2016-07-06 (W) 3D Printed Topographical Lake COMPLETED

My retired mom spends a lot of time at her RV which is camped on a lake and I wanted to get her a thoughtful gift for her birthday. I decided to make a 3D print of her lake based on topographical DNR information. I found her specific lake without too much trouble. Anyone who wants to make a similar project will have to find a local resource. Try searching for things like, contour, topographical, depth chart or lake map.

Once the right map has been located the image should be imported to a graphical editor. I used GIMP because I’m familiar with the program but MSPaint could handle this job. The goal is to replace each layer of the lake with a gray gradient that corresponds to the depth. In other words we want the deepest part of the lake to be white and the land to be black. Each layer in between will be dark or light gray based on how deep it is. In this case it was also necessary to remove the depth markers which numerically described the depth. If you want to make sure the lake is accurate be sure the gray level corresponds to the depth proportionally. In this screenshot you may notice the first couple of steps are five foot increments while the deeper steps are ten foot increments. When I converted those to gray they changed five or ten percent accordingly.

Topographical lake map

Animation of depth layers

The first image used black for the deepest layers of the lake and white for dry land. It turns out that OpenSCAD wanted the opposite so when it may be necessary to invert the colors. If you’re using this to make a map for a mountain be sure your peak is black. OpenSCAD had some trouble rendering a large image so the resolution was reduced for this model to approximately 160*160. Text at that resolution was illegible so if you’re adding an inscription be sure to carve it out with OpenSCAD. OpenSCAD also expects a .png file.

lake_contour.png ready for import. Small

If you’re unfamiliar with OpenSCAD just create an OpenSCAD file in a folder and place your lake contour image in that folder. Let’s call the folder “Lake Contour” and let’s name the image “lake_contour.png”. Inside the .scad file paste the text
scale([1, 1, 0.25]){
    surface(file = "lake_contour.png", center = true, convexity = 5);

Rendered model of lake map with inscription

As you can see I’ve added more code for an inscription but that code will be different for each person. Unless you’re all giving the same gift to my mom and your name is Brian. The only thing left to do is render the model (F6) and save the .stl file somewhere your printer can find it. Or send it to an online printer.

The borders between depths were blurred to make the transitions from layers more gradual instead of instant. This step is optional and not available in simple programs so I didn’t draw attention to it. Reducing the resolution also helped to blur the hard lines.

This model took all night to print since I set the speed to low and the quality to HIGH. It was scaled in the printer software since it is clearly not printing 1:1. If you’re a stickler for maps you may want to add a compass rose, lake name and distance legend. These can also be added by simply printing the information onto a sticker with a 2D printer.

Enjoy your new plastic lake map. Bonus, if you’ve printed with a low fill your map will float!

Moving map model

The rest of the posts for this project have been arranged by date.

First time here?

Completed projects from year 1.

Completed projects from year 2.

Completed projects from year 3.

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2016-07-04 (M)