Laser Cut Map Taken to the Next Level

For Christmas this year, [Scottshambaugh] decided to make his family a map of their hometown — Portland, ME. Using topographical map data, he made this jaw-dropping 3D map, and it looks amazing.

He started by exporting the elevation data of Portland using software called QGIS, a free opensource geographical information system — it’s extremely powerful software, but takes a bit to learn. Luckily, [Scott] made a tutorial for us. All you need to do is add the road data, put all the slices into an illustrator file, clean up some of the files, and you’re ready to start laser cutting.

He used 1/8th thick sheets of Baltic birch plywood, a staple material around laser cutters because it burns quickly and easily and is very flexible, which means that it’s harder to break. The map measures 12″ x 24″ — but once it’s laser cut, be ready for a multi-leveled jigsaw puzzle! The small pieces of elevation data can be very tricky!

Once he got all the pieces ready, he colored the water sections with a blue stain — varying the saturation with the depth of the section. The end result is absolutely gorgeous, and you can see a slideshow of the pictures over on his Imgur gallery.

We’ve seen some pretty awesome laser cut maps before, but we think this one might be one of the most detailed so far!

[via r/DIY]

18 thoughts on “Laser Cut Map Taken to the Next Level

    1. please, keep it up.

      then in 20 years, when no one makes their own things because “they’re pretty commonplace”, you can complain about how this site shut down because no one makes anything anymore.

      you can either encourage people to make things, or complain about everything. but if you must complain about everything, don’t neglect the impact it will eventually have on people making or sharing things.

    1. Its easiest just to etch the footprint of the next level on the layer below.

      I made dozens of these, sometimes with dozens of individual 1/32″ plexiglass layers – models for an arch. studio i used to work at.

      1. Topo’s aren’t designed to exaggerate elevation, but to communicate it in 2D . Exaggeration comes in when you view cross-sections, or in this case 3D representations where you have a thickness of the material in addition to the contour interval of the data to deal with.

        One solution is to use thinner material, but that probably complicates the cutting operation.

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