With the advent of 3D printing, building science innovators have been searching for ways to adapt it to the world of home building. There are dreams of building whole communities using 3D printers, but right now the application has been restricted to decoration and furniture.

Shea Homes’ Arizona division recently found its own application for 3D printing: model homes.

According to Ken Peterson, VP of Sales and Marketing for Shea Homes Arizona, the company has paired with a local printing company called STAX 3D to produce small model-sized homes for its designers to see their concepts.

Shea Homes is only using the technology internally so far, with its first printing completed for 24 North in Phoenix.

“We were intrigued by the idea of being able to see a 3D version of our model home designs before constructing actual models,” he says. “3D printing technology allows us to not only see and touch a physical depiction of the home, but it also enables us to see things like actual paint colors in real life, and not just on a computer screen.”

The team had to go through a learning process on this first print. For example, they needed to know what size to print the models so that all the elements on each were representative of size in relation to one another. The 3D printer is also able to achieve the true color schemes using a CMYK color profile and include textures like brick and roof tile.

In the future, Peterson sees these models as a good way to engage buyers in the various floor plans at community openings and at the sales office. Each of the models currently costs roughly $500 to $600 to make.

“It’s really a fun and tangible way to see the homes come to life without actually building them,” says Peterson.