3D Printing for the Classroom

A couple of months ago I was looking for a vector outline of my home state of Illinois that I could turn into a 3D print using Google Sketchup. I was lucky enough to find a United States map in DWG with a little Google-fu. I pulled out Illinois but then while I was working on it I started thinking about other uses for the map. First things first, I’ll need the states in a printable form.

I went through the USA map and broke it down to individual states in Sketchup. So now the only question was, what do I do with an extrudable and scaleable map of all 50 states?

I knew I wanted to print the shapes at different levels to make some kind of interesting looking map. Rather than extruding each state an arbritrary ammount I decided to extrude the states based on the number of electoral votes each state holds in the presidential election. It gave my map both some much needed depth and variety and turned it into an education tool. Printed out it looks great (if I do say so myself) and I’m thinking about mounting it on a nice old map and hanging it in a shadow box on my wall.

My other thought for the map that might have some educational significance would be printing the states with the height of the state representing the order in which the state joined the nation. I had somewhat forgotten about this map and had only printed about half of it in the past month or so until I saw these great map puzzles that were posted on Thingiverse for Africa and Central America. You could easily do the same with the USA map.

In the gallery below you can see the completed electoral vote map. I’ve also included a couple photos showing how it was split up into separate print beds. My Makerbot did a pretty spectacular job on the more intricate parts of the map and the states fit together almost perfectly.


I’ve uploaded this map to Thingiverse for public consumption. I’d love to see something like this printed for use in a classroom. Makerbotted 3D maps, how cool would that be?! Each state can be pulled out individually and scaled as well. I’ve also uploaded the 11 “print beds” worth of prints I used to print my “electoral votes by state” map.


[thingiverse thing=11178]