Accutrans3d: The Home Stretch

In case you came in late this tutorial starts here

In Accutrans3d click File>Open DEM As>USGS 1-degree ASCII (*.dem) This will import your data as a colored 3d map. Click Dem>Convert to 3d (less water) to convert your data to a 3d mesh.

The dialog gives you the option to thin your data which is very handy if you have a large file.  Experiment with changing the vertex interval and see how it changes your vertex count.  1-200,000 vertices makes a nice model.  Fewer and you won’t have all the detail you might like.  Too many more and it can really bog down your machine.  I can render meshes up to about 500000 vertices before AccuTrans gets into memory problems.  It is worth noting here that much of AccuTrans lacks an undo option which can be a hassle.  It isn’t too bad because you can always just reload the original file and start again.  Click OK and your mesh is made.

First lets go to Tools>Adjust Object.  This tool allows you to Scale your mesh so it will fit on your printer.  You canScale each axis independently so you can exaggerate the height if you feel it makes a more interesting model. I also like to apply the Center XY and Z  No Change button which centers the mesh on the origin but leaves the height unchanged.  This places your model in the center of the printer resting on the build platform.

Go to Tools>Extrude Pseudo 2d Surface.  This tool will allow you to solidify the mesh so it can be printed.  The min and max values for Z correspond pretty well to the min and max elevation in your model expressed in meters.  You can check this against the actual height of the mountain to confirm.  If you want your base to start at sea level (like a collectible mountain) then enter the Zmin value for Thickness, select Flat Bottom then Extrude. This tool is one of the few places in AccuTrans you can Undo something which is very convenient for trying out variations.  If you just want the mountain and don’t care about the roots then set Thickness to a minimum value so your lowest points won’t be impossibly thin.  This makes your model faster to print although you can’t compare it to other mountains as readily.  If you are planning to send your file to Shapeways then select Normal and enter a small number which meets the minimum thickness rule for the material you plan to print.  This way you get the shape of the mountain at minimum cost.  If you extrude a full sea level root on the model you will be astonished at how much it will cost to print.

When everything is wrapped up nicely and ready to go take one last swing by

Tools>Adjust Object on your way to the door. If you extruded a minimum base click Snap to Ground. Select Rotate about origin and click X 90 this will orient your model to print flat in the printer.  Some people prefer to print the model standing on its side reasoning that the vertical resolution of most printers is higher than their horizontal resolution so a sideways print will be smoother and more detailed.  I print lying flat in their real world orientation.  This has the effect that the visible layers which are a pain in most 3d prints actually form tiny contour lines which is really cool.

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