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How 3D printed visualization helps architects improve design, creativity and customer communication.

aaron pearson
Aaron Pearson March 20, 2020
March 20, 2020

Architecture, art, product design - even fashion - are all closely interrelated. They have in common the need for an iterative creative process that enables design visualizations to be shared with colleagues and customers – and allows for design changes to be incorporated at early stages while it is still practical and feasible.


In architecture, investments and final products are of course quite sizable, so any design modifications made at an early stage are well worth the effort. 3D printing is uniquely equipped to play a critical role in the creative process by efficiently producing tangible, physical visualizations of complex designs that can be easily shared and understood


In this spirit, the Stratasys Blog requested leading New York architect, Piet Meijs, to explain how 3D printing is transforming the way architects design the structures we live, work and play in.




By Piet Meijs
Rietveld Architects


With the start of 2015, I wanted to look back and see what has changed since my last blog post for Stratasys back in 2012.


Piet Meijs, Rietveld Architects, NY with the Objet Eden350 3D Printer from Stratasys

Piet Meijs, Rietveld Architects, NY with the Objet Eden350 3D Printer from Stratasys


In the last three years, the concept of 3D printing has reached main stream public awareness. Most people have either seen it on TV, their kids are working with it in school or they have researched it themselves out of curiosity. In the Architecture world, we are now seeing the native integration of 3D printing in architectural software, although there is not yet a seamless workflow. It won’t be long before the big CAD programs natively support 3D printers, making the threshold even lower.


Looking forward, we have to ask ourselves, “How can we leverage the power of 3D printing in architecture even more to boost our effectiveness and creativity?”


If we look back in history, we see that the carpenter or the stone mason was not just a laborer, but also a skilled designer. A mason knew how to make beautiful and appropriate detailing in a wall, and a carpenter knew what profiling to use for a door. As the designer and contractor became more and more separate roles, this insight of how reality relates to design began to disappear. Now with 3D printing, the designer is empowered to physically produce the design he or she is working on. The designer is again involved in the “making” part of the design. This is resulting in better and more “thought out” architectural designs.

Our Experience at Rietveld Architects

Looking at our own office, I also see a very new way of working with the 3D printing technology in-house. When we acquired the Objet Eden350 3D Printer from Stratasys seven years ago, as architects we had a steep learning curve. There was little literature available on how to efficiently integrate 3D printing in the architectural design process. It took a few years to really perfect the workflow, but now we have the 3D printer integrated as fully as our 2D printer and plotter – making it accessible to everyone, and available for each relevant project.




As a result, our clients have come to expect to see models at meetings. Before models were only made at the end of the design process when we were fairly certain that the design would not change dramatically. These days models are 3D printed at every design iteration. The models stimulate conversation and debate which is very constructive to the design process. Especially for non-construction professionals, a model is much easier to understand than a technical drawing.



So to summarize, this increased level of customer understanding helps all parties involved to comment on the design early on in the process, when making changes and adjustments is still very easy. Investments in architectural models at this early stage is earned back overtime by not having to go back and change the design when it becomes costly to do so. This is the true value of the 3D printed model for architects!

Model Showcase

To showcase some of the 3D printed models that Rietveld Architects created, we put together a book that can be found here. This selection gives a good overview of the range of work Rietveld Architects has produced over the years.

About Rietveld Architects & Piet Meijs:

Rietveld Architects is a medium sized design firm with supersized ambitions. The office is located in the heart of New York City. Rietveld Architects has projects all over the world, such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and of course the United States.


Piet Meijs is the Associate Partner at Rietveld Architects New York. His experience includes large urban master-plans, office buildings, residential buildings, and high-end interior renovations. Piet is an advocate of new technology and has introduced to Rietveld Architects Virtual Reality, 3D Point Clouds, Paper-less office and 3D printing.