By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Print providers invest in new technologies like three-dimensional (3D) printing to remain on the cutting edge. Additive technology allows for design freedom and extends beyond the limits of conventional printing. It also produces a variety of 3D models, prototypes, and objects with the ability to build upon layers of material.
Bring Your Vision to Life
ABC Imaging started in 1982 as American BluePrinting Company with the goal of providing premium quality reprographic services to architects, engineers, and contractors (AEC) in the Washington, DC area.
Headquartered in Alexandria, VA, with over 30 locations and more than 500 employees, the company now provides grand format color graphics, printing and copying, creative branding and website design, managed print services, document management, and 3D printing and custom fabrication services.
In 2018, ABC Imaging started offering 3D printing services to meet the needs of its AEC clients. “Our biggest market is architectural models for presentation, study, and planning,” comments Phil Magenheim, VP, 3D services, ABC Imaging. 3D printed products include architectural models, custom prototypes, and objects with enhanced topographical features.
The company’s 3D labs feature a variety of tools for architectural modeling and industrial prototyping, including color jet printing onto composite powder, fused deposition modeling onto ABS plastics, and digital fabrication services such as CNC milling and laser cutting. It uses a variety of 3D printers from 3D Systems, Formlabs, Stratasys, and Ultimaker, including the 3D Systems ProJet CJP 660 Pro printer.
The print provider pairs its 3D printers with OEM filaments specific to the equipment. “We find that the OEM material is the most reliable and provides consistent quality,” says Magenheim.
In addition to 3D printing, the shop also provides hands-on services for creating 3D designs and preparing clients’ model files to be 3D printable. This includes the use of 3D Studio Max software.
Currently, 3D printing is a small percentage of ABC Imaging’s overall revenue. According to Magenheim, it exhibits steady growth each year.
Compared to its standard printing services like grand format color graphics and offset printing, Magenheim says 3D printing is much different. “It is not a volume-based offering—but custom models or prototypes helping clients to communicate their ideas and concepts.” Additionally, he says providing full-service 3D printing offers a significant amount of value to each project.
Despite the benefits, ABC Imaging still experiences issues with 3D printing technology. In some cases, the shop struggles to decide which material and equipment to use for particular projects and finds challenges with understanding file types or how to prepare them. “Employee selection and training creates a challenge as well,” adds Magenheim.
Architectural 3D Printing
In 2017, first-time client Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA approached ABC Imaging for a 3D printing project. The client was looking for a solution to help explain its construction plans to the Historic Society and Architectural Review board.
“The board was concerned that the new church being built within a historic region would be inconsistent with existing historic features and architectural standards for the area,” comments Magenheim.
The church’s architect provided Autodesk Revit files that were modified for 3D printing using 3D Studio Max. “It allowed ABC Imaging to work with the architect’s design files,” he adds.
The print provider produced the 3D model with gypsum powder on the 3D Systems ProJet CJP 660Pro printer. The ProJet CJP 660 Pro incorporates four-channel CMYK full-color 3D printing to produce photo-realistic full spectrum models. It offers a maximum build envelope capacity of 10x15x8 inches at speeds of up to 1.1 inches per hour.
Due to the architectural review board’s demands, it was integral that the model accurately display the construction’s scope and details. According to Magenheim, the 3D Systems ProJet CJP 660Pro was ideal in helping the custom model represent buildings and roadways.
From job submittal to finished product, ABC Imaging completed the entire project in four weeks. The 30×45-inch model included nine sections with each section representing one city block. The model was colored primarily white with roadways highlighted in gray.
ABC Imaging delivered the 3D model to the client’s architecture office and then transferred it to the city county house for presentation and the Architectural Review board.
3D printing presentation urban planning models is a common job for the print provider. However, the job’s scope was larger than average and design changes occurred simultaneously with the model’s production.
Despite this, ABC Imaging successfully completed the job on time. The Alfred Street Baptist Church was satisfied with the 3D model and the print provider’s 3D service. The model was successfully received by the Architectural Review board. “It was instrumental in the church gaining approval for the project and served as a great model for future referrals,” concludes Magenheim.
Keeping Clients Satisfied
3D printing technology offers print providers an expanded arsenal of tools and technology to create models, prototypes, and functional parts. Paired with standard printing services, ABC Imaging keeps a variety of clients satisfied.
In part two, we feature a 3D printing service bureau that uses a range of 3D printing technologies.
Click here to read part two of this exclusive online series, Make It Real.
Jun2019, DPS Magazine