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Beyond AEC: Creating a 3D Printed Model from Revit

Beyond AEC:  Creating a 3D Printed Model from Revit

ATG was hired to scan and model a private residence in Revit. That project allowed me to study both topography and building modeling from a point cloud. I had recently purchased a 3D printer, so after I completed the residential project, I wanted to learn about the process of modeling and printing 3D objects in Revit. Since then, I’ve begun to model objects other than buildings. Check out my 2-part whitepaper series for a deeper dive on modeling and 3D printing a topographic scan and a building scan.

In this blog, I’m going to discuss another project I modeled and printed: a 1:48 scale NF-2 floodlight trailer.

Idle Hands…

One of my multiple hobbies is scale modeling. I’ve built models since I was about 12 years old and it’s a relaxing hobby. While I once built for myself, now I build my models as a gift for others.

My current project is building a 1:48 scale F-4E Phantom jet for my stepfather. It will be a scale duplicate of the same squadron he served in during the Vietnam War in 1970 – the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing stationed at Korat AFB in Thailand. Being an aircraft mechanic, my stepfather talked at length about these portable light sources they used. During the war, aircraft maintenance happened at a moment’s notice, often in the middle of the night.

The NF-2 floodlight was, and still is, the workhorse of the air force airbase. The NF-2 Floodlight Set provides portable floodlighting facilities for aircraft maintenance on ramps where commercial power is not available, or for utilization as emergency lighting in disaster areas. When I craft a model, I create a diorama to place it in. In this model, I wanted to place some airfield equipment – that’s where 3D modeling comes into play to model this floodlight.

Revit Modeling Non-Buildings (i.e. 3D Families)

Revit is an incredibly versatile 3D modeling tool. While specifically created and used for architectural design and construction drawings fabrication, it has a very robust mass modeling system. There are, of course, other softwares that can create 3D models. However, because of my profession, Revit is the one I am most familiar with. So, Revit is what I will be discussing as part of this modeling process.

I started my project with research. I found several reference photos of the NF-2, specifically a library of photos of a unit that was up for sale. Using these photos, I began modeling my project. I started by opening a floor-based family template. I used a family template, rather than a project template, because the family approach gave me more control over the masses and voids I was going to create.

For even the most basic Revit modeler, the tools available at your fingertips are straightforward and easy to use. Extrusions, blends, revolves, etc., are all utilized in your typical Revit model. In the model for the NF-2, I used a combination of all of these.

The process is simple enough.

  • Set your work plane;
  • Choose the Form you need to model;
  • Draw your necessary profile lines;
  • And repeat.

I modeled the tires and light as separate model families so I could easily control the 3D print. Each part could then be printed separately.

Exporting a STL File from Revit

Exporting an STL from Revit is easy with an add-In you can download from Autodesk. Download the Autodesk STL Exporter for Revit 2020 or Revit 2021. Select Binary and the Units that you set up in your model. It’s that easy.

Importing the STL Into Cura

Using Cura, I imported the STL model and prepared it to print. I had to scale the model to a 1:48 scale so I could use it in my diorama, and with a little more math, covert that to mm. Your print setting will vary per project. My settings:

  • Layer Height = 0.12
  • Wall Thickness = 1.2
  • Layers = 7
  • 15% Grid Infill.

Click print.

Printing, Painting and Detailing the Model

I own a Creality CR-10 3D Printer. It has a 300mm x 300mm x 400mm print area, which is large enough to print most average size movie props. I also recently added a BLTouch Auto Bed Leveling Sensor. Just plug in the SD card and start printing.

After printing was complete, I cleaned up the model by priming, painting and detailing with Testor enamel paints. To add even more detail, I used wet decal paper and Photoshop to create my own decals for the model, and I added some weathering and “dirt.”

I also created some other airfield equipment, two rolling toolboxes.

Conclusion

The goal of this blog is to inspire new ways to use Revit for new designs. Revit can be used in a variety of ways that allow you to be creative and design objects outside of the AEC “Design Bubble.” As a modeler, this program has opened a whole new world to me and my hobby.

This blog is written by Sr. AEC Technical Specialist Brian Weeks.

Behind the Blog: Meet Brian Weeks

Brian is entering his 22nd year in the industry. As an Intern Architect, Project Architect, Project Manager and BIM Manager at multiple firms, he has experience in the design and construction of a variety of projects – Commercial, Educational, Medical, Military/Government and Residential, to name a few.

He has designed, managed and rendered projects with Revit since 2009, and can create BIM models, construction documents, BIM families, Enscape renderings and more.

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