3D Printing Canadian Topographies

by Scott Mackey, Geovis Project Assignment @RyersonGeo, SA8905, Fall 2016

Since its first iteration in 1984 with Charles Hull’s Stereo Lithography, the process of additive manufacturing has made substantial technological bounds (Ishengoma, 2014). With advances in both capability and cost effectiveness, 3D printing has recently grown immensely in popularity and practicality. Sites like Thingiverse and Tinkercad allow anyone with access to a 3D printer (which are becoming more and more affordable) to create tangible models of anything and everything.

When I discovered the 3D printers at Ryerson’s Digital Media Experience (DME) lab, I decided to 3D print models of interesting Canadian topographies, selecting study areas from the east coast (Nova Scotia), west coast (Alberta), and central Canada (southern Ontario). These locations show the range of topographies and land types strewn across Canada, and the models can provide practical use alongside their aesthetic allure by identifying key features throughout the different elevations of the scene.

The first step in this process was to learn how to 3D print. The DME has three different 3D printers, all of which use an additive layering process. An additive process melts materials and applies them thin layer by thin layer to create a final physical product. A variety of materials can be used in additive layers, including plastic filaments such as polylactic acid (PLA) (plastic filament) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), or nylon filaments. After a brief tutorial at the DME on the 3D printing process, I chose to use their Lulzbot TAZ, the 3D printer offering the largest surface area. The TAZ is compatible with ABS or PLA filament of a 1.75 mm diameter. I decided on white PLA filament as it offers a smooth finish and melts at a lower temperature, with the white colour being easy to paint over.

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Lulzbot TAZ

The next step was to acquire the data in the necessary format. The TAZ requires the digital 3D model to be in an STL (STereoLithography) format. Two websites were paramount in the creation of my STL files. The first was GeoGratis Geospatial Data Extraction. This National Resources Canada site provides free geospatial data extraction, allowing the user to select elevation (DSM or DEM) and land use attribute data in an area of Canada. The process of downloading the data was quick and painless, and soon I had detailed geospatial information on the sites I was modelling.

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GeoGratis Geospatial Data Extraction

One challenge still remained despite having elevation and land use data – creating an STL file. While researching how to do this, I came across the open source web tool called Terrain2STL on a visualization website called jthatch.com. This tool allows the user to select an area on a Google basemap, and then extracts the elevation data of that area from the Consortium for Spatial Information’s SRTM 90m Digital Elevation Database, originally produced by NASA. Terrain2STL allows the users to increase the vertical scaling (up to four times) in order to exaggerate elevation, lower the height of sea level for emphasis, and raise the base height of the produced model in a selected area ranging in size from a few city blocks to an entire national park.

The first area I selected was Charleston Lake in southern Ontario. Being a southern part of the Canadian Shield, this lake was created by glaciers scarring the Earth’s surface. The vertical scaling was set to four, as the scene does not have much elevation change.

Once I downloaded the STL, I brought the file into Windows 10’s 3D Builder application to slim down the base of the model. The 3D modelling program Cura was then used to further exaggerated the vertical scaling to 6 times, and to upload the model to the TAZ. Once the filament was loaded and the printer heated, it was ready to print. This first model took around 5 hours, and fortunately went flawlessly.

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia was selected for the east coast model. While this site has a bit more elevation change than Charleston Lake, it still needed to have 4 times vertical exaggeration to show the site’s elevations. This print took roughly 4 and a half hours.

Finally, I selected Banff, Alberta as my final scene. This area shows the entrance to Banff National Park from Calgary. No vertical scaling was needed for this area. This print took roughly 5 and half hours.

Once all the models were successfully printed, it was time to add some visual emphasis. This was done by painting each model with acrylic paint, using lighter green shades for high areas to darker green shades for areas of low elevation, and blue for water. The data extracted from GeoGratis was used as a reference in is process. Although I explored the idea of including delineations of trails, trail heads, roads, railways, and other features, I decided they would make the models too busy. However, future iterations of such 3D models could be designed to show specific land uses and features for more practical purposes.

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Charleston Lake, Ontario
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Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
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Banff, Alberta

3D models are a fun and appealing way to visual topographies. There is something inexplicably satisfying about holding a tangible representation of the Earth, and the applicability of 3D geographic models for analysis should not be overlooked.

Sources:

GeoGratis Geospatial Data Extraction. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.geogratis.gc.ca/site/eng/extraction

Ishengoma, F. R., & Mtaho, A. B. (2014). 3D Printing: Developing Countries Perspectives. International Journal of Computer Applications, 104(11), 30-34. doi:10.5120/18249-9329

Terrain2STL Create STL models of the surface of Earth. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://jthatch.com/Terrain2STL/

 

 

West Don Lands Development: 2011 – 2015



CHRISTINA BOROWIEC
CHRISTINA BOROWIEC | West Don Lands Development: 2011 – 2015 | 3D Printing Tech.

Author: CHRISTINA BOROWIEC
Geovis Project Assignment @RyersonGeo, SA8905, Fall 2016



PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
The model displayed above is of the West Don Lands of the City of Toronto, bounded by Queen St. E to the north, the rail corridor to the south, Berkeley St. to the west, and Bayview Ave. to the east. In utilizing Ryerson University’s Digital Media Experience Lab’s three-dimensional printing technology, an interactive model providing a tangible means to explore the physical impact of urbanization and the resultant change in the city’s skyline has been produced. The model interactively demonstrates how the West Don Lands, a former brownfield, have intensified from 2011 to 2015 as a result of waterfront revitalization projects and by serving as the Athletes’ Village for the Toronto Pan Am/Parapan American Games.

Buildings constructed during or prior to 2011 are printed in black, while those built in 2012 or later are green. In total, 11 development projects have been undertaken within the study area between 2011 and 2015. Each of these development projects have been individually printed, and correspond to a single property on the base layer, which is identifiable by the unique building footprint. The new developments can be easily attached and removed from the base of the model (the 2011 building and elevation layer) via magnetic bases and footprints, thereby providing an engaging way to discover how the West Don Lands of Toronto have developed in a four year period. By interacting with the model, the greater implications of the developments on the city’s built form and skyline can be realized and experienced at a tangible scale.

Areas with the lowest elevation (approximately 74 m) are solidly filled in on the landscape grid, while areas with higher elevations (80 m to 84 m) have stacked grids and foam risers added to better exaggerate and communicate the natural landscape. These additions can be viewed in the video below.

Street names and a north arrow are included on the model, as well as both an absolute and traditional scale bar. The absolute scale of the model is 1:5,000.




PROJECT EXECUTION:
To complete the project, a mixture of geographic information system (GIS) and modeling software were used. First, the 3D Massing shapefile was downloaded from the City of Toronto’s OpenData website, and the digital elevation model (DEM) for Toronto was retrieved from Natural Resources Canada. Using ArcMap, the 3D Massing shapefile, which includes information such as the name, location, height, elevation, and age of buildings in the city, was clipped to the study area. Next, buildings constructed prior to or during 2011 were selected and exported as a new layer file. The same was done for new developments, or the buildings constructed from 2012 to 2015, with both layers using a NAD83 UTM Zone 17N projection. Once these new layers were successfully created, they were imported into ArcScene.

In ArcScene, the digital elevation model for Toronto was opened and projected in NAD83. The raster layer was clipped to the extent of the 2011 building layer, and ensured to have the same spatial reference as the building layer. Next, the DEM layer properties were adjusted so base heights were obtained from the surface, and a vertical exaggeration was calculated from the extent of the DEM in the scene properties. Once complete, the “EleZ” variable data provided in the building layers’ shapefiles were used to calculate and display building heights. The new developments 3D file was then exported, as the 2011 buildings and DEM files were merged. Since the “EleZ” (building height) variable was used rather than “Z” (ground elevation) or “Elevation” (building height from mean sea level), the two layers successfully merged without buildings extending below the DEM layer. The merged file was then exported as a 3D file. Although many technical issues were encountered at this point in the project (i.e. the files failed to merge, ArcScene crashed unexpectedly repeatedly, exported file quality was low…), the challenges were overcome by viewing online tutorials of users who had encountered similar issues.

Once the two 3D files were successfully exported (the new developments building file and the 2011 building file merged with the DEM), they were converted to .STL file types and opened in AutoDesk Inventor. Here, the files were edited, cleaned, smoothed, and processed to ensure the model was complete and would be accepted in Cura (3D printing software).



At Ryerson University’s Digital Media Experience Lab, the models were printed using the TAZ three-dimensional printer (pictured below). Black filament was used for the 2011 buildings and DEM layer, and green was used for the new developments. These colours were selected from what was currently available at the lab because they provided the greatest level of contrast. In total, printing took approximately 7 hours to complete, with the base layer taking about 5.5 hours and the new developments requiring 1.5 hours. The video above reveals the printing process. No issues were encountered in the utilization of the 3D printer, as staff were on-hand to answer any questions and provide assistance. Regarding printing settings, the temperature of the bed was set at 60°C, and the print temperature was set to 210°C. A 0.4 mm nozzle was used with a 20% fill density. The filament density was 1.75 mm, and a brim was added for support to the platform during printing. Although the brim is typically removed at the completion of a print, the brim was intentionally kept on the model for aesthetic purposes and to serve as a border to the study area.


TAZ 3D Printer


Once printing was completed, the model was attached to a raised base and street names, a north arrow, legend, absolute scale and scale bar, and title were added. Magnets were then cut to fit the new development building pieces, and attached both to the base layer of the model and the new developments. As a final step in the process, the model’s durability and stability were tested by encouraging family and friends to interact with the model prior to its display at the Environics User Conference in Toronto, Ontario in November 2016.


West Don Lands Development: 2011 - 2015 Project



RECOMMENDED ENHANCEMENTS:
To improve the project, three enhancements are recommended. First, stronger magnets could be utilized both on the new development pieces and on the base layer of the model. In doing so, the model would become more durable, sturdy, and easier to lift up to examine at eye level – without the worry of buildings falling over due to low magnetic attractiveness resulting from the thicker cardboard base on which the model rests. In relation to this, stronger glue could be used to better bind the street names to the grid as well.

Additionally, the model may be improved if a solid base layer was used instead of a grid. Although the grid was intended to be experimental and remains an interesting feature which draws attention, it would likely be easier for a viewer to interpret the natural features of the area (including the hills and valleys) if the model base was solid.

The last enhancement entails using a greater variety of filaments in the model’s production to create a more visually impactful product with more distinguishable features. For instance, the base elevation layer could be printed in a different colour than the buildings constructed in 2011. Although this would complicate the printing and assembly of the model, the final product would be more eye-catching.



DATA SOURCES:
City of Toronto. (2016, May). 3D Massing. Buildings [Shapefile]. Toronto, Ontario. Accessed from <http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=d431d477f9a3a410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD>.

Natural Resources Canada. (1999). Canadian Digital Elevation Data (CDED). Digital Elevation Model [Shapefile]. Toronto, Ontario. Accessed from <http://maps.library.utoronto.ca/cgi-bin/datainventory.pl?idnum=20&display=full&title=Canadian+Digital+Elevation+Model+(DEM)+&edition=>.

 




CHRISTINA BOROWIEC
Geovisualization Project
Professor: Dr. Claus Rinner
SA 8905: Cartography and Geovisualization
Ryerson University
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
Date: November 29, 2016

3D Hexbin Map Displaying Places of Worship in Toronto

Produced by: Anne Christian
Geovis Course Assignment, SA8905, Fall 2015 (Rinner)

Toronto is often seen as the city of many cultures, and with different cultures often come different beliefs. I wanted to explore the places of worship in Toronto and determine what areas have the highest concentrations versus the lowest concentrations. As I explored the different ways to display this information in a way that is effective and also unique, I discovered the use of hexbin maps and 3D maps. While doing some exploratory analysis, I discovered that while hexbin maps have been created before and 3D maps have been printed before, I was unable to find someone who has printed a 3D hexbin prism map, so I decided to take on this endeavor.

Hexbin maps are a great alternative technique for working with large data sets, especially point data. Hexagonal binning uses a hexagon shape grid, and allows one to divide up space in a map into equal units and display the information (in this case the places of worship) that falls within each unit (in this case hexagon grids). The tools used to create this project include QGIS, ArcGIS, and ArcScene, although it could probably be completed entirely within QGIS and other open-source software.

Below are the specific steps I followed to create the 3D hexbin map:

  1. Obtained the places of worship point data (2006) from the City of Toronto’s Open Data Catalogue.
  2. Opened QGIS, and added the MMQGIS plugin.
  3. Inputted the places of worship point data into QGIS.
  4. Used the “Create Grid Lines Layer” tool (Figure 1) and selected the hexagon shape, which created a new shapefile layer of a hexagon grid.

    Figure 1: Create Grid Lines Layer Tool
  5. Used the “Points in Polygon” tool (Figure 2) which counts the points (in this case the places of worship) that fall within each hexagon grid. I chose the hexagon grid as the input polygon layer and the places of worship as the input point layer. The number of places of worship within each hexagon grid was counted and added as a field in the new shapefile.

    Figure 2: Points in Polygon Tool
  6. Inputted the created shapefile with the count field into ArcGIS.
  7. Obtained the census tract shapefile from the Statistics Canada website (https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/geo/bound-limit/bound-limit-2011-eng.cfm) and clipped out the city of Toronto.
  8. Used the clip tool to include only the hexagons that are within the Toronto boundary.
  9. Classified the data into 5 classes using the quantile classification method, and attributed one value for each class so that there are only 5 heights in the final model. For example, the first class had values 0-3 in it, and the value I attributed to this class was 1.5. I did this for all of the classes.
  10. The hexagons for the legend were created using the editor toolbar, whereby each of the 5 hexagons were digitized and given a height value that matched with the map prism height.
  11. Inputted the shapefile with the new classified field values into ArcScene, and extruded the classified values and divided the value by 280 because this height works well and can be printed in a timely manner.
  12. Both the legend and hexagonal map shapefile were converted into wrl format in Arcscene. The wrl file was opened in Windows 10 3D Builder and converted into STL format.
  13. This file was then brought to the Digital Media Experience (DME) lab at Ryerson, and the Printrbot Simple was used to print the model using the Cura program. The model was rescaled where appropriate. My map took approximately 3 hours to print, but the time can vary depending on the spatial detail of what is being printed. The legend took approximately 45 minutes. Below is a short video of how the Printrbot created my legend. A similar process was used to created the map.

The final map and legend (displayed in the image below) provide a helpful and creative way to display data. The taller prisms indicate areas with the most places of worship, and the shorter prisms indicate the areas in Toronto with the least places of worship. This hexagonal prism map allows for effective numerical comparisons between different parts of Toronto.

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