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Hello, everyone. Time for our weekly roundup of articles at the intersection of building information modeling (BIM); artificial intelligence (AI); and the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) space.  Here goes:

By this point, nearly everyone has at least seen a video of a 3D printer in action. Generally speaking, there is some sort of box or container inside which robotic arms move around, usually in fixed directions, layering various materials to create an object. Researchers at Harvard, however, are now literally thinking outside the box. They've developed a 3D printer that can print in mid-air, without the need for extraneous structural supports. "The custom 3D printer's nozzle is free to move in all directions as it's extruding material, and is precise enough to create conductive wires less than the width of a human hair." While Harvard researchers are primarily focused on the printer's applications in electronics and biomedical devices, such technology could easily be adapted to 3D printing in general, possibly even printing electrical conduit on-site. See the demo video here; it's truly amazing.

These 3D-printed butterflies were made in mid-air without anything supporting their weight. (Source: Harvard)

We can all relate to the frustrations of having software programs that don't communicate well, if at all. BIM software is no exception, and because it is a methodology that relies upon transparency, the lack of interoperability could be debilitating. BuildingSMART and openBIM are trying to fix the interoperability problem. "The trouble with BIM is that there are hundreds of different file formats, each of which was created for a specific purpose. True interoperability is a tricky road to take because it would theoretically require reconciling all of these formats." The solution? Require software to be certified through the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) so that workflows are able to move through the multitude of available software tools without the need for translation. Their ultimate goal is to provide everyone, from designers to facility managers, with truly flexible and transparent data. The IFC source code library is already on the market as open source, and more info can be found at buildingSMART.org.

Communication is key. (Source: Look for Diagnosis)

The current trend in the AEC to actually embrace, as opposed to avoid, new technology is getting noticed. A recent article in Forbes illustrated how augmented reality, 3D scanning, and drones are creating safer, more cost-effective work sites. Forbes contributor Laurie Winkless visited Bechtel's London headquarters, where she was shown how these new tools are transforming the industry: "I was there to find out more about the growing use of sensors, cloud computing and autonomous vehicles on building sites – putting the smart intosmart construction. Although they don't tend to brag about it (try searching for 'augmented reality' on their website), Bechtel are quietly making the average infrastructure project considerably more scientific." 

Smart construction at work. (Source: Forbes)

In addition to being more "scientific," building projects are likely to be more fun – especially with NVIDIA's newest GPU and VRWorks release. While marketed mainly as tools for gaming, Engineering.com sees their potential for use in design: "In its latest release, two new methods for rendering images are added to the VR developer's toolkit, ensuring that complex virtual geometries and environments can be rendered efficiently and without experiential interference." Such true-to-life renderings would be an invaluable resource for designers, contractors, and sub-contractors to ensure a seamless workflow from planning to execution.

The Geforce GTX is one of NVIDIA's new virtual reality GPUs.                        (Source: Engineering.com)

With all of this talk about new tools, we wonder what new devices are making waves in the rest of the world. How about an electric guitar? No, not a Les Paul; one that is truly electric... Check out this 360-degree video of Arc Attack, a team that makes music with Tesla Coils. It's truly electrifying! Have a great week!

Arc Attack rocking out at Maker Faire Austin. (Source: Gizmodo)

Tags: Architecture and Planning Virtual Reality 3d Printing

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