3D printer setup for Architects

Over the last few years we have come across some 3d printers that are being more or less successfully used in the architectural design workflow.

Below are a couple of lessons that we have learnt along the way:

  • think carefully before splurging on a 3d printer, e.g. where does it fit into your workflow and what are your expectations (rough design iterations vs. detailed presentation models);
  • the 3d printing process is slow, i.e. a more or less talented model maker / student with the right tools can achieve similar results with better materials in a similar time;
  • most 3d printers require a simplified version of your BIM model, before it can be printed properly on a 3d printer;
  • do you have a workshop or model making area with the right tools to post process the 3d prints;

Which brings us to what we think is currently the best and relatively affordable 3d printer setup –┬ábe prepared for some tinkering…

Base setup

  • Creality Ender 5 Plus (350 x 350 x 400 print bed)… it comes with integrated heated glass bed + BL touch auto-leveler
  • All aluminium extruder
  • Silent motherboard with TMC2208 driver
  • Capricorn Teflon tubing
  • additional Nozzles > upgrade to tungsten nozzles as they are much more durable and handle heat better.

For remote upload, slicing and monitoring

  • Raspberry Pi 4… as external controller and install Astroprint or Octopi;
  • Astroprint… setup instructions here;
  • Logitech C930e webcam – not all Webcam models work with Astroprint running on a Raspberry Pi, e.g. we had problems with the offical Pi Sony camera;

Additional upgrades

Once you have the above setup in place, the first thing you should do is to print and mount a few accessories to make your new setup fly:

The above setup compares really favourable to the Makerbot Replicators (nice interface & workflow, however it is expensive, smaller build size, less resolution and adhesion problems) and Ultimakers (smaller build size, etc.) we have so far had joy with.

The only negative we have experienced so far, is that the touch display on the Ender 5 Plus stays on independently of the main power switch being ON or OFF, as long as the Raspberry PI is connected.

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