Iowa State University Offers 3D Maps of Anywhere on Earth

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AMES, Iowa  —  A team at Iowa State University has developed a new website that will help people make their own custom, 3D maps.

The Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences is working with the ISU Virtual Reality Center inside Howe Hall.

The idea is a collection of data, which can be downloaded and sent to a 3D printer. Commercial companies, such as some Kinkos locations, offer this service.

“Being able to print in three dimensions is a big deal because often it’s difficult to understand a two-dimensional map of a new area,” said Franek Hasiuk, an Assistant Professor at Iowa State University. “Being able to print in 3D will be able to allow people unfamiliar with the area to learn and understand it faster and better.”

The ISU team has gathered the data from across the globe, and even ocean floors, which can be accessed. It may also have application in the state of Iowa.

“What this technology does is allows you to make a map, a three-dimensional map that’s customized to the particular place you want,” said Hasiuk. “It allows you to make a very interesting three-dimensional map for areas with very subtle topography like Iowa.”

The printers can only make small map squares that must be assembled to give the whole map.

“No tech required, that’s one of the beauties of this. All the tech is done before,” said Chris Harding of the Department of Geology and Atmospheric Sciences. “Once it’s done you can take a Sharpie and draw on it and you can reuse all this, there’s nothing electronic whatsoever involved.”

Anyone can access and download data. ISU advises this is a local server, so it may be slow depending on the amount of traffic.

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