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3D Printed Terrain – 9 Best Sites to Look for Them

Picture of SC Gusto
by SC Gusto
Mar 30, 2019
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Will Rogers once said, “Buy Land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.” We prove him wrong. Check out 9 sites where you CAN make more, through 3D printed terrain.

Sites for 3D Printed Terrain The Whole World at Your Fingertips

The whole world, in a hand.
The whole world, in a hand. Source: Pixabay

Whether it’s a set scene from your favorite fantasy or role-playing game, a novel or a real-world location like the Grand Canyon, 3D printable terrain models open up new opportunities to explore, create and build.

You can use terrains for board games, keepsakes, art, teaching, or plain ol’ curiosity. The possibilities are as broad as your imagination, or table width.

There are free options, there are paid options. There are options to 3D print yourself, there are options to have someone else 3D print for you. The limitations come down to the size and quality of your 3D printer and the amount you want to spend.

Let’s go exploring!

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain TouchTerrain

3D printed geographical terrain model of the Czech Republic.
3D printed geographical terrain model of the Czech Republic. Source: PrusaPrinters

Belonging to Iowa State University’s geology department, this site allows you to effortlessly create real-world 3D printed terrain models of the Earth using public elevation data.

The name is derived from an open-source app developed by two Iowa State Geologists who wanted a way to create a 3D topographic model that was far cheaper than using other manufacturing techniques. Any location with recorded public elevation data can be modeled and 3D printed using Python coding language and Google Earth’s application programming interface (API).

Working knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is required in order to create the downloadable files for 3D printing.

Site: TouchTerrain

Category: Real-World

Cost: Free to use to create files only

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain Terrain2STL and Moon2STL

3D printed terrain model using Terrain 2STL.
3D printed terrain model using Terrain 2STL. Source: Deskgram

This site allows the user to create STL models of any surface of the Earth and the Moon! Useful for educators, geoscientists, students, businesses, and government stakeholders, this site enables you to download any location of the Earth in physical 3D form. Thatcher Chamberlin, the inventor of Terrain 2STL, was only 17 when he created it as an open source project!

Site: Jthatch

Categories: Real-World, Moon

Cost: Free to use to create files only

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain 3Drucken.ch

3D printed terrain of the Canton of Bern before painting.
3D printed terrain of the Canton of Bern before painting. Source: 3Drucken

This Swiss site offers close to 30 free files for downloading on Thingiverse, depicting various 3D terrain locations of the Earth. Useful how-to guides enable novices and experts alike to create files of any relief maps that contain elevation data.

The only downside is that creating these STL files requires several different software programs (most are free and open source) to create your terrain model. You’ll first need Viewfinder Panoramas to get the elevation data. Then use Qgis to create a composite image of the data. Next, GADM or DIVA-GIS is needed to acquire the contour shapefiles. To create the USGS digital elevation, you can use the Windows-only program 3DEM. Afterward, AccuTrans3D, a commercial Windows-only software, is needed to convert the contour files to STL format. Finally, you will need slicing software to open your STL file and prepare it for 3D printing.

Site: 3Drucken

Category: Real-World

Cost: Free 3D printed terrain files for download on Thingiverse

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain Terrainator

3D printed miniature of Mount Rainier in Seattle.
3D printed miniature of Mount Rainier in Seattle. Source: Shapeways

This free membership site offers 3D terrain modeling and printing services for those wanting a specific physical 3D scale model of any location of the Earth, the Moon, and even of the planet Mars.

Using Google Maps, the user zooms in to the desired location. They then have to choose whether to pay to download the STL file or to purchase the 3D printed terrain model on Shapeways. Currently, there are over 1,100 models for purchase, including locations such as Yosemite, Mont Blanc, and Mount Rainier. If you don’t have a large enough printer to 3D print the desired terrain yourself, or if the quality of your 3D printer isn’t high enough for the level of detail you want, then ordering from Shapeways would be an ideal choice.

Site: Terrainator

Categories: Real-World, Moon, Mars

Costs: Downloading an STL file is approximately $6. Models for purchase on Shapeways range from $15 all the way to over $1,200.

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain Terrain4Print

Modular Gaming Hills that have been 3D printed.
Modular Gaming Hills that have been 3D printed. Source: Terrain4Print / Thingiverse

Terrain4Print is a designer on Thingiverse specializing in 3D printed terrain for wargaming and role-playing genres. Terrain features include castle ruins, modular hills, and hobbit dwellings. The total number of terrain models offered is around 60.

Site: Thingiverse

Categories: Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Costs: Free files to download on Thingiverse; Terrain4Print offers different and unique files for purchase on other sites, with prices ranging from $9 to $16.

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain Asset Scan 3D

Realistic 3D printed model of a volcanic desert.
Realistic 3D printed model of a volcanic desert. Source: Turbosquid

A prolific designer with over 2,000 designs on Turbosquid, Asset Scan 3D offers a wide range of 3D printed terrain models in different categories. This designer sells files of terrain models of actual Earth locations such as Monument Valley, Arizona in the United States, as well as files for urban terrain models including different sections of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In addition, the designer offers generic locations such as forest scenery to Sci-Fi and Fantasy 3D printed terrain features from the Star Wars movies.

Site: Turbosquid

Categories: Real-World, Urban, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Cost: File prices range from $25 to over $1,500.

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain Printable Scenery

Chasm Bridge that has been 3D printed and painted.
Chasm Bridge that has been 3D printed and painted. Source: Printablescenery

Printable Scenery designs 3D printed terrain models for tabletop games in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy RPG and Historical categories. From Elven forests and medieval roads to an alien village, this company offers a wide selection of STL files for purchase with over 50 different types of unique terrain models. For those who don’t have a 3D printer, the company partners with affiliates who will print and ship desired models.

Site: Printable Scenery

Categories: Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Cost: Prices for STL files range from $4 to $16.

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain Fat Dragon Games

3D printed stream terrain sections.
3D printed stream terrain sections. Source: FatDragonGames

Fat Dragon Games designs miniature 3D printed terrain models for use in their tabletop games, but they can be used in other games, as well. The majority of their models are catered towards the Sci-Fi and fantasy role-playing genres with well over 100 unique terrain models to choose from. Files available for purchase include creating your own dungeon labyrinth to whole forests complete with streams and mountainous features. The company provides a YouTube Channel designed to help beginners in 3D printing make their own miniatures and terrain using inexpensive 3D printers.

Site: Fat Dragon Games

Categories: Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Cost: STL files for purchase average around $8 to $30.

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain Etsy

Wasatch Mountain Range on Etsy.com.
Wasatch Mountain Range on Etsy.com. Source: Etsy

Etsy is a well-known e-commerce site tailored toward handmade items from individuals. It also includes manufactured items like 3D printed terrain models. They have a huge offering of over 1,400 real-world, urban, Sci-Fi, fantasy, and RPG terrain models from thousands of designers. Buyers will receive actual physical models, no downloadable files are available at the time this article was written.

Site: Etsy

Categories: Real-World, Urban, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Cost: Prices for physical 3D printed terrain models start at $25 and can go up to $300.

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Sites for 3D Printed Terrain Conclusion

3D model of the Seine and the Eiffel tower in Paris, France.
3D model of the Seine and the Eiffel tower in Paris, France. Source: VertexModeling

3D printed terrain models are one of the ways low-cost 3D printing is changing the way we educate, entertain, and view not just our world, but other worlds, as well.

How about giving that urban planner a unique birthday gift like the Champs De Mars complete with the Eiffel Tower? Or your favorite nephew who’s into J.R.R. Tolkien and would love to receive a miniature terrain model of Gondor with the city of Minas Tirith?

With inexpensive 3D printers becoming more and more mainstream, coupled with hard-working designers and software enthusiasts, providing these types of terrain models are now becoming a reality for everyone who has an interest. Do you have a good source for 3D printed terrain files or models? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature image source: Etsy

License: The text of "3D Printed Terrain – 9 Best Sites to Look for Them" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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