Architectural Modeler in India Introduces 3D Printing as Project Management Tool

iKix – An architectural modeling service

based in India and serving the world

Challenge – Helping architects, builders

and their teams save time, labor and

materials by reducing errors

Solution – Using 3D printing as a project

management tool

Results –

  • Architects, their contractors, their

clients and their permitting agencies

can view projects in three dimensions

from the earliest stages for deeper


  • Improved communication shaves

3 percent to 8 percent o_ construction

budgets because of savings in time

labor and materials.

  • Errors, oversights and poor decisions

are captured prior to the onset of


  • 3D printing provides models in six

to 10 days versus a month, which

is the typical turnaround time for a

handcrafted model.

  • Since iKix architectural models are

modular, architects and their clients

can move pieces at will to reconfi gure


  • 3D printed models can easily be dismantled,

packed, moved and reassembled.

  • 3D printed models emerge directly from

3D design data for a level of accuracy far

superior to handcrafted models.


Architectural Modeler in India Introduces

3D Printing as Project Management Tool

Rosedale by ETA Star,

Chennai India

“…we can print a model of a

community of 1,000 acres –

including homes, schools,

churches, temples, golf

courses and more – in six

weeks versus fi ve months

for handcrafting the model”

– R. “Partha” Parthasarathy


In his two decades in the computer-aided design

industry, R. “Partha” Parthasarathy’s fi rst question

to clients has always been, “What problems can we

solve for you?”

“Getting our projects to market more quickly,” was

the inevitable answer.

In the AEC world, Partha has discovered that projects

are often delayed due to two main reasons – inappropriate

communication and lack of scientifi c project


Discovering 3D printing

Just two years ago, however, Partha discovered

a technology that o_ ered an entirely fresh way

to compress time to market for architects and

everyone involved in building projects: 3D printing.

With 3D printing, one could provide on-demand

identical sets of three-dimensional physical models

of buildings and communities at every stage of a

project to every stakeholder. He instantly realized

that this would dramatically improve communication,

increase e_ ciency and eliminate costly errors. Thus

was born iKix, India’s fi rst service bureau chain for

architectural 3D printing.

Based in Chennai, capital of the state of Tamil Nadu,

iKix serves top Indian architects and construction

companies like Hiranandani, ETA Star and L & T

South City. Though based in India, iKix is a global

company. It accepts orders online and delivers

models in the United States through its partner

IDEAL Scanners & Systems, Inc., USA. iKix has

created about 200 architectural models for U.S.

customers alone.


Ine_ ciency of handcrafted models

The traditional method for creating an architectural

model is handcrafting in cardboard or Styrofoam.

Because of the long lead time and expense required

to produce such a creation, architects usually

commission these models only when it’s time to

reveal fi nal plans to the public.

iKix, however, can “3D print” a typical project in six

to 10 days, far less than the month that handcrafting

a model requires, according to Partha. “In fact, we

can print a model of a community of 1,000 acres –

including homes, schools, churches, temples, golf

courses and more – in six weeks versus fi ve months

for handcrafting the model,” he says. “The time and

cost advantage is even more pronounced when plans

change and models need to be modifi ed on the fl y.”

3D printing’s value stems from its breakthrough

ability to print three-dimensional physical objects

from 3D data. It operates in much the same way

as a traditional o_ ce printer produces documents

from word-processing data. iKix uses the

Spectrum Z™ 510 full-color 3D printing system

from 3D Systems, maker of the world’s fastest 3D

printers and the only ones capable of printing in

multiple colors.

The Z510’s agility enables architects and project

managers to quickly obtain multiple physical

models of a project – one for the architect, the

client, the general contractor, the subcontractors

and the civil authorities. “A 3D printer is more than

a prototyper,” says Partha. “It has become a project

management tool.”


3D: the way we think

Architects and contractors have traditionally

worked from 2D plans. While seemingly precise,

2D plans in fact lend themselves to interpretation

– and thus misinterpretation. “The human mind

thinks in three dimensions, not two,” explains

Partha. “The architecture community communicates

in two dimensions only because there hasn’t been

a viable technology for readily communicating

in three dimensions until now. 3D printing is a

breakthrough that I believe will redefi ne technical

communication for the next 200 years. Every design

should be represented in 3D, and soon will be.

It is my sincere desire that all architects move to

3D soon. Every customer of iKix has come back

repeatedly for subsequent projects. They have

found the benefi ts irresistible.”

Consider a typical large residential community.

It takes perhaps three months to design and 15

months to build. Two months into construction,

with all trades working from 2D blueprints,

the architect sees something amiss due to a

misinterpretation of the plans. A misplaced wall.

Or a staircase headed for a support column. The

choices are 1) tearing everything down after 20

percent of the project is built, incurring major

loss of time, labor and material; or 2) accepting

the mistake and continuing construction. Neither

option works. Handcrafted models don’t solve the

problem. They are approximations of the plan while

a 3D printed model essentially is the plan.

“What is intended in plans is often starkly di_ erent

from what is executed,” observes Partha. “That’s

why iKix clients are commissioning 3D printed physical

models from the earliest stages of the design and

avoiding these catastrophes. Clients bring us in

early and start making models from the concept

stage, which is yielding project management

savings in the 3 to 8 percent range, which is huge

given the size of their construction budgets.”

“The value of the iKix models are really in the time

and money saved due to cost and time overruns

avoided,” says Chander Seetaraman, CEO of CS

Designs, a top design fi rm in India and an early iKix

user. “They pay for themselves right at the early

stages of the project.

Partha o_ ers the example of a recent urban

residential project with hundreds of clustered units.

The client was happy with the plans, but when he

saw the 3D printed model, he immediately worried

the units were too crowded together. The architect

moved a pool and fi tness club into the center of the

site to ease the congestion. This is a solution that

all parties would have otherwise missed – until the

buildings were halfway up.

Civil engineering projects need physical models,

too, according to Partha. When o_ cials are

planning to build a highway overpass, for example,

they must plan temporary tra_ c fl ows over the

various phases of the job. Having 3D physical

models for every stage eliminates confusion and

improves construction e_ ciency.


Options and changes are easy

Unlike hand modelers, iKix is able to present clients

with multiple options for projects at the earliest

stages. “If you present a client with four design

options,” Partha says, “a client is likely to choose

a fi fth by requesting elements of the fi rst four.”

Not only can 3D Systems 3D printers print that fi fth

option on demand, clients can move 3D printed

models of buildings, pools and parking lots around

at will so they can reconfi gure a design on the spot.

That’s because iKix purposefully builds its models

in a modular fashion. Handcrafted models, by

contrast, are fragile and glued in place, often with

an o_ -putting “do not touch” warning.

The modular nature of iKix models also makes

them simple to pack, transport and reassemble at

di_ erent venues for di_ erent audiences. A model

used for obtaining building permits, for example,

can be packed up and reassembled in the sales

o_ ce for prospective occupants to view.

Because 3D prints emerge directly from CAD data,

they are more accurate than handcrafted models,

and it’s easy to make multiple copies – almost

unheard of in hand modeling. It’s also easy to scale

models up or down without losing data.

iKix chose the Spectrum Z510 because of 3D Systems

printers’ unique ability to print in multiple colors.

This is an essential capability for non-technical

audiences as well as painting contractors, decorators

and exterior contractors. Color is also essential for

applying labels and texture to models for maximum


“Full-color, 3D printing simply o_ ers so many

advantages,” says Partha. “It communicates

information directly in the way humans think so

they can fully, deeply understand what the project

will look like and what the project will be like.

How can an architect not take advantage of 3D

printing when it will save money and save time? I

ask customers to just try it once. When they do, the

benefi ts are overwhelmingly obvious, and they call

us in from the beginning of the next project – not as

a vendor but more as a partner. Like the architect.”

Remember, says Partha: Project e_ ciency

decreases quite rapidly as the number of

stakeholders increases. Proper communication

is therefore key to managing projects well. 3D

printed models are a great way to increase project

execution e_ ciencies.