ARCHITECTURE and design firm _space group has splashed out on a state-of-the-art 3D printer as it continues its investment in technology.
The firm returned from the Las Vegas Autodesk University conference late last year to find the printer had arrived at its North East headquarters, and it’s already mulling over ways it might be able to use it in its working day.
James Austin of _space said: “It’s certainly unique in architectural practices in the North. We’ve got large format printers that print the drawings, but this is different in that the 3D printer will actually print the model.
“We’ve been aware of the technology for a little while, but this is the first model that’s come to the market that’s affordable enough for us to buy it. We’re intent on developing our technological capabilities.”
The company has already used the HP printer to produce 3D printouts of the 19 components making up the company’s Scandinavian-style timber house, Spacehus. The project is designed to encourage people to consider affordable, low-energy buildings.
It also has plans to use it to print out the component parts of a quadrocopter using open source instructions available on the internet.
Austin said: “The quadrocopter is an open source drone that runs off an Arduino circuit board.
“We thought about mounting a digital camera to it to take photos of sites or programme it however we want. You can plug it into Google Maps API and it does the route.”
Founded in 1957, _space group employs more than 150 people in offices in the North East, Yorkshire, the North West and London and works on projects in sectors including education, healthcare, housing, leisure, energy and transport.
It is made up of eight companies working across architectural, interior design, surveying and construction services.
The company is also an advocate of building information modelling (BIM) technology, which allows designers to create buildings in 3D.
Austin is a BIM leader for _space group, and the company recently gave a talk on BIM implementation at the annual Autodesk University conference in Las Vegas. It launched bimstore.co.uk in April as a free online resource giving designers components for use in virtual building models.
Technology leader Adam Ward, who attended Autodesk University, said: “We’re always looking for new ways to keep _space at the leading edge of technology in the UK by spotting it early, learning how to apply it and meeting people that both develop and use it in practice.
“This year’s trip has given us a real focus on several emerging trends around BIM in practice that have helped us discover ways to introduce it to the UK construction industry.”