Mar 3, 2016 | By Kira

Nicetrails is a 3D visualization and 3D printing service that allows hikers, mountaineers, cyclists or even skiers and snowboarders to visualize their favorite or most adventurous treks as customizable 3D maps, and then have them 3D printed into full-color sandstone keepsakes.

The idea behind Nicetrails (and its sister company Winterland) came to Oscar Ardaiz, a Barcelona-based Computer Science PhD candidate, after he had successfully conquered Washington’s Mount Rainier. “I was re-visiting the trail with my phone and while I was so proud and happy of the hike, I felt that line on a flat map didn’t quite represent the awesomeness of the day,” he said. Fellow mountaineers, hikers, cyclists or other adventurers will know the feeling: whether trying to describe the trek to others, or simply remembering it for oneself, a 2D map does little to relate the majesty of the mountains or the beauty of the terrain.

And so, Ardaiz set out, using open source map data and CAD modeling software, to build a digital mountain and 3D print it. The result was a tangible, 3D printed trophy of his achievement that he could proudly display and share with others. Via Nicetrails, Ardaiz and 3D designer Bernat Cuní are now offering this 3D trail creation and visualization as a free service, with the option for users to purchase a full-color 3D printed keepsake as well.

The process is relatively simple: upload the GPS .gpx files, which can easily be recovered from a GPS tracker, smartphone, or trail-sharing site; customize the elevation and choose a map style (Nicetrails’ satellite view is ideal for treks with greenery, whereas Winterland was designed specifically for snow-covered ski and snowboard trails); and visualize your 3D map. Nicetrails will automatically generate a unique link so you can view the 3D map at home and share it with your friends. The 3D map accurately represents the elevation and terrain, with a red line tracing your actual path.

For those who want a physical object to commemorate the trek, the next step is to order a 3D print. The tactile maps are 3D printed in full-color sandstone (meaning the color is embedded directly during the printing process rather than being painted on afterwards). The 3D prints are hollow, with wall thicknesses of about 3mm, and Nicetrails currently offers three sizes: small (50mm lengthwise for US$53), medium (100 mm for US$110), and large (150mm for US$160).

Whether as a gift or as a personal keepsake, these full-color 3D printed 'desktop mountains' are a great way to commemorate a particular trail, whether it was cross-country cycling tour, a five-day climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, or your daily jog. For another creative and meaningful use of 3D printed tactile maps, check out these initiatives to help the blind and visually impaired.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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