Ever wanted to 3D print a real life building? It's actually pretty easy and this tutorial will summarize a few good forums and instructional sites on how to do this. Here's the general workflow:
What you will need:
A computer to run Google Earth, Google Sketch-Up, and Replicator G. All are free downloads.
Makerbot or similar 3D printer. If you don't have one, fear not, you can always send your file to Shapeways, Ponoko, or use one at TechShop.
I-Selecting and Downloading a Model: using Google Earth to find the building you want to print.
II-.skp to .stl (Sketch-Up to Rep. G): bringing the model into Sketch-Up to make some changes and exporting it as .stl file
III-Getting the File Ready for the Printer: Bringing the .stl file into Replicator G and exporting G-Code to Makerbot
Step 1: Selecting and Downloading a Model
1) Download the latest Google Earth. It may be possible to do this through the browser version in Google Maps, but I'd rather use something more stable. Plus Earth is so cool, just so cool.
2) Enable 3D buildings.
3) Find A Building. Anything that highlights blue when mouse-over can be found in 3D Warehouse, which is the repository of user-made files associated with Sketch-Up. Click on a building and then the picture of the building to take you to the page in 3D Warehouse. Not all buildings used in Earth are downloadable. For this tutorial we chose Taipei 101.
4) Download the Model (.skp). Happens to be in this case, the Taipei 101 model used in Earth is not downloadable but a quick search of 3D Warehouse yielded some great models that are. You can tell which ones are or are not by the blue "download model" drop down. You can always use 3D Warehouse without first going through Earth, but that's no fun, usually. Other models in other formats can be found on Thingiverse (great for .stl files) and on Autodesk's 123D.
**note: some buildings simply won't make good 3d prints because of all the terrain used to make the model. Whatever is highlighted in blue on mouse-over will also make its way into the 3d model and may prove difficult or impossible to print.