Within the sphere of 3D printing there are a plethora of examples of how to print topographic maps. Much of this interest comes from the reproduction of topographies from popular video games or modeling significant landscape features such as mountains or canyons. The standard format has been to display these models using arbitrary or aesthetically pleasing boundaries, often a square or a circle (or even puzzle pieces)
One of the primary motivators for my acquisition of a 3D printer was the ability to reproduce landscapes with the natural watershed boundaries that already exist. This turned out to be a much more daunting task than I had initially anticipated, however I think the results were well worth it! Now that I have started to refine my techniques, I hope to be able to reproduce interesting watershed topographies for all of Peterborough and beyond!
The Mississippi River model as seen from the air (US Army Corps of Engineers, 2006)
Watershed models have a long history in the management of water resources. The US Army Corps of Engineers produced a gigantic scale model of the Mississippi basin to assist in flood prediction and management long before computers were able to complete the task. Even today, physical models are able to produce results that computers are unable reliably recreate. Perhaps with the refinement of 3D printing technologies we will once again see the models that assisted our resource planning in the past reemerge as a common element of our watershed planning future.