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Engaging in the 3rd and 4th dimensions

Engaging in the 3rd and 4th dimensions

Mark Kilgallon 20 Mar 2018
To quote my colleague Dominic Smith in his recent blog about the Language of Public Consultation: Consultation and engagement with local communities plays an ever increasing role in the planning system and the preparation of planning applications As part of Lichfields’ graphic design team, I produce quality consultation materials for face to face and digital events every day. The use of high quality technical drawings and 3D renders of a proposed scheme helps to bring a scheme to life. However, they can be difficult to interpret for those who aren’t used to reading them. It’s therefore important that we explore other ways of engaging with stakeholders and communities to ‘put them at the heart’ of the scheme they are reviewing. Here are some ways in which this can be done: 3D printing Historically, whilst extremely helpful, cost and time have been barriers to supplying hand-made scale models for consultation use. In recent years, the growth in 3D printing (which has been compared to the second industrial revolution) has seen a rise in businesses using 3D printing as a tool to produce models easier, faster and cheaper. See my blog 3D Printing in construction, health and manufacturing for further detail. Scale models give you the freedom to walk around a project, pick up individual elements and to view it from any angle. By using 3D printing, models are now far easier to produce accurately and economically to engage more widely in the planning process. Considering the size and materials The variation of materials that can be used to create objects in 3D printers are as wide and varied as the objects they can produce. As such it is very difficult to state set costs as there are a number of variables. Plastics are by far the most commonly used material for smaller objects but more robust materials such as metals are used when the object is larger. I have created the below animation which summarises the considerations for sizes and materials. While this blog has focused on creating more solid, architectural models, 3D printers can also be used to print organic materials such as food or even replacement organs or bodyparts.        VR & AR – The virtual is now an affordable reality. There are two ways to access the virtual world. There is the ‘Ready Player One’ method (or Virtual Reality – VR) which was at first developed  for the gaming industry and involves putting on a pair of goggles to give you an immersive 360 degree experience inhabiting that world. VR production company ReWind was an early adopter of VR as a public consultation tool back in 2015 by using it to create a virtual tour of Furze Croft in Weybridge, a property that boasted former residents Tom Jones, John Terry and Elton John. Attendees of the Masterpiece Fair in London experienced a 360 degree VR tour of the building.  The second format is Augmented Reality (AR),which, rather than inhabiting a virtual world, allows the virtual image to be overlaid on top of the normal world by looking through a virtual window. The most famous version of this tech to date is Pokemon Go (ask your children!).  Lichfields is at the forefront of creating high quality materials for use at public consultation and engagement events. However, a developments’ benefits lie beyond statistics.  These new technologies have the potential to impact hugely on the property industry and in the case of AR to also make the consultation process more accessible by reaching those unable to attend an event in person.  In addition to exploring new technologies, we provide a full event design and digital service to our clients. I, for one, am excited to see where these technologies take us.   Header image: © Generation 3D | A 3D printed model of Birmingham City Centre

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3D printing in construction, health and manufacturing
It’s one of those internet memes that appears on social media every once in a while, but it’s hard to track down the first iteration but it essentially goes like this: It gets a chuckle from me every time, swiftly followed by memories of the clunking staccato rhythm of loading a floppy disk into my first PC home (it still doesn’t beat the noise of loading a cassette tape-based game into the old BBC Acorns but I fear I may be showing my age now). Nostalgic memories aside, the meme confirms that 3D printing is slowly becoming a well-established, socially recognised technology medium. It’s a technology that is on the cusp of simultaneously shaping multiple industries and is destined to change the definition of design, manufacturing, construction, retail, medicine and space exploration. It’s also one of those technologies that I’m a self-confessed fan of and follow its progress as avidly as some like to watch their local team play football. This blog sets out how 3D printing will soon impact on three industries – construction, retail, and health, and how it will become as standard as the floppy disc drive once was!   Construction Industrial 3-D printing is at a tipping point, about to go mainstream in a big way. Most executives and many engineers don’t realise it, but this technology has moved well beyond prototyping, rapid tooling, trinkets, and toys. Harvard Business Review   Image Source: Total Kustom The construction industry has been doing the same thing for well over a hundred years now. Houses for example are still very much set to rectangular standardised plans, mostly built from single materials joined together by mortar and nails, and constructed over a number of weeks. Not for much longer. Say hello to the Rudenko 3D printer which is a gantry-based concrete extrusion printer. Rudenko is one of a growing number of start-up companies using concrete to print structures such as the above example of a castle, or the World’s first 3D printed hotel suite. The castle was very much a proof of concept for the makers and took around 3 months to print back in 2014. However the technology is moving fast. How fast? Well the below example of a 3D printed house prototype was printed earlier this year. But the most impressive part of the house isn’t just the fact that it was 3D printed, it’s that it only took 24 hours to print. It’s no longer a giant leap to imagine a similar system employed by housebuilders in the coming years. If we could turn these systems into a mobile platform (some of which already are), housebuilders could one day park up a printer, programme it with designs for a row of houses (houses which could have been designed by the future residents, to perfectly match their needs and wants) and away it would go. It could greatly speed up house building, which could minimise disruption to the surrounding area and boost affordable housing provision. In addition it could open up a whole new market of custom homes, allowing prospective home owners to tell the housebuilders how they want their house to look and what the layout should be.    Its potential for house builders is obvious but it could go much further than that. Such a system could also be deployed to disaster zones to quickly build shelters to house those who have lost their homes.   Manufacturing & Retail Image Source: PC Advisor Any rail traveller or music lover knows it’s far more convenient and easier to simply print your tickets rather than collecting them at the station or waiting for them to arrive in the post. Convenience can be a killer of the high street shop however. Just as the rise of the digitally downloaded album or movie saw a corresponding fall in high street sales and ultimately a swathe of retailers like HMV closing stores, other retailers could soon feel the effects of 3D printing as it will ultimately change the way we purchase our goods. This would foreseeably have a knock-on effect on supply lines and the need for a physical high street presence. With more and more materials being developed for use with 3D printing and more 3D printers having the capability to print multiple materials simultaneously,  the idea of on-demand printing of products no longer seems to far-fetched. Home 3D printing has many advantages over the more traditional retail models. Why go to the shops to replace the broken door handle when you could just print a replacement at home? Or why stand in the cold and rain waiting for the latest iPhone when you could just pay apple direct for a download link and print it yourself? And even if the convenience of not having to physically go to the shops isn’t a selling point for consumers, the ability to then customise those products are virtually limitless. Imagine being able to print a pair of shoes that are customised - from the colour and style right down to a perfect fit for your foot.  Health 3D printing is making a noticeable impact in hospitals across the world. In Birmingham for example, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital recently announced that it is saving an average of 3 to 4 hours and £20,000 per surgery by printing 3D models of patients’ organs using their new in-house 3D printer so that doctors and surgeons can see what needs doing before ever picking up a scalpel. Final thoughts If I were to take one thing away from this blog, it’s that I’m going to be buying a 3D printer for my daughter for Christmas soon. Why? Because we are in the early days of 3D printing and like my old BBC Acorn, they are expensive and have limited functionality. However it’s those limitations that encouraged the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee’s of the world to start playing with the technology, developing new programming languages and new ways of using it. It’s my feeling that it will be the kids of today who grow up with these 3D printers in their homes and schools who will really push the technology in the next 10/20 years - and jobs in the industry will increase in number exponentially. It’s a technology that is here, and must not be ignored.

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