Four Questions with Four CAD Experts | Part Two – 3D Printing & Doing More With Less

DLT Solutions and [acronym] Magazine cosponsored the Public Sector CAD Awards last week. This two-part, four-question series will recap a conversation with the four judges called “Digital Design Tech, Trends, and Talking Points for 2013 – A Q&A with Public Sector Industry Pros.” Acronym Online editor Caron Beesley moderated the presentation. The judges were: Please note that the below responses are summarized, not taken word-for-word. Part one’s questions and answers were on strengthening our nation’s infrastructure and cloud-based digital designs. Question Three: How can the public sector leverage 3D printing and what lessons can they learn from the commercial’s use of 3D printing? (Editor’s Note: Even Obama recently joined the 3D printing bandwagon.) Brian: 3D printing extends the power of visualization by allowing you to convey your ideas as tangible objects. You can also print out variations on an idea quickly for faster conceptualization. The next step will be augmented reality when you will be able to take your object and place it in a virtual reality setting for added visualization. Joe: The key to 3D printing utilization will be building it into future proposals. The private sector must encourage the public sector into uncharted territories by developing new uses for 3D printing. 3D printing’s application in the public sector has not been settled, which means there’s an opportunity for the private sector to work with them to charter new land. However, the government can use 3D printing in lowering the costs of their manufacturing. Scott: 3D printing is actually old technology. They have been working with Federal clients for ten years who use 3D printing. Museum clients are using it for their exhibitions. The big difference now is that the price to 3D printing has dropped. That means it is far more accessible to agencies who haven’t used it before. The lowered cost also means the technology is evolving rapidly. Shaan: 3D printing is great for city planning. You can print city features (buildings, monuments, etc) and find out how they’ll fit together. Currently, agencies are using the 3D aspects by scanning important buildings and creating 3D models from it. By scanning them in, they can test their assets for energy efficiencies, degradation, etc. Shaan has also worked with agencies to scan natural monuments to ensure we have records of them even if they disappear. The materials you can print with is also evolving. Now you can print with pretty much anything: plastics, metals, glass, and acrylics for instance. Question Four: The government is constantly seeking new ways to do more with less. How can digital design help them do this in 2013? Brian: Digital design technology is now cheap enough and accessible enough for government agencies to own their own software and manipulate BIM models in-house. Brian recommends that agencies start with the end result then work backward to design proposals. This allows for better planning and cost savings. Agencies must also consider how they plan on using the data from their BIM models. They must work to structure their data during the development process. Joe: With new technology, a single, in-house person can now do the exact same work as an entire outsourced team did five years ago. However, the most efficiency comes when people know how to use the tool to reduce timelines and budgets. Joe also recommends people slow down. Do not allow technology’s ability to quickly conceptualize multiple projects decrease the quality. Quality of work; not just volume. Scott: Technology is now allowing smaller projects to remain in-house in the private sector. New software versions are also allowing for more detailed models. However, with all the data involved, Scott would like to see improved document management. He also sees automated construction as a trend to keep an eye on. Shaan: The evolution of the technology has gone from paper to CAD to BIM. Along the way, the primary adoption drive is a decrease in savings. However, newer technologies are allowing for better analysis. You can now perform a solar study before building or simulate mechanical systems. This allows you to find errors before you build and optimize your ideas. Previously, someone would start an idea and throughout the design process, everyone worked from that idea, regardless of its merit. Now, you can produce multiple ideas and pick the best one. To see this presentation and others given at the CAD Awards, including Lynn Allen’s 60 AutoCAD Tips in 60 Minutes, please visit the official CAD Awards homepage. Image courtesy of