Rapid, Cost-Effective, 3D Printing

posted: October 4, 2012 | author: Jon Downey

Reminder!!! – Sometimes we need to look outside the box to come up with fresh new ideas for the geospatial community. For years companies have been creating large-scale, 3D elevation models out of foam or other “soft” materials. They have been doing so using the procedure of “subtractive manufacturing”. Basically, they’re removing material, and what remains is the 3D model. This process works just fine with large-scale models; however, it can be cumbersome to use on very small-scale work and most geospatial companies don’t want to dedicate the resources necessary to run the operation in-house. Recently, a couple folks from woolpert_labs ran into a representative from a rapid manufacturing and prototyping company, Bastech, at a local technology summit. After a few minutes of discussion it became apparent the technology Bastech uses in their everyday business could have quite the impact on the geospatial community. Bastech uses technology that allows them to rapidly create 3D models; however, it’s not a subtractive process, it’s an “additive process.” By using small amounts of material and gradually adding them on to themselves, additive manufacturing can create very custom and extremely complex 3-dimesional objects on a very small scale. In fact, the globe (pictured above) is an example of a model created by Bastech. Over the next few months woolpert_labs staff will be teaming up with staff from Bastech to see just what is possible and to determine the actual usefulness to the geospatial industry and most importantly, our clients.