Rosewood Bangkok 1

Transforming the face of architectural design with 3D printing at KPF

The role of physical models within the architectural design process has evolved over the past few years. At firms like Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) desktop 3D printers enhance the day-to-day iterations of design and the three-dimensional understanding. They understand that increased accessibility and lower costs make tangible, printed models more accessible and allow them to communicate designs in the context of the physical world.

KPF has an applied research group that is responsible for assessing the potential value of emerging technologies for the firm’s architectural practice. Jerrod Kennard AIA, a key member of the team, has followed 3D printing trends closely, evaluating options that would introduce the firm to new digital fabrication technologies.

KPF Gallery Space
KPF gallery space

“The thing that has changed for us is that professional desktop printers are so much more accessible and affordable than they have been in the past,” Kennard says. “Previously we had looked at 3D printing as an expensive process and, the way it was set up in the past in our office, it was a very hands-off process with our industrial 3D printers.”

Making iterative design more accessible

KPF has expanded their capabilities beyond the industrial printing technology that had been previously available and incorporated a print farm of a dozen Ultimaker 3 Extended and six Ultimaker S5 3D printers into the office. Kennard’s primary goal was to support and augment the iterative process that is inherent to KPF’s design culture, rather than inhibit it.

Rosewood Bangkok with 3D model copy
Rosewood Bangkok next to a 3D printed model

“In the past, 3D printing presented hurdles of time and efficiency that didn’t match the cadence of the design process on our teams,” Kennard says. “Designs here emerge and flow so changes need to be more accessible and synchronize with our fast-paced design process.”

With these printers, designers can send a print to the machine with more flexibility that responds to our design process.

KPF initiated an internal pilot program to explore the advantages of incorporating clusters of Ultimaker 3D printers into its offices, spread across five major, global cities. From the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles to the Rosewood Bangkok and One Vanderbilt in New York, the Ultimakers play a critical role as a tool to support the design process and bring to life the kinds of projects that KPF is known for – buildings that shape cities and make an impact.

The availability and ease of use of these new tools have led to new opportunities for producing models and enhanced a sense of discovery throughout the design process. Workflows have become more seamless. Research, concept design, and detail studies can all occur fluidly, resulting in an ability to communicate more effectively, both internally and externally.

One Vanderbilt
One Vanderbilt, New York City

KPF’s new self-serve workstations have opened doors to new design solutions and are being embraced widely by the firm; a tremendous benefit to designers of all experience levels. “Those joining us just out of school are very familiar with this kind of desktop 3D printer technology,” Kennard said. “As a result, we find that a lot of young designers climb up the learning curve very quickly and are able to run their prints with minimal training or support. And given the lower cost, the expense of printing a model is no longer a consideration.”

Leveraging the latest and greatest hardware with the Ultimaker S5

In April 2018, when Ultimaker launched its latest machine, the Ultimaker S5, the expanded build volume and material capabilities were introduced to provide the ideal desktop printing solution for the design studio.

Additional new features such as a filament flow sensor, high-accuracy multi-point build plate leveling, and insulating forward doors are immensely beneficial to the KPF team. While KPF was among the first architectural design firms in the world to gain access to this new platform and has among the first Ultimaker S5 production machines in their New York and London offices, we're excited to see how other architects use our 3D printers to create tangible models of their impressive designs!

Ultimaker 3D printers