Step 5: Create the 3D model in Blender

Picture of Create the 3D model in Blender
The data we just saved does not have any thickness yet, and so it cannot be 3D printed. It also does not yet have a graphic overlay that shows where you hiked. To do this, we can use Blender.

Blender is an open source software package for 3D modeling. You can download it for free at http://www.blender.org.

Note that there is a learning curve for this very powerful software! I will try to walk you through it, but you will probably want to have a reference book like "Blender for Dummies" (http://www.amazon.com/Blender-Dummies-Jason-van-Gumster/dp/0470584467) and you may need to spend a little time learning the the basics of this program in order to use it well.

After running Blender, select "File" -> "Import" -> "X3D Extensible 3D (.x3d/.wrl)" and then navigate to your .x3d file and select it.

Some useful Blender navigation commands:
  • Use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out.
  • Press and hold the middle mouse button while moving the mouse to rotate the image in 3D.
  • Left click to move the cursor cross-hatch.
  • Press ALT-Home to recenter the image wherever the cursor cross-hatch is.
  • SHIFT-c to center the image.
  • If the sub-window region that shows the image ever changes to another mode (if you accidentally hit the "Render" button on the right, for example), click in this sub-window and press SHIFT-F5.
On the left side, you will see a list of items such as camera, cube, and lamp. By clicking on the "eye" icon next to them, turn them all off except for your ShapeIndexedFaceSet. Also turn off the camera icon for those items.

Near the bottom of the screen, select "View" -> "View Persp./Orth"
Press SHIFT-c to center the image.
Select "View" -> "Top"

You should now see your map as a rectangle, probably with South at the top and North at the bottom. We will flip the graphic overlay later to match.

Save often!


We need to add a light source to the model. This will illuminate it later so that we can see the .JPG image that will be placed on the surface.

To do this, press SHIFT-A. This will bring up a menu on the screen. Left-click on Lamp, then Sun.

A sun icon will appear on the screen. Click and drag the red and green arrows to center it over the landscape. You will need to rotate the model a few times to see that it is centered. Then, click and drag the blue arrow to move it high above the surface.

On the far right sub-window, you will see the word "Sun."  Turn off the "eye" icon, as before. Leave the "camera" icon on.

We are now ready to prepare the color graphic that will be printed on the top. This will give the 3D printout the surface color of the terrain, and optionally, the path of your trek.