Making tiny worlds: From DEM to STL

A 3d print of Yosemite National Park's Half Dome made from DEM data.

This is a technique I picked up from Gregor Luetolf (gluetolf on Thingiverse).  He details a very nice workflow for creating STL files from DEM data, but unfortunately (for some of us at least) Gregor, who lives in Switzerland, wrote in German.  Google translate helps somewhat, but I thought I would explain this technique for the English speaking world along with a few refinements of my own.

The basic workflow is as follows:

1Acquire the DEM data

2Use QGIS to assemble, crop and convert the data to a .tif file

3Use 3DEM to convert the .tif file to a .dem file

4Use AccuTrans3d to convert the .dem to a STL file

5You can then use AccuTrans3d to solidify the mesh to facilitate printing, or you can do that later in Blender (or a similar modeler)

There are other ways of doing this, but this workflow works well and produces amazingly detailed maps.  The great thing is that all of the software is free except for AccuTrans3d which is old-school honor system shareware with a $20 price tag.  You get a 30 day clean conscience trial.  The free trial never ends, but your clean conscience should.  I bought it as soon as I saw everything it does.

This entry was posted in DEM --->STL. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Making tiny worlds: From DEM to STL

  1. Pingback: DEM data: The world isn’t all black and white. | All's Well That Prints Well

  2. Pingback: QGIS: The open source GIS Swiss Army knife | All's Well That Prints Well

  3. Pingback: 3dem: Are We There Yet? | All's Well That Prints Well

  4. Pingback: Accutrans3d: The Home Stretch | All's Well That Prints Well

  5. shapespeare says:

    The best source for DEM data outside the US is It covers the whole earth. If you go to you can get data from the Moon, Mars and several other planets and moons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>