Apr 21, 2016 | By Alec

It’s no secret that 3D printers are perfect visualization tools for architects and spatial designers, as 3D printed models can give designers and their clients a much better idea of what a project’s final results will be. In most cases a small model will do the trick, but as 3D printing service provider SD3D reminds us, you can go as big as you want. They have just completed work on a truly amazing 3D printed city model, which could be the largest in the world. The final city is a massive 9 by 10.5 feet (or 2.7 x 3.2 meters) in size and took more than 3,000 hours to 3D print.

The model’s creator SD3D is a relatively young 3D printing service provider based in San Diego, California. Founded in 2013, they provide design and manufacturing services to a wide variety of clients. But none of those experiences could adequately prepare them for this monstrous project. As SD3D’s Sean Aranda explains to 3ders.org, the mesmerizing city model was built for the multinational insurance and risk management corporation Aon, who wanted to show off their vast client portfolio in a single model. SD3D, he adds, jumped on the opportunity as it allowed them to test the limits of their 3D printing abilities and capacity.

But even they might not have known what they got themselves into. As you can see, the final model looks more like an industrial compound than a lively city, as this reflects the Aon customer base. But this also means that the model is crammed with different types of structures, from hospitals, to ships, car parks and office blocks. All in all 29 different sectors are included, including automotive, construction, energy, environment, and financial businesses. 3D printing all those different models took more than 3,000 hours of pure printing time, and required more than a dozen FDM 3D printers (Lulzbot TAZ models and SD3D’s proprietary in-house printer) to complete.

But those hours don’t even include more than 200 hours of design work. As Aranda explained, a project like this needs some careful planning. “We sectioned the surface area into 9" x 9" squares that aligned with the roads. We would then also section the tall skyscrapers into parts that were no larger than 9 inches in height,” he reveals. All those sections were then designed using Rhino design software, and included more than 300 different quadrants. Especially the design of all those little features, from trees to cars and foliage, must have been a grueling and repetitive task.

3D printing obviously wasn’t easy either. All the models were 3D printed in Hatchbox White PLA, except for the roads (grey PLA), the plants (green PLA), cones (red PLA) and water (blue acrylic). All the special Aon features, such as board meetings held in the skyscrapers, also needed special care to highlight the company’s work. Almost all parts were 3D printed at a layer height of 0.4 mm, but even then it took so much time. All in all, the 3D printers consumed about 65 kilograms of filament.

As you can imagine, a model of this size also requires careful assembly planning. “We built platforms so that the city would be sectioned off into 4 areas for easier transportation,” Aranda explains. “Quadrants were then glued to the platforms according to the proper layout over the next day, with all external parts, such as plants, being added as we went.” An assembly time-lapse video can be seen below.

If this wasn’t challenging and time-consuming enough, SD3D even 3D printed a 1/3 scaled down mini version of the big city. At 3’ x 4’ in size, it is still very impressive. “This mini version was sectioned off and assembled in a similar, but simpler fashion. Just about everything, except for the call-outs, are the same on this detailed smaller model,” its developers say. This meant that the assembly process was even more painstaking with all those small trees and cars, but at least the size was a bit more manageable. But both final models are absolutely stunning and would be excellent eye-catchers in Aon’s reception hall.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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John Warner wrote at 4/21/2016 11:01:41 PM:

Hardly the largest. Please check out the Chicago City Model at the Chicago Architectural Foundation. This model is over 400 square feet.

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