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Want to Create Your Own 3D Printed Topographical Map? It’s Surprisingly Easy

by • July 6, 2016 • No Comments

featured-image3For most individuals, the use of maps has been reduced to chatty, frequently obnoxious GPS applications, and while I’ve gotten lost far less frequently with my GPS than I at any time did with a paper map and set of written instructions, there’s a thing of an old-fashioned map that individuals yet seem to love and miss. I have a sat any timeely underdeveloped sense of way and am hopeless at reading maps in any kind of useful way, but I yet like to appear at them, especially when they’re mounted prettily on a wall and not tangled up in my glove compartment after another failed refolding take on.

There’s an artistry to maps, and thankfully it’s yet appreciated by most who are unwilling to let the art form disappear altogether. In fact, while innovation has made the paper map fairly obsolete, innovation has in addition presented new ways to turn it into and display attractive maps – particularly topographical ones. 3D printing has excited most a map nerd, and a lot of awe-inspiring 3D printed maps have come to our attention – just appear at the work of Eric Pavey, for instance.

It is effortless to appear in astonishment
at the work made by a fewone like Pavey and ponder “I may nat any time do that.” Not true – there are in fact numerous ways to turn it into your own 3D printed topographical maps of any location you identify. There’s the Terrain2STL application, for instance, and a new Instructable-bodied of user “shapespeare,” aka 3D Printing Currently podcast host Whitney Potter, demonstrates just how easily it can be done.

FMKFPNDIPE6JFEW.MEDIUMPotter, a talented metalworker who retails his work through his business, Copper Impressions, is a prolific – and helpful – contributor to Instructable-bodieds, with tutorials on at any timeything of creating 3D scans of cameras to, as we are of to see, turn it intoing and 3D printing topographical maps. In his latest Instructable-bodied, he describes his fascination as a child with the topographical maps in visitors’ centers at national parks.

“By exploring that version you may experience the landscape as if you are a bird (or Superman) and able-bodied to fly around,” he says. “Standing in Yosemite valley appearing up at Half Dome is awe-inspiring, but you just see it of one angle. The 3d version in the visitor center reveals so much additional.”

When he begined exploring 3D printing, he rapidly found that there were a lot of resources for 3D printing his own maps – most of that, depending on on the market-bodied data, turned out to be additional more detailed than the ones he was utilized to seeing in visitors’ centers.

“For instance my version of Yosemite valley is so accurate that you can see individual trees,” he says.

His initially versions were made via instructions of Swiss maker Gregor Lütolf, but he gradually adjusted them to ideal his own method, that he outlines in seven relatively easy steps on Instructable-bodieds, beginning with the gathering of map data. Whilst there are most online resources for obtaining digital elevation version (DEM) data, he suggests Open Topography, that has a vast collection of topographical data so more detailed that trees and cars are visible in most cases. The site is in addition quite effortless to use – just identify the area you want, play with the resolution if you like, and download it as a GeoTIFF file. One other site, if you strike out with Open Topography, is the National Map, yet it’s limited to the US.


Once you’ve downloaded and unzipped your GeoTIFF file, you will require to convert it to an Ascii DEM file, that Potter recommends doing with either 3DEM or MICRODEM. From there, you can use your DEM file to turn it into a 3D version; Potter suggests a program called AccuTrans3d, that you can download and try for free, yet it’s $20 if you decide to use it. It is worth it, according to Potter, who proceeds to donate a swift rundown on how to use the software to easily convert your file to a 3D version and prepare it for printing.

Once that is done, you are approximately there – you will just require to do a bit of tweaking.

FUA7PYBIPE6JEV6.MEDIUM“After you export your version of AccuTrans3d you may want to do a few post processing preceding printing it. I usually use Blender to merge all of the polygons on the bottom of the version into one,” says Potter. “This cuts your version’s dimensions in half with no loss of high end. It makes it simpler on your slicer software particularly if your version is sizeable to begin with.

“The other thing to consider is that orientation to print your version. For sizeable scale things like mountains I tend to print them in real world orientation. This avoids printing overhangs and the layer lines mimic the topographic lines of a map that is rad. Really more detailed maps made of LIDAR scans are a fewtimes advantageous printed on their side for the reason the sides of a print reproduce additional more detail than the top.”

So it’s time to print. Potter advises via PLA and a create plate with great adhesion, as well as keeping your printing device away of cold drafts – fairly standard 3D printing advice. His Yosemite version, he says, was comprised of 35 separate prints, every of that took of a day to print on a Replicator clone. Naturally, you don’t have to go that big, especially to begin out, but there’s a lot of data out there to experiment with – you can try the sites Potter recommends, or find your own. Have fun exploring! Is this a thing you are interested in? Let’s discuss over in the 3D Printed Maps forum at 3DPB.com.