hsbLABS: Transforming Architectural Home Drawings into 3D Printed Models that Snap Together

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hsbLABS – the R&D division of hsbCAD – has developed a new software application that takes 3D architectural models and makes them 3D printable. And it goes even further than that: the 3D printed elements have connectors on them so that you can simply click them together.

It all began in 2014, when Alex Vinckier, hsbCAD’s Managing Director, wanted the company to take an innovative leap forward. As hsbCAD already interfaces seamlessly with Autodesk’s industry standard AutoCAD Architecture (ACA) software, Alex looked for an opportunity that would combine Autodesk’s Revit® (the ‘new generation’ ACA) and the rapidly emerging 3D printing revolution with hsbCAD’s expertise.

Disruptive Technologyh4

hsbLABS went to work and came up with its first application for the Revit® environment: an add-on product called hsb 3D Printing.

This new application features all of the qualities that Alex had in mind. It:

  • Draws on hsbCAD’s strength in 3D modelling of frames, walls, roofs, etc. for the offsite construction industry
  • Enables architects to take their Revit® drawings to 3D printers
  • Overcomes the current 3D printer limitations (e.g., small object output)

hsb 3D Printing is no ordinary 3D printing application: by generating building blocks that can be assembled with just ‘1 click’, the product makes it easy to decompose an Autodesk Revit® building model into logical, scaled elements for 3D printing and assembly.

How Does It Work?

“The whole story starts with the Revit® environment,” explains Karel Vinckier, hsbCAD’s CEO.h3

“First of all, the Architect produces a Revit® 3D model for a building. The application then breaks the model down into its constituent elements, in dimensions optimized for the printing space that today’s 3D printers typically have.

“The user can make any adjustments or corrections to the elements; then the software automatically adds connectors to the elements (for the assembly stage later on in the process). It also stacks the elements in batches to optimize output according to the 3D printer’s capability.

“At this point, hsb 3D Printing sends the print files to the 3D printer, which produces a ‘kit’ to be assembled by simply clicking the pieces together at their connector points (no tools required). The user can then paint the model or add any other finishing touches. Depending on the printer’s capabilities, the product can drive printing in different materials and colors as well.”

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The Future

Karel and Alex are justifiably proud of their team in Ecuador, which brought the product to life. The Ecuadorian team was assisted by developers from hsbCAD’s teams in Holland and England, and supported by the company headquarters in Ghent.

Example of a building section that can be 3D-printed in pieces and then assembled by clicking the pieces together.

Example of a building section that can be 3D printed in pieces and then assembled by clicking the pieces together

“With this application,” Alex says, “We hope to attract ‘early adopters’ to join the innovators in the 3D printing industry and give 3D printing a boost. hsb 3D Printing is spearheading a series of future products that hsbLABS envisions. One product that is scheduled for beta testing this year is called ‘hsb Post & Beam’ – a timber application on the Revit® platform.”

hsbCAD is well on its way to realizing its goal for these applications. As Alex says, “We want to make 3D printing as easy and straightforward as today’s laser printing: just press Print!”

Take a look at hsb 3D Printing in action: hsbLABS.com and see the attached .stl file for an example print file produced by the application.

What do you think of the use of 3D printing in architectural applications? Let us know what you think of these click-together designs in the hsbLABS 3D Printing Architectural Design forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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