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Detailed 3D-Printed Model of SoMa Used for Future City Planning

With the constant construction breaking down and rebuilding almost every corner of downtown SF, you might wonder what our iconic city skyline will look like in 5 or 10 years. Thanks to local tech gurus Autodesk and Steelblue, a new, extremely detailed, 3D-printed, scale-model of San Francisco is now being used to mold the city's future. 

The 3D model covers about 115 blocks of downtown including iconic landmarks like AT&T Park, the Bay Bridge, and the Ferry Building. The amount of detail on the model is astounding: The print was done at a resolution of 16 microns, which made reproducing minute details not only possible, but beautiful — look close enough, and you can pick out individual seats at AT&T Park. 

Built at Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop using two Objet Connex 500 printers, it took just over two months to make the model – including the time required to build prototypes, and cost under $20,000 in materials. 

The mock city isn't just for show however, the model represents SF's most rapidly changing neighborhood and was designed for real estate developer Tishman Speyer to help the company with urban planning and construction decisions. Each block of the map can be picked up and replaced within hours to help developers see exactly what new construction will look like in the context of the neighborhood. In fact, a section of the map already shows SoMa not as it is now, but as it’ll look in 2017 when a number of major construction projects are finalized. Images and graphics like traffic patterns, new subway lines, and even sunlight movement can also be projected onto the model by way of an overhead projector. 

Right now, there’s only one copy of the map, and it’ll be in possession of the real estate developer whom it was built for — but Autodesk plans to print another and have it available for viewing at its gallery. Steelblue and Autodesk also have plans to print other cities — and possibly expand on the San Francisco map, as well. 

See mini SF come to life in the video below: 

3D printed model of San Francisco - making of from steelblue on Vimeo