Physical 3D Models of Future Development

December 8, 2023
3 min read
Featured Image

At Howell, we use the latest technology to be the best engineers possible. To continually add to the ultimate engineer's toolbelt, we recently acquired a multi-color 3D printer. For the past couple of months, we have been testing it extensively. We have found that it's excellent at creating scaled 3D models of designs that engineers and clients enjoy to better visualize changes in grade and the sizes of buildings. I have a couple of models sitting on my desk that, now and then, I pick up, rotate, and look at from just about every angle possible. It's very satisfying.

Aside from being entertaining when I am bored, we are using 3D models as exhibits and presentation aids for public meetings. Recently, on a project in Westtown Township, the 3D printer had an opportunity to shine when an exhibit titled "Photograph of 3D Model of Road A" was included as part of the Planning Commission Conditional Use Exhibits. A link to the publicly available exhibit and the image itself is below.

Planning Commission Conditional Use Exhibit PC-8

This exhibit was used in opposition to the Howell Engineering design of "Road A," claiming that it was unsafe because it is a "maximum slope road" into a "minimum radius turn," which I admit sounds pretty scary, especially when looking at this rollercoaster, but I promise it is not. We are going to get technical here, so bear with me because it's important. The "Road A" in question is sloping downwards at 7%, and the radius of the turn at the bottom is 150'. Both specifications are allowed by Westtown Township Ordinance § 149-904: Street Grades and § 149-905: Horizontal Curves. To put this into perspective, 7% is slightly steeper than the average parking lot. For those who have been to the Howell Engineering office, it is slightly steeper than our parking lot. Additionally, a 150' radius turn is used for nearly all residential subdivisions in Chester County. This weekend, drive through some residential communities, and you will most likely go around a 150' radius curve and not even notice.

So, in response to this, Howell Engineering prepared two scale models of Road A (photos of both are shown at the end). The first was a proof of concept showing the corridor of Road A in a single color. 

This was done very quickly. The second was a color model showing eight lots, houses, and driveways, all printed to scale. This was more involved but provided a much better perspective on the slope of the road and the radius of the turn since the homes were shown as references. 

Both prints were prepared in such a way that the four pieces when placed over a 50-scale plan, fit within the Right of Way as if they were extruded from the sheet. Even when the slope is measured with a level, it is exactly 7%. A perfect scale model showing the proposed conditions exactly. This model ended up being used as an exhibit, which you can view below.

Board of Supervisors Exhibit A-21

I will let you, the readers, be the judge as to whether my model or any model for that matter, provides a good representation of what is actually to be constructed in the field. 

Any feedback as to what I can do better or shouldn't do is always appreciated. If you are in our office and want to see it in person, you're always welcome to swing by my desk. Lastly, I will leave you with a time-lapse video of the color model being printed. 

This video has condensed about 30 hours of print time down to 8 seconds.

As with many things at Howell Engineering, bigger and better things are coming… and in this case, I mean literally.

If you are interested in having a physical 3D model created for your current or upcoming project, please reach out to anyone at Howell or me at [email protected].





West Chester

1250 Wrights Lane
West Chester, PA 19380

Phone: 610-918-9002
Fax: 610-918-9003


5020 Ritter Road #203 Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

A Howell Company

53 Old Solomons Island Rd. Suite I
Annapolis, MD 21401

Phone: 410-266-1160

A Howell Company

1250 Wrights Lane
West Chester, PA 19380

Phone: 610-692-7007

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