Introduction: Customizable Topographic 3D Printed Drink Coaster

About: Background in biomedical engineering and enjoy all things electronics, coding, 3D printing, woodworking, and crafting!

Here is a simple and inexpensive way to create your own unique topographical drink coaster! I've always loved the look of topographical maps and wanted to incorporate that into a fun and functional 3D printed project. I chose the topography of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Nevada for this project as it had sentimental value to me. However, it would be very simple to create your own coaster using any geographical location of your choice. With the way this lake is shaped, there was room to add the lettering "Lake Mead" onto the face of the coaster which turned out well.

Because the goal was to create a coaster, utilizing a geographical location with a flat surface and varying depths was critical for this project. As such, most water sources like rivers, lakes, bays, and oceans would be ideal for this project. The best part about this Coaster however is that it can be completely customized to your desire!

Finally, I have included my own STL file if you would like to make the same coaster as me!


- Autodesk Fusion 360

- 3D Printer (My printer: Maker Select Printer V2)

- 3D Printing Software (My software: Cura)

- PLA Filament

- Envirotex Lite Pour-On High Gloss Finish

- Food Coloring

- Cork tile (optional: to place on bottom of coaster to prevent sliding)

Step 1: Creating the Coaster in Autodesk Fusion 360

1) Decide on the topography that you would like to use for your coaster and use google to search for it. For example, I google searched "Lake Mead Topography" and found a number of potential images that would work.

2) Save the image to your computer. The image that I found was from that had a fairly simple topography of Lake Mead and that would be easy to trace over in Fusion 360.

3) Open Fusion 360 --> create a sketch --> select a plane --> and create a 2 point rectangle. This is where you will decide on the approximate size of your coaster. I ended up making a 10cm x 10cm coaster.

4) Select Insert --> attached canvas --> select the face of the rectangle that you just created --> browse for the topography image file that you saved in Step 2 --> Ensure that the opacity setting is set to ~50-75 --> select OK. Your image should be placed in your rectangle

5) Extrude the rectangle to your desired coaster thickness. Take into account that you will be adding depth to your topographical image and that will require several extrusions below the top face of the coaster. I went with a total coaster thickness of 15mm.

6) Select Sketch --> Spline --> Fit Point Spline --> Select the face of your coaster --> Start by tracing the outline of your geography. This is the most tedious and time consuming part of the project. You will want to zoom into your sketch and use the fit point spline feature to try and create a smooth outline of your geography. Realize that tracing over the most minute details of your image is not important or necessary as such detail may not show through on the final print. Just do your best in tracing over the key features of the geography.

7) Complete the outline of your geography --> using the extrude tool, cut the selected body down by 2-4mm. This step finalizes the outline of your geography and also completes the first depth.

8) Use the fit point spline tool to trace over the deeper topographical sections of your map and continue to cut down those sections by 2-4 mm until you have additional depths. Repeat this process as desired until you have several depths of your topographical image. Following the final extrusion, your coaster should almost be complete.

9) The following steps are optional:
- Add fillet's to your coaster to round out the squared edges:
Modify --> Fillet --> Select the 4 corner edges --> select the desired radius. I selected a 3mm radius for my edges. Adding the smoothed edges makes the coaster a bit more appealing in my opinion
- Add text to your coaster: Sketch --> Text --> Select the coaster face --> specify text position --> enter whatever text you desire --> Use the extrude feature to cut the text into your coaster. I chose a cut depth of ~3-5mm. This is how I added "Lake Mead" to my coaster.

Step 2: Create Gcode File and 3D Print Your Coaster

1) Save your file in Autodesk Fusion 360 --> select Make --> 3D Print --> select your coaster --> "Print Utility" is Cura. Your coaster should automatically be sent to the Cura software.

2) In the Cura software, rotate your print so that the bottom of the coaster is on the build plate. This worked best for me when printing my coaster and ensured that the face of the coaster had a nice smooth printed finish.

3) The settings I used for the Print Setup are listed below. For my coaster, I chose to use White PLA. Note: some of these parameters may vary depending on what works best for your printer and the filament that you use.
Layer Height: 0.3mm
Wall Thickness: 0.8mm
Top/Bottom Thickness: 0.8mm
Infill Density: 20%
Printing Temperature: 215 C
Build Plate Temperature: 65 C
Diameter: 1.75mm
Print Speed: 60mm/s
Travel Speed: 120mm/s
Supports Enabled: No
Build Plate Adhesion Type: Brim
Brim Width: 3mm

4) Save the gcode --> send to your 3D printer --> begin the print!

5) After a few hours you should have your own customized topographical 3D printed drink coaster!

Step 3: Add Color and a Smooth Finish to Your Coaster

There are multiple options at this point. If you like the way the print looks as is, you can go directly to step 2 and add a single clear high gloss/polyurethane finish to your coaster. I wanted to bring out the lake and text by adding a blue and red hue to the polyurethane respectively before proceeding with the smooth high gloss finish. If you would like to do something similar with your project following along in sequential order.

1) Obtain Envirotex life high gloss finish and read instructions for application. I found a 5oz disposable plastic container laying around and used that to mix equal parts (~2oz each) of the Envirotex components. I then added a drop or two of blue food coloring into the mix until I found my desired shade of blue. I slowly poured the finish into the topographical lake section as the picture shows and tried my best to remove as many air bubbles as possible. I let the coaster sit for ~3-5 hours. I repeated the same procedure for the text with the exception of adding a few drops of red food coloring to the Envirotex mix instead of blue. I slowly dripped that mixture into each letter of the text and let the coaster sit for ~24 hours.

2) Add the smooth finish to the coaster. Obtain the Envirotex high gloss finish and read the application instructions (if not already familiar from step 1). I used a slightly larger disposable plastic container (~10oz) to mix equal parts (~4oz each) of the Envirotex components. Once thoroughly mixed, I gently poured the finish over the coaster until I had a desired smoothness over the entire surface. Note: It may be helpful to place a small block underneath your coaster to raise it from your workbench. When the finish hardens this will ensure that your coaster is not stuck to your workbench. I then tried my best to remove as many air bubbles as possible. I let the coaster sit for ~24 hours.

3) Your customizable topographic 3D printed drink coaster is complete! I hope you enjoyed making this project!