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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

The Next Desktop Printer: Holograms?

July 14th, 2015 by Susan Smith

Mike Masters, chief marketing officer of Zebra Imaging, spoke about Zebra Imaging’s service of providing holograms for the architectural industry. Architects are looking for the interaction that is the easiest way for them to show things and manipulate them on the fly.

IMG_7658-1“There are multiple ways you can display or present your 3D data,” said Masters. “And the data must display at different times during the development cycle. Throughout that, designers are creating what will become 3D buildings.”

3D models give a better representation of buildings in general. Computer screens that have a 3D model represented in 2D on a high-resolution display can be spun and manipulated in real time. Designers can choose to print something, in 3D or print a model. They can hand build a model, which may be preferable for a larger model and give more impact to a representation of what they want to create. It depends on where they are in the pitch process, so different approaches will make sense in different situations.

Masters said that Zebra Imaging has a lot of architectural customers. “Multiple firms have tried us in different situations. “There are certain situations where a hologram is the best option.”

“The best use of holograms is when you have 1-many pitches. Where our customers have most acceptance is leveraging their iPads, computer screens or a projector,” said Masters. “They can spin that model and zoom in and zoom out. In some cases they’re even trialing virtual reality software, off their phone even, and can create an interactive virtual reality experience by putting the phone over the top of their computer and can create the multi-dimensions they want. There is a lot of experimenting. We get 1-1 and 1-few pitches architectural clients who are finding the most successes with leveraging a digital display and being able to manipulate those models real time.”

“The downside of hand building or 3D printing a model is that you’re not able to manipulate real time,” said Masters. “It can make the experience on those 1-1’s or 1-fews less interactive.”

To present to a larger group or the public, they need something that is truly in 3D so options become: build a model, print a model (3D printing,) or leverage a hologram.

“In those cases we found holograms are really the best option,” said Masters. “We can leverage data and present it in more meaningful ways. We can show inside and outside and multiple viewpoints of the model within the same print. We can contain information of three models within the same print depending on your viewing angle. One thing we have heard, is while every architect can see in 3D (and 2D prints in 3D) everyone can see a hologram, this is where holograms have been successful.”

Zebra Imaging has a plug in for Revit. Zebra uses the 3D models created by architects and render them into holograms through their 3D rendering that is available on the web using the Revit plug-in. From there it can be printed.

“We work with a lot of new customers on how to make their models work better with holograms,” said Masters. “We focus on how to leverage their channeling capability which is the ability to show multiple dimensions of a model within the same print depending on your viewing angle. Often we’ll have three or four channels within an architecture model. You would see floors 1, 2, 3 and then the entire building in architecture. We help customers through that and set up multiple images within same print, along with how to make their models really stand out. Then you’re creating a 3D hologram to make sure you get that context, the depth of the model, to have them be bright. That’s where our graphic artists will help out on current projects.”

Masters said they are printing what is sent to them centrally. “3D printing has an advantage in that if you want to have them print themselves, they can print, and have discussions. With us there would be a couple of days’ turnaround. We are creating a desktop hologram printer for people to print their holograms in a real time fashion.”

The Zebra Imaging hologram application is free. The holograms themselves vary in price based on what the customer wants printed. “We charge based on the print size for custom holograms which is generally what we are printing for an AEC client, and then if there is a large graphic job then we charge by graphic services hours,” said Masters. “If they wanted to do multiple images and multiple channels or they need help in building up their models, adding graphics to 3D models, like scenery, it is extra. We’re the only company in the world that can create full parallax holograms out of digital data. That’s advantageous to architects because its digital, you can add things, make things smaller or bigger. Our graphic artists can help put in grass, scenery, chairs, tables, etc. inside models. That’s all just data so you can add graphic support to that 3D data.”

The availability of the desktop hologram printer is about 18 months away, according to Masters. People around the globe are interested in buying this type of printer and one European firm already made the purchase of a hologram printer for their company. Currently Zebra Imaging sells 3D printers and getting people to use holograms, which will lead to the desire to buy their own desktop hologram printer when they become available – much the way the 3D printing industry evolved.

The majority of 3D architectural data plugs into Zebra Imaging’s ZScape 3D software and from there it will render into a printed hologram. If the customer doesn’t have a 3D model then Zebra will need to create one. “Our world class 3D graphic artists can help take a 2D model and create a 3D model out of it,” noted Masters. “If they are looking at landscape, we can take point cloud data, things captured from a satellite such as Google Earth, or captured by a drone, or could be a collection of lots of photos, and we can create 3D models from that data that ultimately can turn into holograms. We can create 3D models out of anything. For that type of creation it takes more effort from our graphic artists, obviously. When you take a Revit model, there is a seamless transition into the printing of a hologram.

In the AEC market, the most common print size is an A-1 print, 2’ x 3’ print of their model that retails $2,000. “With that comes our graphic service charge, if’s it’s a little over that we don’t charge,” said Masters. “If it’s a significant graphic services job then we charge $100 an hour. If they want to do something special it could take up to five or six hours.”

Prior to working with AEC clients, Zebra Imaging’s clients for holograms have primarily been the Department of Defense and the military. Most AEC early adopters are those within firms who are innovators and recognize that holograms may create a “wow” effect. Another market for holograms is trade shows, both in and out of the AEC marketplace. Large holograms at trade shows can draw people into a booth.

“It create the magic of having images change before your eyes, as you shift your position,” said Masters.

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Categories: 2D, 3D, 3D printing, AEC, AECCafe, apps, architecture, Autodesk, BIM, building information modeling, buildingSMART, Cloud, collaboration, construction, display wall, engineering, holograms, mobile, point clouds, project management, reality capture, rendering, site planning, sustainable design, terrain, video, Zebra Imaging

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