Divide By Zero presents DIY 3D printed maps with Google Maps

Ever heard of 3D printed maps? Here’s our detailed guide on how you can get one!

With a blend of art, science and adventure, maps have an intriguing way of depicting details that make up our world. Maps come in various sizes, shapes and level of complexities, usually depending on the application the map will be used for. From all forms of maps currently available, modern topographic maps are the most appealing and widely used variants. They provide large-scale detail and representation of relief through contour lines. Topographic maps show both natural and manmade structures and they are usually published with contour lines that connect spots of equal elevation.

We have exciting news for 3D printing enthusiasts and cartographers who would like to experiment and hone their additive manufacturing skills. At Divide By Zero, we have championed a technique to quickly and accurately 3D print almost any part of Google Maps with available terrain data. These 3D printed topographic maps could be useful for a multitude of applications such as better town planning, infrastructure development, agriculture and even in defence planning (national security).

Our blog discusses the process and steps you need to follow in order to develop your very own 3D printed topographic map. Read on to learn more.

Creating STL files with Terrain2STL

To 3D print any object, you need to either create or download an STL (Surface Tessellation Language) file of the object. The STL format is supported by many CAD software applications and is an industry standard in 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and computer-aided manufacturing.

The conventional way to develop a basic 3D printed map would involve collating terrain data, importing the data in a CAD application to create a 3D model of the object and then use a mesh editing utility like Meshlab to create an STL file. This aforementioned method works, however, the output is unimpressive and lacks consistency. At Divide By Zero, we have discovered a free-to-use service/tool named Terrain2STL that creates STL models of the surface of Earth using freely available and accurate terrain data from Google Maps. This impressive tool allows a user to position a bounding box around the area in the map they want to capture for 3D printing. The following are steps to follow to create an STL file of a terrain map area.

  • Location Selection: Select the area you want an STL of, using the red box or you can manually enter the latitude and longitude in the Location section. It has an embedded Google Maps container that is draggable to the area you would like to 3D print. The ‘Center to View’ will move the red selection box to the center of the visible map area.
  • Model Details: You can use this section to adjust/resize the box size (adjustable from 120 to 4200), box rotation (±90°) and Vertical Scaling (from 50.5 to 4). The Z-Scale exaggerates the vertical scale of the 3D models. You need not worry about the box skewing with rotations, the model will be accurate and true to the real terrain.
  • Water and Base Settings: The water drop slider lowers the height of the oceans for emphasis and detail in the 3D printed topographic map. Once you have configured all of the parameters mentioned above, you can click the “Create and Download” to get the STL file of the 3D map to be printed.

You can now import the downloaded STL file into your Divide By Zero 3D printer’s slicing application. Your 3D printed map is now ready to be printed layer-by-layer in a material of your choice or the material your printer supports. <Kindly provide additional steps, if required>

Better augmented maps

In a nutshell, the helpful and user-friendly STL Generator makes it possible for you to select your specific terrain map and 3D print it quickly. The development of this technique will benefit various verticals, especially those who need to conduct geologic studies and get an augmented visual of an area.

At Divide By Zero, it is our constant endeavour to experiment with 3D printing techniques and help users get more out of their machines and equipment. If you wish to get a map or any object 3D printed, you can get in touch with us to avail our world-class 3D printing service and solutions.