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~ Printing a part of the world - a 3D-printed cityscape

Fig: 3D printing your part of the world.

My ex-girlfriend and current wife likes maps. While looking for a gift for the new-years I got the idea to give her a 3D map of the nearby historic city center of Ghent with its three iconic towers. I have a 3D printer at home but still need to find a printable 3D model of Ghent.

Luckily, a couple of days ago a piece of software appeared to capture Google Earth tiles -cubes- into a single 3D file. There you can select an area of interest via google maps and download a GLTF file which captures the landscape in 3D. The software needs an API key which can be requested via the Google Developer tools.

After downloading a GLTF file, the 3D model needs to be made 3D-printable. There are online GLTF to STL converters but a bit of care needs to be taken to end up with an actually printable STL. My selected area of interest only has slight height differences in the landscape which are handled by placing the STL file on a base which compensates for these differences. Your 3D slicer can also generate structure to support inclinations in the landscape.

The 3D model generated by Google Earth is quite noisy and can contain floating parts and holes. It may be needed to edit the STL mesh directly. Selecting a slightly shifted area of interest may also solve problems with the edges of the print: take care to chop less buildings in two.

Have fun printing your own piece of the world!

Fig: a 3D model for the Ghent city center visualized with an Three.js STL viewer.