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!

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Laser Cutting Bathymetric Maps

Bathymetry is the underwater equivalent to topography. And with the right map data, you can make some amazing 3D laser cut maps that feature both land masses — and the details under the sea. [Logan] just learned how to do this, and is sharing his knowledge with us.

[Logan] holds the typical hacker belief: The best way to learn something is just to start the project and figure it out as you go. Which also makes him an excellent candidate for helping others to learn what not to do. His goal of the project was to create a visually stunning map of Vancouver that helps to emphasize the depth of the ocean just off the coast.

To do this he obtained bathymetry data from the Fisheries and Oceans of Canada, and city map data from Open Street Map, a service we’re very familiar with that has provided data for many cool hacks, like this Runner’s GPS unit. The tricky part now is combining the data in order to laser it.

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