3D printed model home, exterior view. Source: WhiteClouds
3D printed model home, exterior view. Source: WhiteClouds

Architectural models are nothing new. But they have never been affordable— until now.

Our first recorded architectural model is mentioned by Herodotus (the granddaddy of historians) in the fifth century B.C.E. but the idea doesn’t seem to catch on for almost 2,000 years, around the 15th century. At this time the Catholic Church was beginning to fund many large projects all over Italy and wanted to see mock-ups before giving the go-ahead.

Zoom ahead to the 21st century and models are more-or-less commonplace in the world of large scale architectural projects. Public schools, large apartment complexes, shopping centers and high rises get the full-scale model treatment, as do multi-million dollar homes. The only downside is that the cost of these models is in the thousands of dollars. Michael DelPriore of Ryerson Studio charges a minimum of $10,000 for his full-color miniatures. When clients are paying two or three million dollars for a home, a model like his is a mere fraction of the total cost and a great conversation piece at cocktail parties. But what about those of us with smaller scale homes and budgets to match?

Welcome to 3D printing, sometimes known as “rapid prototyping”. With this technology, you can take a digital model of anything you can dream up and print out a physical object, layer-by-layer. The overall cost for making these models a reality is usually wrapped up in the digital model making. The good news is that architects use computer-aided drafting (CAD) programs to design every type of building, including homes of all scales. Once those files are created, it is simple and quick to 3D print them out. And the results can be so fun!

3D printed architectural models can be very small or (relatively) large, monochrome or fully rendered in vibrant color. There are printers that can build a moving hinge into a wall so you can swing the home open and reveal a cutaway section like a dollhouse - all with enough dexterity to print tiny furniture in place as well. It really is amazing!

One of the best parts about 3D printing is that it can be very affordable. Using the same proportion of actual home to model, if you were building a $300,000 home, you could expect to pay $1,500 for a 3D printed model. That would get you an excellent model, much like the ones I just mentioned above. The fun just became affordable!

“The detail is amazing,” said an elated customer after receiving his full-color 3D printed home model from WhiteClouds. “It’s so realistic. It’s just plain cool.” Indeed it is. Being printed in full-color, it is possible to show the actual color of the home including texture changes between stone, stucco, brick and tile. Roof tiles and a chimney show great detail and window casings are distinct from the walls - details you would pay dearly for before 3D printing.

Because of 3D printing, a family can hold their dream home in their hand before it is ever physically built and not break the piggy bank doing it. Check out our Create page to learn how you can 3D print your own dream home model.