Sunday 22 September 2019

How to Make a 3D model of your Home Town - Episode 240

I don't know about you but sometimes I start making one thing and end up making something completely different. Maybe I have a short attention span or I'm attracted to bright shiny objects, but whatever it is it makes life interesting. I started out wanting to make a model of New Zealand but ended up making a model of my home town instead. To be honest I think in this case it turned out to be a much better project than the NZ model would have been as I have now learnt things about my home town that I didn't know before. It makes me want to make more models of places just to see what I can learn about them.

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The Secret Sauce
The key to this project is the website
This will let you create a model of your home with up to 60km square. It will give you a series of Height maps that you can use to make your model. I looked at the range of maps it gave me and the ASTER 30m maps seemed to be the most up to date with good detail. You can look at each and make your pick of which you think is best. I really didn't see any improvement bu using a smaller area so I would personally get the 60km map and cut it down manually by using the vector boundary method I show in the video.

Machining Strategy
When it comes to the final cut 10% step over in MDF is plenty given that MDF is not known for it's quality detail capture. The problem comes when you need to decide the depth of cut for the roughing pass. It's all about compromise. If you go overboard with the depth of cut it can take two or three times the amount of time to do the rough cut as it does to do the final cut. As far as the final cut goes I mention an issue with the way small layers of MDF can fall off but having cut the model with both a 2mm and 4mm depth of cut I'm not really see a quality difference in the final part. I think hat so long as the finishing cutter can handle the remaining material on the board the deeper the depth of cut the better within reason. I wonder if a taper cutter would be able to machine the entire project without a roughing cut.If you have any experience why not leave a comment here or on the video.

Lessons learnt
What I learnt from this project wasn't about machining or 3D model making but about my home town. I've lived here for over 50 years and never realized what it looked like. I've visited the places and seen it from the air or from hill tops but I haven't understood what it really looked like until I made this model. I look forward to making more in the future including my New Zealand model.
I had a look at what I thought would make interesting 3D models like The grand canyon and the Victoria falls but they just don't compare to my own backyard when seen in 3D. I would never have guessed. Many visitors come to the West Coast of the South Island and tell us how beautiful it is here but because I see it everyday I no longer see it. Maybe it's time to wake up and have another look.

Until next time Thanks for watching and if you make a model of your home town I would be interested to see it.



  1. This is in line with a project on my to do list. I don't have aspire but I have V-carve pro. The modeling option is not available. Can you tell me the type of file that is created when you import your image and Aspire changes it to 3-d? I wonder if there is a service I can purchase this file type from?

  2. Also Peter, nice work! I enjoyed the video, the description of the process and output. I love that you chose your hometown. Will you leave it MDF color or paint it?? I tried the link to the map site and could not download any maps. I will try again as the site says it could be them. Thanks for the cool work!

    1. Thanks Jacquelyn, not much of an artist but since I have 2 of them I will probably do a test paint.