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3D model of a floor plan made out of carved plastic.

Future architectural designs to include a hefty integration of 3D technologies

Architects have always benefitted from being able to display their designs in a way that the consumer could understand what they were about to be purchasing. From residential homes to the tallest skyscrapers and most complex commercial buildings, 3D models have been the key to gaining consumer confidence in a project. But developing computer-generated 3D modeling may be changing the way traditional displays are being built. While balsa wood, foam board, and popsicle sticks have been materials of choice for a long time, more and more firms are choosing to turn to computers to develop their 3D models. The process is a bit different from getting out you're carving tools and glue.

This process is commonly known as 3D printing, although the term is also synonymous with "additive manufacturing" and "rapid prototyping." It is called "additive manufacturing" because a part can be built by "adding" materials layer by layer. This is opposed to "subtractive manufacturing," which is the more traditional method of "subtracting" material by carving a part out of a solid piece of say wood or steel. For the manufacturing industry, 3D printing has been a game changer, having started back in the 1980s, but it came at a substantial price. But much like most technologies, advancements and time have brought prices down over recent years, and more and more industries are able to find the value in using the technology.

One of these industries is architecture. Architects can use 3D printers to develop rigid, durable, and even very detailed 3D models of their designs without the use of traditional tools and materials. Various types of 3D printer technologies exist and they each produce prints with distinct qualities.