How to 3D print maps ?

Create an optimized 3D map model

When toggling “3D printable model” on http://maps3d.io/, you will generate a model optimized for 3d printing

  • With texture in full color for multicolor 3D printing
  • Hollowed out to save material and lower cost of manufacturing
3d printable model generation on maps3d.io
3d printable model generation on maps3d.io

The model generated is a zip file containing the model in the OBJ format + the MTL file and the texture. Here is an example of such model generated.

Our advice is to set 2mm for thickness in order to have the best ratio solidity / saving material.

Hollowed out to saved material

Upload model on a 3d printing manufacturing service

If you do not own a 3D printer, you should use on of the online 3d service for manufacturing, we used successfully Sculpteo which support Multicolor models OBJ + MTL, but you can try others like Shapeways or i.materialize.

After uploading the model, you can choose the material you want. You generally have only one choice if you want to print in color with the satellite imagery texture. (At the time of this post, printing a 80 x 80 mm model in full color costs around ~30 US$ on Sculpteo)

After a few days, you should receive your model, which will look like this:

Model generated on maps3d.io printed

What is the glTF / glb format ? (3D file)

glTF is the “JPEG for 3D”

glTF is the “JPEG for 3D”, it describes 3D scenes in a standard format optimized for the Web. The file extension is .gltf or .glb.

While it is still not well know, lots of software already supports it and in this article I am gonna showcase some of them.

Try it yourself, download an example glTF file (Mont blanc valley) that was created on https://maps3d.io

On the web

You can preview glTF files on the web:

All those viewer use some 3D engine to render the glTF file in WebGL on your browser. Similarly to those “online viewer”, you can also use those 3D engines to embed a glTF on your website / blog, here is an example using model viewer of Google based on Three.js (but you could also use Babylon.js viewer, Cesium.js , Aframe, …)

See the html code for this

Directly on facebook

Facebook gives you the possibility to share glTF files directly, pretty cool isn’t it 😎 ?

Gif facebook 3d post
Facebook 3D Post

On mobile

Aside from being able to directly open you mobile browser and use the methods described above, several apps offer support for the glTF format, I am gonna feature glTFShowCase which is available on both iOS and Android

After installing the app, open this link in your mobile browser and choose to open with glTFShowCase.

With this app you can save and view your file offline

Demo glTFShowCase Preview

And even view it in Augmented reality (AR) 🤯 !

On desktop

Windows

Microsoft is part of the glTF Working group and is making glTF very easy to work with, on Windows 10 you can directly view your files with the 3D Viewer app.

Even better than this, the Office suite is already supporting glTF, for example you can add a glTF file directly on a powerpoint presentation.

macOS

At the time of writing this article, macOS is still lagging behind for first class glTF support, but some third party app exists to preview them.

Conclusion

glTF is very well supported across platform and that is why it is also the export format for https://maps3d.io.

For some reason if you need to convert it to another 3D format (OBJ, STL, COLLADA …), you can do it with blender > 2.80 (currently in beta) which has a built-in importer for glTF.