Make a 3D printed map in 3 steps

Last weekend I was planning a couple of days of hiking on a trip to Sewards mountains in the Adirondacks national park. The trail there is not officially maintained and does not appear on official maps. I usually don’t rely on a cell phone to get my position because of the network access difficulty in mountain area. Even more because battery life is an issue on multiple days trip in the woods.

On top of the usual topographical maps I got the idea this time to 3D print the map of the weekend challenge.

I already tried to 3D print maps in the past but I found difficult the process to get the data involving multiple web site and software. This time I used the website Terrain2STL which is super easy with everything in a single place. You only need to click on a map, download the STL file and print, that’s it.

1- Select the area on the map.

You can easily scroll on a google maps to areas of interest and click on the “Center to view” button under “Location” tap. A red bounding box appears at the center which you can drag with the mouse. Box size, rotation and scaling options are available under “Model Details” tab. I noticed one bug on the site, the rotation option distorts the rectangle on the screen.

Terrain2STL webpage

2- Download the STL file

When you are ready, click on the “Create and Download” button to launch the STL file download.

Terrain2STL map in cura

3- 3D Printing

With Cura, I transformed the scale of the 3D model to 150% in X and Y and 33% more in Z. Commercial 3D maps often increase the Z scale to better appreciate the sloping ground. I also reduced the useless thickness of the map with the “Cut off object bottom” option. All these options are already present on the website, but I was more comfortable to make those changes directly on the 3D model with my favourite slicer (Cura Solid Utopia edition)…

OctoPrint is a 3D printing server which allows to remotely control the printer and generate beautiful timelapse like this one.


Sewards_Terrain2STL print

Final product

Here is the result 3D printed in PLA on a modified Solid Utopia V1. For this kind of project the thick visible layers is a nice feature at 0.2mm. The map size is 18x12cm for a weight of 110g which is still a large size without being too heavy. Half the size would have a weight of 24g which is quite acceptable in a hiking bag.

From Donaldson summit, you can see the V shape between Seward and Seymour Mountains which can also be found on the upper edge of the 3D map with the same orientation.


Carte des monts Sewards vue du sommet

For the record, some people of our group were confused in counting true and false peaks of the chain. The 3D map gave us an obvious comparison to find our position. So we were saved!!

Of course I exaggerate the life-saving factor of the 3D map versus ordinary paper map. But I found very interesting to compare the real field with a 3D map. It is much more obvious to plan the required effort for the climb. It also made easier to find our way through the text information provided by the guides. It is one more tool that I will certainly use to plan future long rides.

What do you think about it?

What do you think?

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