Why You Need a 3D Printer, According to an Architect

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3D printer tools of the trade.

Product: Amazon / Illustration: The Spruce

Based in the Bay Area, architect Matt Baran proudly prioritizes sustainable architecture projects. With a particular focus on giving life to existing buildings, his namesake firm aims to keep materials out of landfills, as well as reduce the need for construction. As you can imagine, this means every phase of planning is absolutely key—almost like ‘measure twice, cut once' on a giant scale. 

With this in mind, we asked Baran to share which tool he most relies on these days.

What item made your work life easier this week/month/lately?

Our 3D printer has been a wonderful tool that makes life so much easier.

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Comgrow Official Creality Ender 3D Printer

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A 3D printer is great, as it makes it easy to print out small-scale models of our projects—particularly our modular projects. Here is an example of how we use the 3D printer to build the building and the final outcome.

3D printed building.

Matt Baran

Final project of building originally designed on 3D printer.

Matt Baran

Why is this item so great?

 We can demonstrate how single modules stack or interlock to make up the building.

Where/how do you use this item most?

We use this in our studio during the early design stages as we form the separate units. It is helpful in demonstrating how the overall space will come together.

How did you discover this item? 

A few years ago, one of our interns brought the 3D printer into the office to help with a larger model he was working on. We still have his model and have been using it ever since.

Will you use this item in the future?

Absolutely. It makes a great tool for demonstrating to clients how their units will work together, and it allows for hands-on tactical experience, almost like building with Legos.

How has this item made your job easier? 

We can work with our clients to see and play with the units, configuring and re-configuring during meetings. 

How might someone not in your line of work benefit from this item?

It can actually be used to print anything. We have printed our own line of lamp bases as well as colorful power outlets and light switch covers in our studio. It can be applied to anything.

Lamp made on 3D printer.

Matt Baran

What, if anything, would you change about this item?

It would be great to have an even larger print bed to print larger models. Additionally, it would be nice to have multiple extruders to be able to print multiple colors or create a gradient on color. And, a cup holder—just because.

Are there any care/use tips someone considering this item should know about?

When working with a 3D printer, make sure to keep the extruder nozzle clear of any build-up that causes blockage. Keep the rails oiled so the printer moves smoothly, and wrap the printer bed with blue tape to help prevent the prints from lifting or curling during the first few layers.