Jan 9, 2018 | By Benedict

Two Texas-based IT specialists have founded Metro Block, a company that aims to foster city pride using miniature 3D printed models of neighborhoods. At present, Metro Block is only operating in Dallas, but plans to expand to other cities.

Building scaled-down models of landscapes and cities is becoming a more common phenomenon, as printing enthusiasts seek to capture the essence of a place for educational, commercial, or entertainment purposes. Only a month ago, we saw how students at the University of Washington had put together a handy guide for 3D printing topographical maps using freely available online data.

But with so much interest in these 3D printed models, surely there is an opportunity to monetize the process for those looking to make a living out of additive manufacturing? That’s the thinking behind Metro Block, a new company formed by Gabe Villani, an information technology and systems junior at the University of Texas at Dallas, and Demont Campbell, who graduated from Texas Tech University in 2015 with a degree in architecture.

Since October, Villani and Campbell have been using architectural software and data from Google Maps to create miniature, 3D printable models of Dallas neighborhoods. The downloaded maps are cropped and configured to include the most interesting landmarks, before being 3D printed in PLA over the course of around 12 hours.

“Metro Blocks are miniature cityscapes designed to encapsulate the essence of the cities,” say Villani and Campbell. “All of our cityscapes are designed and 3D printed to ensure every detail of the city is captured to create the perfect showpiece for representing your city. These were designed to give you the ability to show a piece of the city that has impacted your life.”

According to the Metro Block founders, interest in the project has been greater than expected. After wandering around Dallas with one 3D printed cityscape, Villani recalls store owners approaching him to enquire about the miniature model, some even expressing interest in obtaining one of the cityscapes, which Metro Block sells for $50 apiece.

Villani and Campbell, who met at a photoshoot for one of Campbell’s other projects, handle different aspects of the business. Villani, for his part, is currently focused on developing a concept called Metro Block Adventures, which would involve creating the 3D printed models in order to highlight neighborhood attractions: good restaurants, good study areas, etc.

The project could accomplish more serious objectives too. The duo behind Metro Block say their platform could be used as a way to discuss the social issues of a city—not through the 3D printed models alone, but by running a blog which discusses city life in parallel to the 3D printing of certain geographical regions. A recent blog post written by Campbell discusses homelessness, for example.

At present, Villani and Campbell are running Metro Block in Dallas only, but the two plan to expand to Chicago and Houston if they receive positive feedback regarding their early efforts. Ultimately, Villani says, Metro Block is a way of allowing citizens to take pride in their city—by holding it up close and seeing it from a new perspective.

Metro Block’s founders are also confident that the company can serve as a gateway into the 3D printing industry, allowing the pair to attempt other 3D printing projects in the future.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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