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Architecture Firm Creates Apartments from Shipping Containers

Architects have long experimented with using different materials to build houses. Even in that light, however, a recent building project by architectural firm StarkJames Architecture is a surprising one. Using 16 decommissioned shipping containers, architect Brian Stark has created a complex of eight apartments in Phoenix, Arizona, complete with all the expected modern amenities. Measuring 740 square feet, these unexpected apartments rent for $1,000 a month, and have a wait list at least 150 names long.

A Solid Foundation

While some people might reflexively balk at the idea of living in a discarded shipping container, the idea isn’t as questionable as it seems. According to architect Brian Stark, the outer shell of the containers is much stronger than a typical housing construction. Thanks to their sturdy construction, these shipping containers provide a higher default level of protection than standard house building materials. In fact, Stark says that shipping containers have already found use as housing spaces in Europe; his is simply the first instance of their being converted to apartments in the U.S.

Aside from that, the interiors of the apartments are hardly lacking compared to modern expectations for what a livable housing space should include. Aside from the bathrooms, which are contained in an attached structure to allow for easier plumbing installation, each apartment is formed from two shipping containers, the thick walls of which provide a level of insulation beyond that found in a typical house.

An Affordable Housing Solution?

According to Stark, his plans did cause some puzzlement and trepidation at the City of Phoenix Development Services before the plans were finally approved. Now that they’ve been installed, however, these offbeat housing units have met with approval from both city mayor Greg Stanton and local residents who are now neighbors with people living in shipping containers. Additionally, StarkJames Architecture has already begun drafting plans to build another similar structure even larger than the current one.

Now that the idea has proven usable, the idea of using existing shipping containers to construct affordable housing units may gain more traction. According to official reports, port cities across the country house hundreds of thousands of decommissioned shipping containers. If every set of two of those containers were combined to create a new apartment like has been done in Phoenix, it could create thousands upon thousands of new housing units, each of which could be installed with less work and resources than building a new structure from scratch.

Is Phoenix’s new shipping container apartment complex a part of a trend, or just an architectural curiosity? Only time will tell. Even if the idea never catches on, however, it still presents an intriguing look at how a little ingenuity can lead to creative advances in architectural thinking.

Q-CAD is an architectural firm specializing in the use of CAD architectural drafting. Contact us today at 800-700-3305 for more information on our methods and how we can help you bring your projects to life.


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World’s First 3D Printed Car Debuts at Detroit Auto Show

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit is where car lovers and industry insiders go to see the latest innovations in auto manufacturing on display, and to learn what new models the big name car companies will be bringing to market within the next few years. At this year’s show, however, it wasn’t Ford or Toyota that caught everyone’s attention: it was newcomer Local Motors, who left a big impression by 3D printing a road-ready vehicle at the show. Even more exciting, the company has announced that it plans to make its new 3D printed car, called the Stratti, available for purchase by 2017.

Direct Digital Manufacturing

In the last few years, newcomers to the auto industry such as Tesla and Local Motors have been stirring the pot, offering innovative new products that the established brand names and giant conglomerates have been shying away from. Like Tesla’s electric cars (which were recently updated with preliminary software that gives the cars self-driving abilities), Local Motors’ Stratti is a stunningly progressive addition to the sometimes slow to innovate auto industry. If it proves to be successful, it could introduce a whole new method of production into the car manufacturing cycle.

That method of production, which Local Motors has dubbed “direct digital manufacturing” (DDM), is innovative in more ways than one. Instead of operating large manufacturing plants where cars are assembled on an assembly line, the company instead operates out of what it calls “micro-factories,” small assembly areas where customers can not only assemble their own car, but even “co-create” them by tweaking designs to their liking.

In fact, the design for the Stratti (or LM3D, when it is called by its model number) was created as part of a design contest held among customers at Local Motors’ micro-factories. Out of 62 entries, the winning design by contestant Kevin Lo was picked in tandem by the community and an assembled panel of judges. Lo then worked with the company to bring his design into reality.

Unleashing the Potential of CAD

Lo and Local Motors’ innovative new project shows how the use of CAD has the potential to dramatically alter the way many products and technologies are designed and created. While the major manufacturers have long used computer aided design to help create new prototypes and vehicles, the Stratti takes its use to a whole new level. In the process, it removes many of the labor intensive steps involved in the manufacturing of cars and trucks; the body for the drivable model on display at the Detroit Auto Show was printed in two days, without the need for a line of assembly workers to put it together.

Q-CAD has long embraced CAD as a powerful design tool that allows us to create more accurate and immersive plans for our designs. To learn more about how we use CAD architectural drafting, and how it improves the planning process, contact us today at 800-700-3305.


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Local Artist Is Recreating Philadelphia on 3D Printer

Philadelphia artist Levi Buffman, also known as Doctor Octoroc, has already made a name for himself for building out of Legos a complete model of his home city. As impressive as an achievement as that was, however, Buffman wasn’t completely satisfied with his work: the restrictions of the medium he chose to work in led to inaccuracies in color and scale that he felt compromised the piece’s integrity. To fix this, Doctor Octoroc has once again set out to recreate his city on a smaller scale, using a medium that will allow him to finally capture every detail of it in miniature: 3D printing.

Rebuilding a City

As we’ve discussed before on this blog, 3D printing is a tool that is gaining in popularity among architects, engineers, and artists alike. Thanks to continuous new developments in the quickly developing technology, users are now able to create increasingly detailed and sturdy end products from nearly any material imaginable. This has led to the creation of plans for 3D printing to be used for everything from building bridges in Amsterdam to constructing affordable housing out of sand, and has even caused some to speculate that 3D printers could be used to build subterranean structures on Mars.

While Doctor Octoroc’s plans for the 3D printer are much more modest than building houses on another planet, they are still impressive. Starting with the 1600 block of Market Street, the artist plans to capture as many of Philadelphia’s skyscrapers, houses, and stores as possible, recreating them in full color sandstone. According to Octoroc, he has already printed the “block” containing Liberty Palace and the Westin hotel, and says that he is thrilled with the quality. More than that, he implies that he will be making his designs available for purchase to the public, along with the finished models.

Art and Computer Aided Design

To capture all the minute textures of a miniature urban landscape, Octoroc required a way to create highly detailed digital models of the city that could then be used as the basis for the final product. As such, he turned to CAD techniques pioneered by Ed Catmull, a pioneering computer scientist and the sitting president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. The method Doctor Octoroc is using calls for creating full texture maps of the landscape he wishes to recreate, followed by using vector painting to add the finished details. This process allows Octoroc to capture small details that, in his miniaturized version of Philadelphia, can be as small as one tenth of a millimeter.

In addition to making his designs available for sale, Doctor Octoroc is also updating the progress of his project on his Facebook page, allowing fans and onlookers to follow the project to completion and get a glimpse inside the creative process.

Here at Q-CAD, we have been using 3D drafting to create highly detailed architectural models for decades. To learn more about our process, contact us today at 800-700-3305.



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More Medical 3D Printing Innovations Make Their Debut

As we’ve covered in this column before, CAD and 3D printing are revolutionizing more than just architecture. In this post, we’ll cover two more recent developments in the use of computer aided design and modeling in the medical field, and the stunning breakthroughs that have resulted.

Cancer Patient Receives New 3D Printed Rib Cage

A 54-year-old cancer patient from Spain recently received a new partial rib cage created by a 3D printer as part of his treatment. Made by Australian 3D printing firm Lab 22, the titanium implant takes the place of the man’s four top right ribs and sternum, with stabilizing arms attached to the left-side ribs.

Doctors have used titanium to replace bone before, but this particular piece represents a step forward in the use of metal implants in the human body. The typical titanium replacement rib is a flat plate, whereas Lab 22’s 3D printed creation is custom-built to its new owner’s chest cavity and more closely resembles the complex architecture of the rib cage. As such, the man’s doctors feel that it is less likely to become loose or create medical complications in the future, and was therefore a much safer and sustainable treatment option.

To create the implant, Lab 22 created a 3D replica of the man’s rib cage and chest cavity based on CT scans. Using CAD, they were able to accurately map out the exact contours of the patient’s body. Afterward, the rib cage was printed, layer by layer, on a $1.3 million Arcam printer before being sent to the Salamanca University Hospital where the man was being treated.[i]

Scottish Researchers Use 3D Printer to Mold Stem Cells

The use of stem cells, specifically those taken from fetuses, is one of the most controversial issues in medical science. Proponents of stem cell research say the highly malleable tissue has the potential to be key in curing many degenerative diseases, while those opposed to the research object to the use of tissue taken from unborn fetuses. The debate has raged for decades, with little compromise on either side, but the work of a Scottish research team may change that.

Dr. Will Shu and his team at the Heriot-Watt University School of Engineering and Physical Sciences in Edinburgh, who have conducted previous experiments using fetal stem cells, are currently testing technology that allows them to 3D print stem cells taken from the tissue of adult donors.2 The final goal of their research is to see if the technology can lead to the creation of drugs and medical treatments geared to the genetics of specific patients, a development which would greatly reduce the need for animal testing and increase the effectiveness of treatments for many diseases.

This study is the first to demonstrate that the technology to successfully “bioprint” the extremely delicate stem cells (the adult stem cells Dr. Shu’s team are working with require even more delicate handling than those taken from embryos). According to the researchers, they eventually hope to advance to creating liver, heart, and brain cells.

QCAD offers high quality architectural drafting services. To learn more about our process or request a quote today, contact us at 800-700-3305 today.

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Chicago Architecture Biennial Celebrates and Explores the State of the Art

Chicago, Illinois is home to some of the most impressive architecture in the world, from Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) to several notable residential buildings designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright’s influential Prairie School. To that legacy of architectural excellence the city can now add the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the inaugural edition of which will be held through January 3rd, 2016. Hailed as the “largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America,”1 the Chicago Architecture Biennial features the work of over 100 architects originating from over 30 countries, who have all contributed thought-provoking and innovative designs and theories to the exhibit.

Architecture with Real Applications

Unlike those exhibits that are heavy on academic theory and history impenetrable to anyone but the most dedicated architecture aficionados, the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s focus is on structures and principles that matter to the wider world. With the right amount of funding and will, the ideas the architects on display have featured in their work could find their way outside the gallery and into the real world.

Many of the exhibits tackle political hot topics head on. In one exhibit, Vietnamese architect Vo Trong has erected a proposed model for low-income housing, a livable structure that costs less than $3,500 and which can be assembled in less than three hours without the use of power tools, or even training in construction. Another proposal, from local Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, addresses the issue of tension between communities and police by suggesting police stations be used as community hubs with basketball courts, communal dining for citizens and officers alike, and legal law libraries where citizens can educate themselves.

An Experiment in Architectural Vision

The majority of the installations featured in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial are housed in the Chicago Community Center, a 150,000 square foot facility built in 1897 that originally housed the city’s first public library. A total of 82 installations will fill the Community Center until January 3rd, with even more on display in satellite locations, including a specially built pavilion on the shores of Lake Michigan.

While many of the displays focused on simple solutions and architectural methods, at least one of the displays features a stunning display of technological innovation. Rock Print, a display created by the Swiss fabrication experts at Gramazio Kohler Research and MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, is the world’s first architectural structure built from only strings and small rocks via robotic arm. Through the use of 3D printing and architectural CAD, Rock Print’s creators have demonstrated a viable model for creating structures that are architecturally sound and environmentally sustainable, using readily available and affordable materials.

Interested in learning more about CAD architectural drafting? Q-CAD has been using CAD to help create its designs for over two decades. Contact us today at 800-700-3305.

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How One Company Uses CAD to Plan the Martial Housing of the Future

Computer aided design is a priceless tool for architects and designers, one that allows them to create complex designs that will then be turned into houses, office buildings, and other useful things. Most CAD users create their plans with the intention of transforming them into reality as soon as possible. The organization known as RedWorks, however, is currently hard at work designing structures that it believes could one day be built when the human race begins to colonize Mars.

While talk of organizing a manned mission to Mars comes up every few years, the plans have yet to get past the discussion stage. Despite this, RedWorks has gathered a team of aerospace engineers, geologists, and other highly trained professionals in order to create a comprehensive proposal for how humans could built livable habitats on Mars. They even have a suggestion for building material: Use 3D printers to manufacture partially subterranean structures from the Martian dirt.

When designing their proposed Martian habitats, RedWorks looked at everything from Mesoamerican pueblos to nautilus shells for inspiration. Taking what we know about the surface of the planet into account, RedWorks’ designers propose using existing geological structures such as lava tubes, craters, and crevasses as the starting points for underground living spaces. The group has also developed algorithms for 3D printers which would then transform surface dirt, fossae, and rock into domed buildings that would stretch several stories underground.

Life on Mars?

According to RedWorks’ working designs, buildings on Mars would have an above ground domed section that would serve as a shield against radiation and the elements, as well as an airlock door similar to those found on spacecraft. Underneath the top section, the buildings would stretch downward in a spiral pattern to encompass a total of three subterranean stories (in addition to the top story that sits above ground), each with rooms built in a space-maximizing parabolic shape inspired by pueblo houses.

Each level of the proposed structures would serve a specific purpose. The top story would be used to house engineering utilities, while the bottom story would hold waste processing facilities and environmental control systems, as well as emergency life support. The second and third stories would serve as a living and recreation area, and a geology and life sciences lab, respectively.

Given the level of planning and work that the organization has put into its plans, it’s clear that RedWorks takes the idea of human settlement on Mars very seriously. Thanks to advanced computer aided design software and 3D printing technology, the organization has been able to construct what appear to be usable plans for initial human settlement of a foreign celestial body. While missions to Mars are years or decades away, at best, RedWorks is seeing to it that the necessary long-term planning will have been completed long beforehand.

We may not build houses on Mars, but Q-CAD also uses advanced 3D drafting software to plan our architectural projects. Learn more by calling 800-700-3305 today.




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MIT Unveils Groundbreaking New 3D Printer

3D printers have risen to prominence in the last few years, going from a niche product to a tool used in multiple industries, and even sometimes taught in schools. People who have used the devices, however, know that while they can be incredibly useful in some instances, their application is limited by the fact that existing printers are able print objects only using one to three building materials at a time. Thanks to a recent announcement by MIT, that’s all about to change, as the university recently unveiled a new type of 3D printer that can mold with ten different materials at the same time.

The new printer, named MultiFab in tribute to its ability to fabricate objects from multiple materials concurrently, was developed by the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at MIT. CSAIL’s objective was to create a less expensive, more user-friendly 3D printer that could be used for a wider variety of applications than the types currently available on the market. According to the study the CSAIL team unveiled at the SIGGRAPH 2015 conference, they have achieved that goal: Not only is their new type of printer able to create a wider variety of objects than the standard model, but it is also cheaper, produces high quality objects, and requires little to no human intervention to work.

A New Era of 3D Printers?

In addition to being able to manufacture a wider variety of objects from more kinds of materials than the 3D printers currently on the market, CSAIL also reports that the MultiFab printer is able to print better quality items, thanks to its powerful software, which the team has dubbed “computer vision.” MultiFab’s scanner is also more powerful than the ones used by current printers, and is able to capture higher resolution images. Because it is able to take better quality scans of the objects it replicates, MultiFab requires less human intervention and does not require the use of complicated machine systems that current printers use to smooth out the individual layers as they print. Whereas traditional 3D printers have trouble scanning through materials that are only partially translucent, MultiFab’s high resolution scanner is able to scan through partially opaque material with ease.

MultiFab’s creators also say that the machine can be used for easy multi-part printing. Traditionally, many complex objects that are made from multiple pieces have to be printed in parts, with each component made separately. According to CSAIL, MultiFab is able to print the multiple parts of such objects concurrently, making them ready to use as soon as they have been printed. MultiFab’s creators also say that machinery such as sensors and circuits can be entered directly into the printer, which will then incorporate them into the object being printed.

If MultiFab can do everything its creators say it can do, it could very well represent a new era of 3D printing, with designers, engineers, and architects able to print more and more complex designs straight from their CAD files, saving money and time in the process.

Want to learn more about how we use 3D drafting in our architectural work? Contact Q-CAD today at 800-700-3305.




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North Carolina Students Receive Free CAD Computers

For students who grow up in economically disadvantaged areas of the country, it can be hard to get access to the latest and best technology and resources. When those students are interested in fields such as architecture and engineering, where tools such as computer aided design software are essential both to learning and completing projects, the lack of resources can be even more damaging. Thanks to the efforts of North Carolina’s Project Bauhow, however, several aspiring architects and designers no longer have to worry about lack of access to the CAD tools they need, as they have been given free CAD computers with which they can work on their design projects from home.

Jacksonville High was one of ten schools that qualified for the CAD computer donations, which were determined by the level of interest and the economic neediness of the areas where the schools were located. A total of 20 students will receive the computers, which are installed with brand new 2016 edition CAD software (Jacksonville High’s computers only have the 2014 edition).[i]

Project Bauhow, the initiative that provided the computers, helps support architecture and design education for ninth and tenth graders in North Carolina. The group notes that while high school design classes are important, they do not provide students with enough time to fully learn the skills or build the portfolios required to apply for college admission, and that 60% of the state’s families do not have the economic means to afford a CAD computer. As such, Project Bauhow does what it can to provide disadvantaged students, especially those in rural areas, with tools that can help them gain the necessary proficiency in design and drafting.

Supporting Modernist Architecture

Project Bauhow is a part of North Carolina Modernist Houses (NCMH), an educational nonprofit archive that focuses on documenting North Carolina’s legacy of Modernist residential architecture (North Carolina has the third largest collection of Modernist houses of any state in the U.S.), as well as promoting the building of new Modernist houses through education and advocacy initiatives. The Kramden Institute, an organization that refurbishes old computers and donates them to needy students, also provides support for Project Bauhow.[ii]

In addition to providing them with computers, Project Bauhow also provides students with additional instruction, and gives them a chance to test their knowledge by competing in a design competition. In return for receiving the computers, schools agree to give all design class students an assignment for which they design a Modernist house, which will then be submitted to an NCMH design competition. All entries will be considered for the student category of the NCMH Matsumoto Prize, where they will be evaluated by residential architects. A winner is selected from each school that received a Bauhow computer, and each winner is awarded with a scholarship to the North Carolina State University Design Day Camp, which has taught more than 3,300 students in fields such as architecture, industrial design, and graphic design.

We here at Q-CAD congratulate all the Project Bauhow recipients and wish them luck in their future careers.

For more information on Q-CAD and CAD architectural drafting, call us today at 800-700-3305.




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3D Printer Manufacturer Gives Kids a Chance to Learn CAD Skills

If you regularly read this blog, then you know that CAD and 3D printing are becoming more and more prevalent in many industries, and that both tools are being used to create innovative plans that could very well change the world. As such, training the next generation of designers, architects, and engineers requires teaching them the computer aided design and 3D printing skills they will need to succeed. Thanks to the efforts of Polar 3D, an Ohio 3D printer manufacturer, and the Boys and Girls club, some lucky kids are getting the chance to start learning those skills as they go back to school.

According to a recent announcement, Polar 3D will be setting up a series of “3D printing labs” at various Boys and Girls club sites across the country, as well as providing training a training guide for the staff who will help the children operate the machinery. The “hands on” training material will be made available through the Polar Cloud, an online platform used by the 3D printing community to collaborate and share data.

Kimberly Boyd, the national vice president of Program, Training, & Youth Development at the Boys and Girls Club of America, noted that underrepresented teens and children often fall behind in science and other STEM skills due to lack of access to materials and training. According to Boyd, Polar 3D’s initiative will provide many children who would otherwise never have the chance to use breakthrough technology or foster their love of design and machinery a chance to learn relevant skills that they can use in the future.

The first Polar 3D printing labs will be installed at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington (D.C.), Greater Cincinnati, and Greater Portland.

Changing Children’s Lives

Given Polar 3D’s obvious intention to improve the lives of children, choosing the Boys and Girls Club of America is a smart move. According to poll of former members of the organization, 57% said that being a member of the Boys and Girls Club “saved their lives.” There are currently 4 million children who are members of one of the 1,400 Boys and Girls Clubs in the United States.

According to one of the company’s founders, William Steele, Polar 3D created its printers and the Polar Cloud social platform with the express purpose of putting them in front of students so that they would be “inspired to think like entrepreneurs.” Polar 3D was founded in 2013 by a former Microsoft executive and a former software company owner, and unveiled its 3D printer at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2015. Unlike most personal 3D printers, which operate on both the X and Y axes, Polar 3D’s printers incorporate a moving build platform that slides back and forth under a spinning build plate that remains in a fixed location. As the platform moves back and forth, the item being printed is created, layer by layer.

For more information on how Q-CAD uses CAD architectural drafting, contact us today at 800-700-3305.




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CAD in Healthcare News Update

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the increased availability of 3D printers to healthcare professionals has led to computer aided design playing an important role in the ability of doctors and nurses to help patients. In this post, we’ll talk about more instances of doctors using CAD to provide next-level care.

St. Louis Student to Receive 3D Printed Prosthetic Arm

Thanks to the combined work of Shriners Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, high school student Sydney Kendall will be receiving a prosthetic robot arm, manufactured via 3D printer. This will be the second 3D printed prosthetic given to Kendall, who lost her arm in a boating accident as a child. This new arm, the product of a longstanding collaboration between the Shriners and Washington University, has improved functionality over her previous prosthetics, allowing her to do even more daily tasks than before.

The original idea to use a 3D printer came from Washington University engineering students, who thought that printing a prosthetic based on a CAD file could result in an affordable device that provided even more functionality than the standard prosthetic. As it turns out, they were right: while conventional prosthetics cost around $15,000, Kendall’s new arm costs just over $100.

According to one of the scientists at Washington University, the prosthetics’ designers hope that their affordable prosthetic can made available to underprivileged children who may not have access to standard prostheses. Kendall, on the other hand, says she hopes to become a doctor.

NGO Uses 3D Printed Tools to Supply Impoverished Haiti Maternity Wards

Thanks to the efforts of NGO Field Ready, maternity wards in Haiti now have clean umbilical clamps to use when their patients give birth. When members of Field Ready first arrived, they found that doctors and nurses at a Haiti health clinic were forced to use makeshift tools to clamp the umbilical cords of newborns, due to an inability to obtain proper medical equipment. In order to help Haitian doctors better care for their patients, the NGO set up a 3D printer and used it to manufacture working umbilical clamps, finally giving the Haitian healthcare providers access to the medical tools they needed.

Field Ready has since stopped operations in Haiti, but its influence still survives. Before the NGO’s arrival, medical equipment had to be imported, usually at a cost so high as to make it impossible. Even though the NGO has left, the doctors they trained are still printing their own medical equipment for a fraction of the cost, using the CAD files Field Ready obtained for them.

Brazilian Toucan Receives 3D Printed Beak

Humans aren’t the only one benefiting from 3D printing in healthcare. Thanks to the efforts of Sao Paolo researchers, a toucan in Brazil has been fitted with a replacement, 3D-printed beak. After an accident destroyed the majority of its upper beak, the toucan was unable to eat, and would have starved to death without intervention. To save it, the researchers used photo telemetry to create a CAD model of a functioning toucan beak, and then 3D printed a replacement for the beak the bird had originally lost.

The beak was then attached to the bird’s remaining natural beak via surgery. The procedure took only an hour to complete, and not long afterward the bird was able to eat normally again.

For more information on CAD and AutoCAD drafting, contact Q-CAD today at 800-700-3305.



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