Introduction: 3D Printed Walking Route

This instructable shows you how to make a permanent 3D representation of a walking, running or other route you have taken using freely downloaded software and a 3D printer.

Step 1: Software and Hardware You Will Need:

I have used the following software applications on a standard home PC and an Android phone. All were downloaded for free from the original software developers:

  1. Runtastic - a runner's tracking app for Android phones
  2. SketchUp Make - 3D CAD drawing software for PC
  3. FlashPrint - 3D printer slicing software by FlashForge

The hardware I used was:

  1. Standard Android smartphone with GPS
  2. Windows-based PC
  3. FlashForge Creator Pro 3D printer - if you don't have access to a 3D printer, the final printing can be undertaken for you by a commercial 3D printer such as through 3D Hubs.

Step 2: Tracking Your Walk

If you haven't used Runtastic before you'll need to create an online account first. You'll then be able to access this from both your phone and from your PC. Use Runtastic to track your walking route for you on your phone. Enable your phone's GPS capability and set the Runtastic app to track your route as you walk. Remember to 'finish' the walk at the end to save it to your profile.

Step 3: Tracing Your Route

When you get home, log in to your Runtastic account on your PC and look at the route you recorded. The app will give you an image of the route as a map, and data relating to the elevation as a chart. Screen capture (Ctrl + PrtSc) these to create .jpg images (I use something like MS PowerPoint to create a .jpg file from the screen capture). You can now print out the elevation chart for later and we'll use the map image in the next step.

Step 4: Creating a 2D Map in SketchUp Make

Open SketchUp Make and use a template based in mm to start a new project. If you've never used SketchUp Make before, they have loads of online tutorials to help get you started. From this point on, I'm going to assume you have some basic knowledge - as that's all I have anyway!

  1. First draw a square about 100 mm x 100 mm, just to give you a reference for scale
  2. Import the .jpg image of your route, place it and scale it over the square
  3. Using the freehand sketch tool, trace a shape over the route
  4. Tidy up the shape using the line tool to make it better fit the route map
  5. Now use the offset tool to create an inner line about 1.5 mm inside the shape - this will form the basis of the wall of the vase

Step 5: Creating a 3D Shape From the Map

6. Now select the inner shape and use the push/pull tool to pull it 1.5 mm upwards. This will form the base.

7. Then, in the same way, pull up the edge shape to form the walls. Pull them up to the maximum height you want, say 100 mm.

8. Next, draw some small lines a few mm apart across the top of the wall all the way around. This will allow you to then push these small sections downwards to create the elevation profile in the next step

Step 6: Generating the Elevation Profile

To generate the elevation profile you'll need to refer to the elevation data chart. If you want to create a true representation of the elevation changes with distance travelled you'll need to rescale the chart so that the vertical and horizontal axes are at the same scale. Then you can read off height changes against the distance around the object e.g. 10 metres distance around the route would be represented by 1 mm around the shape; and 10 metres height gain/loss might be represented by a 1 mm change upwards/downwards. I like the heights in my vase to be more dramatic so I have approximated the elevations to create an artistic impression.

9. You can now use the push/pull tool to drop the small sections of the wall by varying amounts all the way around the top edge of the wall.

10. Then use the move tool to smooth the top edge into a more organic shape

Step 7: Finishing the Drawn Object

At this point you can delete the map image and the original square and finish the base.

Select the shape of the base, copy it and paste it into place underneath to give a lower and an upper surface to the base.

Your 3D drawing is now complete. Save this file as a SketchUp Model .skp file.

If you haven't got the 'export to stl' plugin for SketchUp Make, download one from the SketchUp plugin store, and install it.

Then from the file menu, export the drawing as an .stl file. This will generate a 3D model from the drawing.

Step 8: Preparing the Model for 3D Printing

At this point you can either send your .stl file to a 3D printing service and choose the size, material, colour, etc. or if you have the facility you can print it yourself. I am using a FlashForge Creator Pro 3D printer and white PLA filament. To do this I open the .stl file in the FlashPrint slicing software to generate an .x3g file that the printer will read.

Open FlashPrint, click 'load' and select your .stl file. I let the software correct any errors and then resize it to suit. I have selected a 130 mm height maximum.

Choose the printer extruder to use and then go to 'print'. There's no need for a raft or brim and, for PLA printing, the default temperature settings of 200 degrees for the extruder and 50 degrees for the plate are fine.

When ready save the .x3g file onto an SD card and load it into your printer.

Step 9: Finish!

Depending on your printer and settings, printing could take several hours to complete; but the end result is worth waiting for. You'll have a record of your walk to evoke memories of it and a functional pot, vase, etc. to decorate your home.

I have also paid to have this particular walk made through 3DHubs using SLA printing with liquid resin. The result is beautiful and can be sanded and polished for a different finish.

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