[CASE STUDY] 3D Tech in Architectural Prototyping

Updated Nov 30, 2020 2728

Hey everyone! In this article, we will talk about architectural prototyping with the use of 3D technologies and our experience in this field.


 About the company

The history of Top 3D Shop began in 2012, with a group of 3D printing enthusiasts and the legendary Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer ordered on eBay. Top 3D Shop relied on a comprehensive service: the sale of equipment and consumables, maintenance, user training, and related services. Today, the company employs more than 100 people, with its turnover exceeding 750 million rubles. 

Vasiliy Kiselev has been heading the company since its inception.

Top 3D Shop has a developed branch network throughout the country and is actively expanding the range of goods and services. In 2020, the company emerged as a resident of Skolkovo.

Read more about the history of the company here.


Architectural prototyping using 3D technologies

The construction of any object, whether it be a large facility or a small country house, presupposes a drawing of the building made beforehand — a project. Even with that project, it is not always possible to imagine what the result will be like. Architectural prototyping is a kind of project research modeling. It gives us information about the volumetric dimensions, shape, general appearance, and proportions of the project. The models of buildings made in a visual form greatly simplify the work of the project board on identifying shortcomings and errors at the design stage.



The use of 3D technologies has changed the production of architectural models, making the process of their creation faster, more convenient and cost-effective. The result obtained, on average, is of higher quality and accuracy.

3D technologies provide new opportunities for architectural modeling. CAD design and 3D printing help create the model of a building and implement its prototype, and then quickly transfer its forms to a full-size project. 3D scanning allows working with digital models of existing buildings and elements, creating physical models on their basis of any scale as well as new objects.


Advantages over hand-made production

Time-saving: The complete technological cycle, including development, 3D printing, milling, engraving, painting, assembly, and packaging, takes much fewer man-hours.

High quality and detail: Manual production of a model is a complicated, long, and laborious process. 3D technologies make it possible to significantly reduce the time for the production of models, replace painstaking manual labor with fast and accurate 3D printing, produce an array of different parts simultaneously. This is especially true for small parts with high detail, but not just that — the accuracy of dimensions, and hence the proportions of parts relative to each other, is higher as well.

Cost savings: 3D printing makes it possible to save money on the production of a model; in particular, by reducing the costly painstaking manual work on parts of any complexity. 


Benefits of working with Top 3D Shop

Why it is worth ordering the production of an architectural model in Top 3D Shop:



Precision in replicating the original

Our engineers can digitize an object with a 3D scanner and get a 3D model that entirely matches the original. They will make its exact copy by using high-accuracy production technologies — 3D printing and CNC processing — and then paint and meticulously finalize the smallest details.

Aesthetics and naturalness

Aside from precision, we strive to achieve naturalness. For this, the team has artists who make sure the model looks realistic. Thus, you are guaranteed to get a beautiful, aesthetic result.

Keeping quality

There are two conditions to be met for a high level of performance: qualified specialists and quality materials. Therefore, our workshop is provided with the necessary consumables of European manufacture, which effectively complement the manual work of the specialists.


Electrical engineers can vivify your model using kinematics and lighting. Moving parts clearly demonstrate how the prototype of a model looks in reality, enlivening it. Lighting and interactive elements will add dynamics to the project. In this way, we can bring out the details that matter most.

Full production cycle in our workshop

Our workshops in Moscow and St. Petersburg are equipped with a full set of the necessary equipment: from 3D scanners and 3D printers to laser and CNC machines. So we don't depend on any external contractors: we carry out projects with high quality and on time.

Providing a personal manager

To ensure an individual approach, each project is led by a particular specialist. They personally supervise all stages of work and answers any possible questions.



Depending on the complexity, it takes from several days to several weeks to complete a project. Our experts are ready to work around the clock to fulfill an order on time.



3D scanners:

3D printers: 

CNC machines:

Laser cutters, engravers, and markers:



Depending on the task and the required level of detail, different technologies are used when creating an architectural model:

  • digitization, that is, 3D scanning of physical objects;

  • development of digital 3D models based on existing drawings;

  • complete project creation based on the customer's design;

  • processing and preparation of the resulting model for 3D printing;

  • 3D printing:

    • with filament: FDM/FFF;

    • with polyamide: SLS;

    • high-precision, with photopolymer resins: SLA/DLP/LCD;

    • photopolymer: POLYJET;

    • photopolymer: MJM;

    • full-color, with gypsum polymer: CJP;

    • metal: SLM;

  • engraving;

  • CNC milling.



Architectural prototyping employs a variety of materials:

  • 3D printing filament;

  • photopolymer resins;

  • wood;

  • paper or cardboard;

  • special materials;

  • metals.

Electrical and lighting equipment can be used if necessary.



To determine the cost and time of the production of your architectural model, request a quote or send us an e-mail.

The following information should be included in the request:

1. Description of your project.

2. Does the model need an acrylic cover?

3. Does it need lighting or other electrics?

4. Does it need a transport case?

Our specialist will contact you within one working day to clarify the details as well as estimate the cost and deadline of the order.


Top 3D Shop case studies

Model of a business center and the vicinities in St. Petersburg


The objective of the project was to create an architectural 3D model of a business center located in a complex of restored buildings in a historic district, next to the Peter & Paul Fortress and the embankment of the Neva River. The facades of the buildings are adorned with stucco decoration, balconies, and bay windows. Several other structures adjoin the buildings. All this was to be shown on the model.


Conditional models of various scales were created in the SketchUp software. On their basis, specialists chose the largest scale of 1:80 and determined the territory — around the object itself, adjacent structures, and part of the Mytninskaya embankment with water. To emphasize the business center itself, it was decided to show the adjacent buildings in conditional volumes, without detailing the facades.

After the final agreement of technical specifications and the study of the customer's original documentation, there appeared the first difficulty. It consisted of a lack of basic information. The client had a roof plan and a complete set of dimensional drawings of all the historic external facades of buildings, with all the decorative stucco elements displayed, but this did not help much. The creation of the model also required floor plans of buildings, sections, and drawings of the facades of two inner courtyards. Besides, the customer provided only a general layout of the complex on the site, without a detailed master plan of the territory.

To fill in the information gaps, our specialists visited the object — for the photo-fixation of all the missing information on the architectural solution and landscaping of the site. After that, they were able to start working.

It was decided to use 3D printing for the manufacture of parts that require the most accurate sculptural elaboration — bas-reliefs, mascarons, volute-shaped brackets, and caryatids. There were about twenty such objects. With the help of photographs and drawings, a 3D model was created for each of them.

The use of small-diameter cutters (0.5 and 0.3 mm) and cutter/engravers made it possible to convey fine patterns and ornaments of parts and cornices as accurately as possible. More than a thousand decorative elements were produced on the machine, not counting the cornices.

After being cut and cleaned, the bases and parts of the walls were glued together with toluene, forming two structures of the future model. The building has a complex shape, several walls are joined together at different angles. For the most accurate joining, their internal parts were preliminarily adjusted, and all the external corners were additionally polished by hand with sanding paper so that the seams were not visible. 

The frames being assembled and all parts prepared, the structures were primed and painted in the colors required by the customer. Upon completion of the painting, all 1,500 decorative elements were glued to the outer surfaces of the facades. 

All historic buildings in the city center have facade lighting, and our facility is not an exception. The building has three rows of cornice lighting that had to be reproduced on the model. A system of enclosed bracket boxes was developed, into which were placed segments of LED strip — more than eighty in total. On top, the boxes were closed with a thin translucent plastic scattering the light of the diodes.

Equipment used

Printing was carried out via the FormLabs Form 2 and FormLabs Form 3 3D printers operating on SLA technology, with Formlabs White Resin photopolymer. The total number of printed parts has exceeded five hundred.

Most of the decorative elements of plastic decor were cut on the CNC machines Advercut K6090T and Solidcraft CNC-6090 Mark II.

The mounts of the electronic components and the control box housing were printed with the Picaso 3D Designer X PRO 3D printer.

The LaserSolid 690 laser engraver was used to manufacture flat parts.


The total size of the building model, including the adjacent territory, was 1800 x 2200 x 1300 mm.

Production time

It was planned that the implementation of the project on the manufacture and installation of the model would take no more than two months, but the deadline for the whole work was three months on the off chance.

The restrictions caused by the coronavirus epidemic significantly slowed down the work, the process stretched out and was implemented right on schedule — not a month earlier, as planned.


Model of a Boeing 747 hangar


Another interesting task was the manufacture of a model of an aircraft hangar from scratch, without a real prototype or technical documentation. To create it, it was necessary to design it in the first place.


A hangar is typically a prefabricated frame structure without design elements, but our model looks more interesting. It is due to numerous parts and design features, such as a flat roof with a central arched insert, geometric patterns, panel seams, engraved window sashes and embossed taxiway curbs, metal structures, and small technical buildings.

The hangar floor of liquid rubber imitates a real polymer coating. The main building unit of the structure is a plate with slots for glazing. LED lights were installed in the model, their location replicates the lighting schemes of real hangars. The model assumes that the aircraft model can be placed in a hangar, a gate, or outside.


The scale of the model is 1:200, the overall dimensions of the structure with the adjacent territory are 1000 x 800 x 400 mm.

Equipment used

During the work on the model, specialists used the Hercules Strong, Picaso 3D Designer, Picaso 3D Designer Pro 250, Zenit 3D, Anycubic Photon S, Formlabs Form 2 3D printers, as well as the SolidCraft CNC 6090 and LaserSolid 960 machines.

Production time

In total, the work on the model took a month and a half.


Model of the Novo Nordisk building


The client's request came with ready-made renders of the buildings, structures, and framework, with a general plan of the territory and several photos of the real object. It was not possible to get the 3D models used to create the renders, but it didn't matter. When creating a mockup, it is much more convenient to work with your digital models, creating them from scratch.


The frames of the buildings were made with a CNC machine and a laser engraver from sheet acrylic 4 mm thick. The model was being made as a prefabricated construction kit, with the tolerances of 0.1 mm and the thickness of the laser machine cut of 0.13 mm.

After that, a model of the territory was created, which included paths, building foundations, parking lots, curbs. All elements were engraved 1 mm deep on 9 mm plywood.

The rest of the parts were 3D printed using FDM and SLA technologies. Cladding elements were made of acrylic 3 mm thick. The assembled model was processed with putty and primer, painted in the required colors, and covered with matte varnish. The lighting wires were run through the base.


One of the customer's requirements was to place the model on an area of no more than 1 sq.m. The total area of the model holder was 0.97 square meters, the height with the cover being 40 cm.

Equipment used

The project used the Form 2 3D printer, a CNC machine, and a laser engraver.


Bottom Line

Fast and cost-effective visualization of projects gives a construction company the ability to perform architectural prototyping of any object: from small architectural forms and separate designs in complex structures to complete models of buildings and comprehensive development with the surrounding area.

We offer the creation of an accurate and detailed model of any architectural project, for presentation or construction work, at any stage of the process.

An architectural model can be used in a variety of ways. For example, to see a prototype of a future object in reality; to do a presentation, showing the model to investors or a customer if you are a developer; to place it in the hall of a building or conference room if you are an owner; to use it when creating promotional materials, photos and videos or at conferences and exhibitions.


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