TouchTerrain is a simple-to-use web application that makes creating 3D printable terrain models from anywhere on the globe accessible to a wide range of users, from people with no GIS expertise to power users. For coders, a Python-based standalone version is available from the open-source project’s GitHub repository. Analyzing 18 months of web analytics gave us a preliminary look at who is using the TouchTerrain web application and what their models are used for; and to map out what terrains on the globe they chose to 3D print. From July 2019 to January 2021, more than 20,000 terrain models were downloaded. Models were created for many different use cases, including education, research, outdoor activities and crafting mementos. Most models were realized with 3D printers, but a sizable minority used CNC machines. Our own experiences with using 3D printed terrain in a university setting have been very positive so far. Anecdotal evidence points to the strong potential for 3D printed terrain models to provide significant help with specific map-related tasks. For the introductory geology laboratory, 3D printed models were used as a form of “training wheels” to aid beginning students in learning to read contour maps, which are still an important tool for geology.
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