MasterBuild Africa

3D printing Technology: Transforming Design Development in Africa

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Africa’s Architectural industry has witnessed a lot of transformation in recent times, changing from the conventional drawing – paper approach to computer aided design (CAD) system adoption for building design. With recent advancement in the information technology system, architects and building designers can now create photorealistic 3D models for visualization on computer screen to improve human understanding of the spatial aspects of a physical environment where many thematic concerns interact. However, in spites of the excellent visual aids the virtual 3D models create, they are usually displayed on 2D screen, which has its limitations. Thus, transforming the computer 3D models into tangible 3D objects through the use of 3D printing technology seems to be the next potential step to fully harness the benefits that comes with 3D visualization such as speedy process of discussion or negotiation and enhanced mutual understanding among various stakeholders.

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Presentation of 3D printed Social centre architectural model to Bishops and staff of Catholic diocese, Ghana

[Prototype Today]

Based on Deloitte report titled “Construction on the African Continent: Opportunities, Risks and Trends”, it was well established that real estate investors (both local and international) are making various moves to take advantage of the huge investment opportunities created by rapid urbanization, strong current and projected economic growth, a rising middle class, regional integration and strengthened democracy, transparency, accountability and governance witness in many of Africa’s 54 nations, giving both local and international design firms huge opportunities. Thus, it is imperative for local design firms to explore more design tools available to international design firms to create a levelled playing ground for both while competing for the same project.

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A 3D Architectural model crafted from paper


The use of architectural models is not a new phenomenon in building design. It has been an integral part of the whole building design phase. Architects have been using architectural models made from wood, cardboard or foam board to study various aspect of the design and also to communicate design ideas to prospective stakeholders.  As the industry grows bigger and extremely time sensitive with business focus, many design firms stopped the age-long practices of physical architectural models due to the time and cost associated with the creation of these physical models. However, with recent introduction of additive manufacturing and the advancement recorded with the use computer-aided design (CAD) virtual 3D modeling, physical architectural 3D models can now be created directly from the architectural CAD files with the help of a 3D printer cheaply and faster, while giving additional advantage of printing physical models on various scale of magnitude for various spatial studies.

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MarkerBot Desktop 3D printer


 With such innovative development currently making waves at the international scene among building design firms to give them competitive advantage in the real estate market, it is imperative for building design firms in Africa to take advantage of such innovative ideas to position themselves at forefront of urban centre development in Africa. Thus, retaining most the financial benefits involved with huge real estate market created by the current urbanization growth in the continent.


Written by Fisayo Animashaun

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