Japan’s national land surveying organization offers free web-based map data of Japan that can be directly used for 3D printing.
The idea of downloading 3D map data for instant 3D terrain printing may yet to become a norm, but it is actually on its way to development already, and Japan has taken an initiative project for the concept.
The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI), as the organization’s name suggests, is Japan’s national mapping and surveying authority. Recently, the organization was responsible for the development of a new website, which features updated maps and other geographical data of Japan.
What’s notable about their new website is the option to automatically take a portion of the map data, download it to your computer, and instantly create a tangible version of the terrain map using a 3D printer. So aside from being able to manipulate the 3D map data online, you can simply drag the map to your hard drive and save it for printing. Non-color files will be saved in STL format, while colored 3D maps are saved in VRML format.
The concept may be straightforward, but there aren’t really that many dedicated online mapping apps that could directly use any 3D terrain data for 3D printers. Oftentimes, such option would require multiple software to physically recreate the 3D map data. Even then, the 3D terrain data might not even be available for printing in the first place, making it a little bit more difficult for casual 3D printing enthusiasts to enjoy.
So, the potential of this concept to become a common standard is quite significant, especially when considering the fact that this type of feature would not particularly be restricted to geographical mapping only. A health website for example, could also provide anatomical 3D “map” data in the same manner for easy 3D printing.
For anyone who wants to see GSI’s website in action, make sure your browser supports WebGL, and then click the official link over here (in Japanese).