The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


March 9, 2014

Modeling the future

Clarksburg company’s new printer creates a 3-D object

— An architecture firm in Clarksburg has gained a piece of technology that will help them fill the gap between imagination and reality.

WYK Associates Inc. bought a ProJet 460 Plus 3D printer with the help of the Harrison County Economic Development Alliance Corp. WYK Associates President James Swiger said the printer is the company’s new Mercedes Benz. The printer was the biggest one they could physically fit in the office, Swiger added. The 460 Plus model lists for about $50,000.

The printer uses gypsum, a soft, crystalline mineral, to turn 3D computer models into real-world objects. The printer is rated to produce nearly

3 million colors.

“The biggest benefit of this technology is that it makes for better communication between us and the client,” Swiger said. “The client can physically hold their project in their hand and understand the idea. A lot of times it’s hard for people, especially if they’re not trained to read a floor plan or rendering, to imagine. This allows them to hold it in their hand, turn it, and physically see it.

“It also helps us as a design tool as well. It helps us to study a design before it’s completed or a certain aspect of a design. Hopefully it would improve ideas and our process, as well as the way we design a building, which is for the client’s benefit.

“It can also be a fundraising tool,” Swiger added. “Let’s say you have a church. Sometimes they need a model or rendering for when they go out and show the congregation what they want to build. It sells people on an idea to get them to buy in and help raise funds.”

Swiger says the technology can print a model piece that is 8 x 10 x 8 inches and those pieces can be used to make a model as big as you can imagine. The level of detail can vary, too.

“We have one in the office that we’ve printed up that you can take the roof off,” he said. “It’s a two-story house and you look at the second-floor plan, then you can take the second floor off and look at the first-floor plan.

“It has all of the details of the kitchen like the cabinets. It has the sinks and toilets in the bathrooms. It can be as detailed as someone wants or if they just want the outside, then doing that takes less time.”

Printing the models can take as little as 15 minutes to as long as eight hours, Swiger says.

In the future, Swiger says the company hopes to use the printer for more than just architectural models.

“You can do anything that you can think of with this thing,” he said. “If you can model it on a computer, you can print it as a model. We’ve already printed some promotional materials for WYK. We’ve made a couple of piggy banks and a big snowflake just to show people what this printer can do.

“There are more options than just architecture. We would be happy to open up the business for any other ideas that someone might have for this printer. We’re not just locked into the architectural and engineering aspects of it.”

Swiger said the company has partnered with an in-state consultant to offer 3D laser scanning in the future. Existing buildings would be scanned to the accuracy of one millimeter then recreated as a scale model on the 3D printer.

WYK Associates has been around for over 40 years and has done jobs ranging from residential to commercial.

“The largest project we have right now is an $11.5 million, 88,000-square-foot addition to Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins,” Swiger said. “Historically, we’ve done a lot of commercial office buildings, a lot of banks, health care. It’s a variety of things.”

WYK Associates can be reached at 304-624-6326.

Regular office hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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