About The Illinois State Water Survey


Printing 3D Models

Onscreen spinning 3-D models can now be transformed into physical terrain models you can hold in your hand and view from all angles much like the papier-mache models we saw in museums as children, proving the old proverb, "the more things change the more they stay the same."

Thanks to the recent installation of equipment at Beckman Institute, 3-D Models of Water Survey projects can now be printed. (see the image of the week)

It should also be noted that the equipment is in testing phase and there appears to be a size limit on the printed terrain object. 

Step 1

Export an ArcGIS 3D-Analyst Scene in VRML format (.wrl)

Step 2

Open the VRML file in the printer software and send to the printer

Then the object is printed on the Z406 printer
The Z406 builds the object from the bottom up. It squirts a colored adhesive into a layer of powder everywhere the object is to be. It then scrapes another layer of powder over the first and again sprays colored adhesive everywhere the object is. It repeats this process until the full height of the object is printed.

Step 3

The object is "excavated" from the tub of powder using a vacuum then carefully removed by hand.

Step 4

The object is placed inside an air tight bin, and the remaining unbound powder is blown away using an airbrush.

Step 5

The object is painted with a hardening agent like ethyl cyanoacrylate ester (a.k.a. superglue).

Step 6

After the object has dried, it is ready to be handled. (click on image to enlarge)

Illinois State Water Survey

2204 Griffith Dr., MC-674
Champaign, IL 61820-7463
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