Skip to main content

This 3D-printed map of London is one of the coolest things you could ever hang on your wall

We love a good, ambitious 3D printing project here at Digital Trends, and what could be more ambitious than a 3D printed scale model of UK capital city, London?

That’s precisely the thought that hit British-born, San Francisco-based programmer Andrew Godwin. When he discovered that the UK government had released large amount of LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) surveying data as part of its ongoing Open Data project, Godwin decided to use it to make an astonishingly detailed 3D map — complete with copious amounts of detail.

“I was inspired by raised relief maps,” Godwin tells Digital Trends. “Those are the moulded 3D maps you occasionally see on walls, often of large-scale geography.” With his so-called “London Rising” project in mind, Godwin decided to take the plunge and used it “to justify to myself” purchasing a 3D printer. “I knew the LIDAR data was out there, and presumed I could work out how to write the code to convert it into printable models eventually,” he continues.

While the idea sounded simple enough in theory, in practice it proved more difficult. That’s because the LIDAR data, collected using a low-flying aircraft, wasn’t as clean as anticipated and turned even flat roofs into non-smooth surfaces. Making it 3D printable was another challenge — and he spent days experimenting with different materials on his Rostock MAX v2 3D printer.

Eventually he made the decision to print the map as 48 different tiles which, when combined, stretch across central London from Hyde Park to his former flat, near the Thames. Ultimately it took a few weeks to get right, although we’d definitely argue it was time and effort well-spent.

Next up? Possibly similar city maps of San Francisco, where Godwin currently lives, and Oxford, where he previously resided. And what will he be doing with the London original? “I’m just doing it for me and that’s it,” he says. But don’t despair if you dream of 3D printing your own version of London — but lack the skill to turn raw LIDAR data into a polished printer-ready final product. “I released the code to make the models so others can 3D print them and make their own if they want,” he says, indicating that the files are now available on GitHub.

You can’t say fairer than that!

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
The future of making stuff: Inside the evolution of 3D printing with Formlabs
future of 3d printing formlabs ces 2021 castablewax40

When 3D printing went mainstream in the mid-2010s and exploded in popularity, it was about as hyped up as it possibly could be. Evangelists told us it would fundamentally transform the way goods were made, and usher in a bold new era of creative freedom. Soon, they said, we’d be able to fabricate anything we wanted on-demand, Star Trek replicator style, right from the comfort of our own homes.

But of course, 3D printing didn't really live up to that high-flying dream. Instead, it made a momentary splash and then largely returned to the fringes, gaining adoption in hobbyist workshops and cutting-edge product design labs, but not really changing the face of manufacturing in the way many hoped it might.

Read more
Wild new 3D printer makes parts by sending titanium particles supersonic
3D printing metal technique

Regular layer-by-layer 3D printing is old news compared to a new additive manufacturing technique developed by an international team of engineers. They recently demonstrated an innovative method for printing 3D metal objects by firing a powder that’s composed of tiny titanium particles, at supersonic speed, so that they fuse together in any interesting way.

This “cold spray” approach takes place below the melting temperature of the metal. When the particles hit the substrate at high enough velocity, they deform and adhere to it. The efficiency of this adhesion increases as the particle velocity increases. Without the high-speed impact, metal powders would simply not adhere well.

Read more
GPS-tracking, 3D-printed decoy eggs can help root out illegal poachers
Decoy turtle eggs

Poachers pose a major threat to sea turtle nests by stealing eggs to sell in what has become a rampant black market trade in certain parts of the world. Conservation efforts to stop this have, to date, included patrolling beaches for would-be poachers, as well as removing the eggs and placing them in a secure hatchery so that they can be incubated in safety.

Conservationists at the nonprofit organization Paso Pacifico in Nicaragua and researchers from the U.K.’s University of Kent have another idea, however -- and it involves 3D-printed decoy eggs, boasting built-in GPS trackers.

Read more