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3D printing is radically changing product design, manufacturing, and the supply chain.


City Planners Find Help with 3D Replicas of Cities

By Staff Writter

City Planners Find Help with 3D Replicas of Cities


3D printing opportunities have overlapped so much in different fields that it's almost becoming comprehensive in where 3D printing can be applied. Regardless, we haven't heard enough about how city planning can be applied to the technology. If you've ever wondered how 3D printing can apply to something so large scale, consider that printing a miniature replica of a complete city can generally provide better city planning than through a computer.

This is already happening with a recently created miniature replica of San Francisco printed on a 3D printer. However, there's a slight twist to this particular 3D replica of the famous city by the bay. It's one that could completely change the career field of city planning in making cities operate more efficiently.

Printing an Entire City Based on Photos and Predictions

The company behind this 3D-printed replica of San Francisco was Autodesk who actually took a model built by a design company called Steelblue. Basing it on real photos and speculative digital drawing, the twist on this design was that it represented San Francisco three years from now in 2017. While it shows basically what the city looks like today, it has a few additions based on projections of things currently under construction.

What makes this 3D replica of an entire city so mind-blowing is that it shows every conceivable detail as if a giant looking right down on the city. In the older days when dioramas were built of cities, many of the models of the buildings and landscape were based on estimations and guesses rather than taken directly from real photos. Thanks to 3D printers being able to print scans of real things, the accuracy is astonishing.

While the printed replica of San Francisco isn't in vivid color (it was printed all in pale-color resin), it's still a major advancement. Eventually, 3D printers will be able to print an entire city in color, and already can with a much higher price tag. What's available now, though, is going to change city planning for the better and help those in similar careers be able to plan more efficient development.

Updating the 3D Model

To show proof in how printing something from a 3D printer can bring long-term benefits, consider that the above San Francisco replica will be used for years to come in city planning. It's reportedly going to be updated with new structures so local city planners can keep up with the latest changes to help understand how new designs affect people. Beforehand, there was no conceivable way to study something as subtle as how sunlight patterns appear through the city landscape.

So far, it's the first time a major city has been printed on a 3D printer, even if we know it's going to be common within another year. How will your city be helped when an exact omniscient replica can be designed by your local city planners? With some cities much more complex than San Francisco (and ultimately larger), having a career in city planning is going to be more rewarding soon and bring more accurate results.

The only thing left is for all of us to be able to print a replica of the city we live in right through our own home 3D printer. That's also likely around the corner as personal 3D printing becomes faster and more elaborate. Only then will your future children be able to play in their rooms and pretend they're a god over the city they live in. But then, it's only one small part of the implications in how 3D printing will change how the world works and in how we view our world.