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Moderators: Karl Ottenstein, LaszloNagy, ejrolon, Barry Kelly, Gordana Radonic, nbalogh, mnguyen, gkmethy

By Aidan Newsome
I'm starting a general discussion going from an ArchiCAD model to a 3D printer. I'm currently researching this process at an architectural firm in Canada. There's not much information on the IoT, so I think it's a good idea to get a discussion going. I'll post my weekly updates here.

To begin, here are some of the resources out there: ... -archicad/ ... Buildings/

If you have more useful information on your ArchiCAD to 3D printer process, then please share it here. The goal is not to go through other software (Rhino or other 3D mesh-based software) because most of the people on these boards and in our firm are most comfortable using ArchiCAD to draw their models.

Also, I'd be interested to see if anyone has been able to print a detailed/almost-completed ArchiCAD model successfully. For instance, without redrawing it.
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By nardo99
I have printed several models with a small 3D printer in my office. The process is fairly convoluted and it involves creating the model in ArchiCAD but using different software to partition the model out in the various pieces before printing. I have used Sketchup for most of the brunt work but some times I use AutoCAD mesh maker to adjust the model before using the slicing software and create the G code. To be honest I am still refining the process. It depends on how detailed your BIM model is (depending on what stage the project is in) and how much detail you want to keep from the BIM model into your final printed model. For small scale stuff with less detail recreating the model from scratch makes the most sense. Either way, it's not a very streamlined process and it requires a good amount of time.

You could probably do all of the work in Archicad if you wanted. It would take some time to develop a workflow. I will look over my data to see if I was ever able to print directly from Archicad.

I am out of the office now but the last project I printed (probably 6 months ago) was I believe in a 3/16 scale and took almost 60 hours to print the various pieces. I believe I had to split the model into 8 pieces or so. The model is probably 6-8" tall, 6-8" long and 4-6" wide (or something like that)

I have a Prusa machine. I recently purchased the multi-material add-on, and I was hoping to be able to print using PLA and water-soluble filament to limit the number of parts. Unfortunately, I am still trying to make the printer work with the added components - work has been very busy so time has been limited and the printer is collecting dust.
By Aidan Newsome
Thanks, nardo99. I agree with everything you've explained. These are the same problems I'm running into. We have an IDEX printer, so we are also going to print with PLA and a soluble filament with the second nozzle. I am working on creating some tutorials for the office now—lots of workarounds. I'm finding the best method is to view a portion of the selected model in 3D and export it as a Rhino file. Then import the Rhino file as an object in a new document. Then I'm merely redrawing a less complicated version overtop of it. Adding details etc. using complex profiles. It's working so far, and it's quite fast. In the end, you can convert it all to Morph perhaps and Boolean Union it all. That way, it's super clean for the 3D printer. I haven't got that far in the process, but I'll let you know how it goes.
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By nardo99
I would love to see some images when you have some time. Attached is an image from one of my prints. I cannot post pictures of my biggest model since I remembered there is an NDA associated with it.

The grid below the model is 1" grid for reference.

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By MBLArchitecture
We got into 3D printing mid 2019. We purchased an UltimakerS5. I quickly learned its all about what scale of the project you are printing that determines if you need to modify your AC model. I don't like using multiple software programs to do what one should. So I figured out how to set a detailed model up in AC and save out a .stl file and then use Cura to print my model. It seemed everyone was redrawing their models in Rhino or other software. I didn't have time for that so here is my process. I leave all the detail on my models and just have some slabs I use on a 3D print layer that I use to make my models solid after doing some solid element operations. I do have the luxury of having dual extruders on my printer so I am able to use a PVA or other breakaway materials for supports. Attached are images of a large model that is one piece we did for a development idea we were working on. The only thing I did before exporting the model from AC was to make the models solid by using solid element operations with slabs. Then I exported the the model as a .stl file and printed it from Cura. It was printed using the Ultimaker white PLA material and set to 1.5 print quality. If I remember right it took around 4 days to print. You can see it still has the windows, gutters, stairs and railing. The stairs and railing are not smooth do to the PVA support material and how small the actual stairs and railing are. I don't remember what scale I printed this out but it did just about max out the print bed in one direction. If I wanted everything to be smoother I could have broken the model into pieces and printed Columns, Stairs, railing, and all the other parts individually and glued them together but I didn't have the time for that. The important thing to figure out is what scale you are printing and see wether or not certain level of detail can physically print that small. We were printing some 1:20 scale model buildings and a lot of our overhangs and other major design components were not going print. We could tell this by previewing it in Cura. So we had to fudge the depth and size of components just so they would actually print. This is where it becomes more time consuming. So the larger you print the less time modifying or tweaking your model is necessary.
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By Braza
MBLArchitecture wrote: If I remember right it took around 4 days to print.

Wow! Do you mean 96 hours?! :shock:
BTW. Nice job and thank you all for sharing your experience in this uncharted terrain which is 3d printing for Architecture representation.

By MBLArchitecture
Yes, it was a long print but with the filament sensor and power lose features on this printer its fairly safe to run one that long. I get to use up small spools on some projects by letting it run out of filament and just replace it with another small spool. If it was a high detail print I would not do that but typically you can't usually see where the print started and stopped. At least on PLA material. The stop and start on other materials may show up. Most of our prints seem to be in the 20 hour range.
By Aidan Newsome
Hi all, it's been a long time since I've replied to my original post. I worked extensively on developing an easy and effective "ArchiCAD to 3D Printer" process this past summer at the Canadian firm, MMMC Architects. I'll attach the results of one of the prints I worked on. I'll also summarize my findings quickly below. Feel free to ask me any questions, and I can either send videos, text replies, photos to help explain some of the concepts.

First of all, there are many alternatives to this approach that can be better and more efficient. However, they require someone on your design team to understand 3D modelling software such as Blender or Rhino. Nonetheless, what I talk about below is relevant no matter what program you're modeling in.

To go from ArchiCAD to a 3D printer, you need to create a separate version of your model that you know is specifically going to be for 3D printing. There are many great tricks in ArchiCAD to help you do this. Generally, it would be best if you had an idea of what scale you're going to be doing your print to know how much detail to include. It's also a good idea to print a calibration tool. I suggest this one ( This will help you understand what's generally possible to 3D print on your printer (tolerances, overhangs, etc.) It also helps you understand where you might need to add support in the 3D slicing software. It's generally better to avoid supports, so keep this in mind when modelling. Also, don't be afraid to print difficult pieces separately and reorient them for better printing results. You can always glue parts together seamlessly at the end. By the way, the printer I used was a Raise3D E2 IDEX Printer (

Once you've created your model, I suggest using clipping planes to crop out small areas and do "test prints." In the example, I use them to equally split the model into 4-8 pieces that attach together. I print the roofs separately. I purposely model a small ledge on the inner face of supporting walls for them to sit on. This technique saves an enormous amount of time and filament. Overall, as I mentioned above, printing the entire model in pieces is the best way to go. Use high-strength clear glue that works on PLA (I recommend PLA for architectural models like this) to assemble everything at the end.

After exporting your files as STLs to your 3D slicing program (there are many out there, but I prefer ideaMaker), you should use the slicing program to visualize where there are mistakes in your model. Then go back to ArchiCAD, try your best to fix it, and then reslice. It's trial and error, but you get good at it quite fast. As long as there are no errors in your slice and there is not unrealistic detail for the scale of your printer's settings, it's safe to say you're going to have a great result. However, always print a small (10-minute test piece first).

Lastly, it's essential to calibrate specific printing "profiles" in your 3D printer for each nozzle/filament combination you plan to use. This process takes time but can easily be done by setting up your printer with the nozzle and filament(s) you're going to use and then printing the "calibration tool" I mentioned above. Examine the problems in each print and tweak your settings to fix them for next time. Very quickly, you'll have near-perfect printer profiles. Use this guide to help you visualize this process ( ... ting-guide).

I hope that helps, and as I said, I'm happy to help anyone out who'd like to try going from ArchiCAD to a 3D printer.

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By Aidan Newsome

I've posted two videos on YouTube that I recorded for our team this summer. They go over the research I did and help you understand the 3D printing process using ArchiCAD. I've attached them below.

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By Marton Kiss
Thanks Aiden for sharing your full workflow, this is educational for us as well to see how you pre- and post-process the Archicad model.