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Constructing a physical relief model of the San Francisco Bay Area

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Making a map

A friend recently got a Glowforge 3D Laser Printer and I offered to help him break it in. One of the examples from Glowforge is a really beautiful bathymetric map. We thought it would be fun to do something similar, but to include topographic data (elevation above sea level) in addition to the bathymetric data, to make a full relief map. After searching around a bit, we found this NOAA site that provides a wealth of relief data in the form of tiff images.

We decided to focus on the San Francisco Bay Area. The raw elevation above sea level is encoded in meters as pixel values, where negative indicates that pixel is under water. This is what the raw data look like rendered as a heatmap using the reviled jet color map: raw heatmap Turning this raw file into a vector image that the Glowforge could print turned out to be trivial using a handful of Python modules: Take a look at the entire script: We made the model out of a 16 in. x 20 in. piece of Art Board (Watercolor, Cold Press) from Canson that I bought at an art supplies store. We used the Glowforge to cut each layer. We also used a lower power to cut the next layer up each time, to aid in assembly. Below is the svg file with each relief line drawn in a different color. map After cutting out the layers, we glued them together: no color map I painted the final product using watercolors: watercolor map

SFBayReliefModel uses data published by