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Examining Topographic Models in the Physical World

Last month, a Map of the Week was released demonstrating how topographic models can be examined within a digital environment. Taking our research to the next level, what happens when we bring these digital models into the physical world? The answer may spark your interest in studying the Earth’s terrain. #MapMonday

Examining Topographic Models in the Physical World

Bringing together GIS and 3D Printing technologies, the Marriott Library has successfully developed a process for producing 3D topographic prints of the Earth’s surface, offering a new method for patrons to examine the physical features found within the world around us. The process proved to be quite simple. To get started, you will need:

  • a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) for a specific location (choose from either 10 or 30-meter datasets)
  • GIS software (both ArcGIS and QGIS work well for this application)
  • 3D modeling software, and of course
  • a 3D printer

No longer are we limited to studying topographic features within a digital environment, but rather producing physical models for hands-on examination. Where will these new developments take us within the Marriott Library? Stay tuned for new project developments in the near future.

  • For more information about the GIS components of this project, please contact Justin Sorensen at:
  • For more information about the 3D Printing components of this project, please contact the 3D Printing mailing list at:

About Map of the Weeks from GIS Services:

Throughout the semester, GIS Services will continue releasing bi-weekly maps on a variety of topics for the purpose of demonstrating ideas and uses for incorporating geospatial technology into research and projects you are developing. To view our collection of maps, projects or to learn about the geospatial services offered through the Marriott Library, please visit the GIS Services website @

Happy Mapping!

Justin Sorensen | GIS Specialist
Creativity & Innovation Services / GIS Services

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