional route. However, if you have a 3D printer capable of 3D printing architectural models, your only costs are the filament you use.
✅ Faster to produce in-house
With time your only constraint, 3D printers make reprints and adjustments an affordable option. Also, having physical models ready in just a day or two is an excellent selling point for a potential client.
✅ Easier to present and show stakeholders your vision, and diagnose errors
In architecture, you don’t always know what will work until you can see it for yourself. Printing multiple concept models allows you to determine which design works best, and tweak them before any concrete is laid. Seeing the model in real life first prevents costly mistakes that can slow a project down.
When trying to win a new contract, your scale model needs to stand out. Using multi-colored 3D printing will also make your models different from the competition. For example, anyone with an Ultimaker printer and Palette filament splicer can make concept models with different-colored sections to emphasize certain characteristics.
Using multiple colors makes architectural models look classier. This reflects well on the person behind the pitch, so clients know they have a knowledgeable architect at the helm.
3D Printers vs Traditional Scale Models
3D printing doesn’t just save you money, it also speeds up production compared to traditional methods. What used to take weeks can now be completed in a matter of hours. This frees up more time for working on the creative side so you can meet your clients’ needs.
3D printers are now so advanced that they can add detail to a concept design, and will be able to make intricate finishing touches that will be a real highlight in any presentation.
There are so many reasons why the industry is turning to this new approach. We therefore put together our recommendations for the best 3D printers for architects in every price range, from under $500 for any small businesses or individuals looking to start cheaply, up to more professional printers for commercial architectural projects.
The best 3D printers for architectural projects
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Crealty CR-10 / CR-10 Smart – Best Under $500
- Generous build volume
- Large prints make for impressive models
- Simple assembly
Thanks to the generous 300 x 300 x 400 mm print area, this is one of the most popular 3D printers for making impressive concept models.
Anyone looking to make even bigger models will find the CR-10 SS with its 400 mm cubed work area, or the massive CR-10 Max, which boasts an area of 500 mm cubed for making even more impressive models. This does mean the print bed takes a little while to heat up, so it requires a little patience when starting a new print.
The CR-10 Smart requires self-assembly, but even for a first-timer it only takes a maximum of 30 minutes before it is up and running.
Print management is made easy as it has USB connectivity and an SD card slot (a microSD card is included). Using the control wheel to navigate the LCD screen, and an intuitive keypad makes print preparation easy. Tweaking those fine details to meet your client’s changing needs is simple.
The aluminum structure is what makes it so stable, inspiring confidence for reliable prints so you can keep to those tight deadlines. Also, the 100-micron layer resolution means you 3D print models that will wow your potential clients with excellent surface finish and precision.
The downside is that it will take up a fairly large area on your workspace. For anyone with a limited workspace, the CR-10 might be difficult to accommodate.
Still, with Cura software, it can be used in different settings. These include different methods of printing. They vary in their complexity and include full, expert, and even quick print. Once you get up to speed, this is an intuitive 3D printer at a very reasonable price and is ideal for architectural projects.
Flashforge Creator Pro 2 – Best Dual Color 3D Printer For Multi-Color Architectural Models
- Dual extrusion offers multiple color and filament options
- Touchscreen display
- Easy setup
- Tidy design
- The print bed isn’t removable
- The print cooling system takes a little longer than some others
Every creative wants to be able to work with multiple colors, which is why the Flashforge Creator Max is one of the best 3D printers for architects.
A dual extrusion 3D printer, it can work with a variety of materials and offers you the ability to make rapid prototypes that capture the imagination of potential clients.
For a printer that uses dual extrusion, it is a shame to see the cooling fan only operates from the left. This means each print takes a little longer before it is ready, but upgrading to a dual-fan duct can fix this.
There are small conveniences that make a difference such as the carry handles on either side of the enclosed unit. Every build can be watched through the acrylic door and the option of the acrylic lid means you can improve ventilation.
It takes a little while to level but produces impressive results that bring every concept building to life. The print bed measures 227 x 148 mm, which should be enough for reasonably-sized architectural models. However, you’ll likely need to attach multiple models together anyway for any reasonably-sized architectural model anyway, it just means more prints will be required than on a larger 3D printer.
The print bed isn’t removable so print removal can be tricky at times, but a spatula and a little encouragement will always remove those scale models.
All in all, it is a viable 3D printer for any architect. Setting up is simple, just attach the print head, connect it to WiFi, and use the touchscreen interface to navigate to start the journey of printing affordable, impressive models.
Qidi Tech X-Max – Best For Different Materials
- Price: $1,099 — Available on Amazon here
- The enclosed design prevents warping
- Wifi connectivity
- Large 5-inch touchscreen display
- Removable build plate
- Generous build area
- No filament runout sensor
With a 5-inch touchscreen display, this is one of the easiest 3D printers for an architect to navigate. You can see how those models are going to come to life before printing.
Its enclosed design is essential for making consistent prints since the temperature within the unit is easy to regulate. This is vital for certain materials such as ABS which can warp if the temperature starts to dip.
Considering it boasts intuitive features like Wi-Fi connectivity as well as quiet printing, it is surprising that it does not boast a filament runout sensor. Still, compared to other brands, it is easy to use for a first-timer, and still has a pause and resume function that makes it easier to switch between filament.
Read more: the best quiet 3D printers
The removable build plate makes it easier to pry your finished masterpiece away so you can meet tight deadlines without having to worry about how long it is going to be before it is ready.
The build area of 300 x 250 x 300 mm is more than generous enough for most large projects, and means you can create big concept models that are the talk of the presentation.
Any architect wants their models to stand out, which is why it is great to be able to work with a variety of materials. Opt for the common ABS, PLA, and TPU, or go for carbon fiber or Nylon and make sure your models are ones to remember.
Because you are going to be printing tall architectural models, you need more than build space. You also need stability, which is where the double Z-axis comes in. This is an upgrade from the previously questionable single Z-axis that provides a solid base to ensure consistent prints, and 3D print accurate building models.
Dremel 3D45 – Best Under $2,000
- Can read Dremel branded filament for quick set up
- Comes pre-assembled
- Removable glass plate
- Easy to control via WiFi
- Heats up fast
- The touchscreen could be more responsive
The build volume of this 3D printer measures 254 x 152 x 170 mm, meaning it isn’t one of the biggest on our list. However, if you aren’t looking to make huge models, this is likely to be plenty enough for making architectural models that have plenty of detail.
The brand prides itself on making 3D printers that are easy to use, which is evident in the longevity of its brand. The direct extrusion system feeds filament from within, which makes it easier to load for each new project.
Although it is an open material system, it can work with an RFID sensor. This means it can read Dremel-branded filament, and quickly provide the print settings for easy set up every time.
What sets it apart is that the print bed comes in two parts. There is a heated bed that can reach a temperature of 100°C to prevent warping and make smooth first layers for a solid foundation for every architectural mode. Then, the glass plate can be removed to make it easier to pry the finished print, ready to present in front of a room full of stakeholders.
The 5-inch touchscreen navigation display ensures it is easy to make minor adjustments to please a fussy client, and if you are working within a tight timeframe, it only takes a couple of minutes before it is hot enough to get going.
There is plenty to like about the Dremel 3D45. Not only does it come pre-assembled, but it is easy to use, makes reliable prints that look professional, and has a closed frame design that looks great.
Ultimaker S3 – Best 3D Printer For Architects Overall
- 20-micron layer resolution
- Fast printing
- Compact footprint
- Can print two materials in one job
- Might be a bit pricey for some
It is easy to see why the Ultimaker S3 is often considered the ultimate 3D printer for architects.
Boasting a decent 230 x 190 x 200 mm print area that will be more than enough for most models but it is the 20-micron layer resolution that provides impressively smooth surfaces that is sure to be the talk of client presentations.
The 4.7-inch touchscreen display is pretty straightforward, so making those custom changes doesn’t feel like a chore. At 24 cubic millimeters a second, this is also one of the faster options on our list. Why is that important? Because printing 3D models for architecture is so convenient you are going to want to use it as much as possible.
A lot of 3D printers that are big enough for an architect to make use of are guilty of having a bulky footprint. This is another area where the Ultimaker S3 excels. It takes up a total area of 394 x 489 x 637 mm, so it should fit conveniently into almost any work area without taking over a room.
At nearly $4,000, it could be out of budget for some. Still, this is an impressive option for any professional. It can print two materials in one job, offers automatic bed leveling, and WiFi connectivity.
For more: the best auto-leveling 3D printers to save you hassle
Formlabs Form 3 — Best for high-resolution architectural models
- Price $3,499 — Available at Dynamism here
- Incredibly easy printing
- Extremely fine details and precision
- One-click printing
- Smaller build area — so less suited for larger architectural models
People don’t generally think of resin 3D printers for architectural models, instead opting for FDM, but for high-resolution models with precise surface finishes and details, there is no better than Formlabs’ Form 3.
It can print in incredible detail thanks to it being a stereolithography (SLA) machine. It works by hardening liquid resin and turning it into a solid 3D architectural model, layer-by-layer. The sensors used at every stage of the print are highly intuitive and help to create fine details that make 3D models of buildings that stand out and look highly professional on a board room table.
One of the most reliable options for making a consistently high standard of prints, the Form 3 inspires confidence that your models are going to come out as you intended the first time.
There is a larger color touchscreen that allows you to watch the material cartridge whilst it is being used. You can even view a chart of how the print went, to see where any failures or imperfections may have occurred.
Automation is the name of the game with this option. The Form 3 tries to make life as easy as possible so the user doesn’t have to spend much time holding its hand. You can operate multiple Form 3’s like a factory with Formlabs’ software to create larger models quickly.
The technology is impressive, but the volume of 145 x 145 x 185 mm might be restrictive for some. Therefore, we recommend it for smaller, more detailed projects where communicating certain features within a larger build is important.
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