Raised-Relief / Topography 3D Map Models

Raised-Relief / Topography 3D Map Models

We build Custom 3D Raised-Relief and Topographical Maps

We build Custom 3D Raised-Relief and Topographical Maps

Table of Contents

Raised Relief Topography 3D Maps

Topography models and maps are some of the most versatile and useful tools available to many industries today.  With a wide variety of applications across multiple industries, our raised relief and topographical maps have become essential for national parks and recreation services, government entities, businesses, and individual consumers alike.  Whether you’re planning a new development project, studying natural resources, or simply exploring the great outdoors, our high-quality maps and models provide the level of detail and accuracy you need.

Our expertise in top-of-the-line technologies and professional cartography resources allows us to create stunning raised relief terrain maps and models that are unparalleled in their quality and detail.  From the heights of the Himalayas to the depths of the Grand Canyon, our maps and models allow you to explore the natural wonders of our planet in stunning detail.  Whether you’re a scientist, an adventurer, or just a curious explorer, our maps and models offer a thrilling and exciting way to discover the world around you.

At the forefront of our expertise is our 3D printing technology, which enables us to provide durable, portable, and affordable models to a broader range of markets than ever before.  Our 3D models are crafted with the utmost attention to detail, ensuring that every contour and feature of the land is accurately represented.  Our models are perfect for everything from educational purposes to research organizations, and they are on display at museums, national parks, university campuses, sports facilities, hospitals, and research organizations worldwide.

Gallery of Selected 3D Raised Relief Topography Map Projects

The possibilities of using topography models and maps are endless, with applications in a wide range of locations and industries. From displaying ski runs and marathon routes to planning residential and commercial developments, our topographical maps and models are essential tools for exploring and understanding the world around us. We can even map underwater terrain and subsurface earth features, providing us with valuable insights into the natural processes that shape our planet.

One of our most recent topography projects was a massive undertaking – mapping the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding area. With over 1.2 million acres to cover, we created a stunning topography map measuring 91 inches by 56 inches, showcasing the incredible beauty and natural wonder of this iconic location.

But we don’t just offer standard topography maps and models. We also provide customized additions to make your display truly unique and stunning. Our in-house carpentry shop can build elegant bases, tables, or cabinetry to display any topography you choose. Worried about dust? We can customize a protective case to keep your display in pristine condition. Our skilled artisans can even hand-paint details to make your topography a true work of art.

At our facility, we have a sizeable model-making shop that can create custom support elements for any model we produce. We are a full-service 3D model-making company, and our expertise and dedication to quality ensure that every model we produce is of the highest caliber.

So whether you’re planning an adventure, designing a development project, or simply exploring the natural beauty of our world, our topography maps and models are essential tools that offer a thrilling and exciting way to explore and understand our planet. With our expertise and dedication to quality, we can help you unlock the secrets of our world and discover its hidden treasures.

Features & Benefits of 3D Raised Relief Maps

  • Remarkably Strong:  You can drive a 1-ton truck over our topography models.
  • Precision:  We print our physical maps to scale as accurately as are the original files and images.
  • Excitement:  It is much easier to get excited about 3D views of your topography than flat printed maps.
  • Stain and Water Resistance:  Spills are easy to wipe up.
  • Communication:  Satellite maps are simple to understand with a quick glance.
  • Affordability:  Our 3D technologies allow you to order custom 3D maps for a reasonable price.
  • Testability:  3D technologies are affordable enough to test designs, such as several versions of planned work.
  • Consistency:  Using modern print and casting technologies, you can easily recreate identical 3D maps.
  • Portability:  We use lighter materials than what was available in the past, making our topography models easy to transport.

WhiteClouds 3D Raised Relief Map Capabilities

Lighting and Controls

From simple illumination to complex LED programming controlled via remote, console or kiosk, we have your lighting needs covered for 3D Maps and Dioramas. Lighting features may include:

  • Sub-terrain or Under lighting
  • Whole or partial illumination
  • Architectural lighting
  • Traffic or street lights
  • Projection mapping
BYU Campus Diorama with LED Lights
This 10 foot by 12 foot diorama for Brigham Young University featured building lights controlled by multiple iPads so guests could easily find one of the 88 buildings on campus.
Provo, Utah LED animated 3D water flow map
This is a display to show school kids where water flows from different sources. The under-vinyl lighting is animated to show water flows.
cisco-future-architectural-model-lighted
This sophisticated futuristic architectural diorama was created for Cisco, complete with LED lights highlighting areas such as a manufacturing plant, urban core, utilities and associated services, mass transit and a mine. It measures 50’’ x 29’’.
These are a few examples from a series of dozens of illuminated maps for Zions Bank used as office wall decor.
Dell Energy Diorama with programmable LEDs
This Dell Energy Solutions diorama features LED programmable lights beneath the roads, vividly illustrating electricity flow through the substation, information and control system transmission, and multiple fault/control scenarios to showcase various applications of the solution.
LED-controls
An example of simple button panel for controlling the LED lighting options

Quality

Our expertise in top-of-the-line technologies and professional cartography resources allows us to create stunning raised relief terrain maps and models that are unparalleled in their quality and detail. 

3D printing technology enables us to provide durable, portable, and affordable models to a broader range of markets than ever before.

Through the application of multiple layers of rigid polymer coating, a proprietary process exclusive to WhiteClouds, you could drive a 1-ton truck over these raised-relief maps. Printed with archival inks to prevent fading, and sealed with an automotive-grade scratch, spill and UV-resistant matte coating, these maps are far more durable than others on the market. 

Depending on the end-use requirements and quantities, we may use several different fabrication methods and materials including,

  • 3D-printing
  • CNC
  • Thermoforming
  • Molding/Casting
  • Resin
  • HD Foam
Alaska Physical Map
3D printing elevation details combined with high-resolution graphic printing allows us to showcase super fine details over perfectly accurate topography.
Closeup of Topographical raised relief map
Closeup of Topographical raised relief map

Cabinetry, Bases, and Covers

We have a full Wood and Metal Shop where we create custom bases, enclosures, stands or accents for your models. Ranging from a simple wood base or frame for our topography models to huge cabinetry displays or stands with built-in electronics and lighting. We can help you present your project in the best possible way. We are an all-in-one solution!

  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Tempered Glass
  • Acrylic
  • Plastic
  • Wall mounts such as French Cleats
Malibu Creek State Park California Visitor's Center 3D Topography Map
We have made dozens of ADA-compliant bases like this one with custom signs or legends built into the base.
Monterey 3D-printed topography map model with custom pedestal base
This metal base was custom-made with a drain for water during watershed demonstrations.
Custom Diorama Wood Display Case Base
This beautiful custom-made wood and glass cabinet displaying the campus diorama also serves as storage and houses the electronic controls.
BYU Aspen Grove Family Camp & Conference Center in Provo canyon 3D Model
Acrylic covers can be made to enclose the map or diorama for a professional aesthetic and extra protection.

Size

There is no project too large for WhiteClouds. We have created 3D maps the length of entire walls and have shipped massive displays all over the world. 

Maps can also be multi-paneled or sectional to cover much larger areas. This design makes them easier and less expensive to ship. They can be displayed either spaced apart or assembled together on site.

Fort Irwin Raised Relief Topographical Map
Fort Irwin Raised Relief Topographical Map measuring 8 feet by 10 feet made for the U.S. Army
Africa 3D wall map at the WMU College of Arts and Sciences
This wall 3D raised-relief map for the WMU College of Arts & Sciences is approximately 21 feet tall.
Person pointing to a Topographical Model of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This shows part of a 3D raised relief map of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Michigan 3D wall map at the WMU College of Arts and Sciences

Special Features

WhiteClouds excels at embracing the unique. If you have an innovative idea or a unique request, let us hear it! We utilize all fabrication methods, technologies, equipment, and materials that works best for your specific 3D Map requirements.

Third Winchester Battlefield Park 3D raised relief projection mapping model
This is one example of several 3D maps we made for the purpose of projection mapping digital presentations for museums. This effective and engaging method showcases changes over time or can be used to show different building layouts for the same space.
OSO landslide 3D map
These maps are part of an outdoor display so we used a CNC machine and HD Foam so they would stand up to the outside elements like heat and water.
Mining 3D topographical map
Mining 3D topographical map with removable section of the mine showing underground model
3D topography of the Fraesfield trail in Arizona
This 3D map was made using a thermoforming process from a cast and mold to create a very thin and light plastic map. This method is used when creating large quantities of the same map.
Georgia Watershed Topographical 3D Map
This watershed model is part of a much larger interactive educational display for children.
MOON TOPOGRAPHIC MODEL
Moon Topo Fabricated for NASA

How 3D Raised Relief Maps are Made

There are several techniques used to create 3D raised relief maps, and the process can vary depending on the scale and complexity of the map.  However, the basic steps involved in making a raised relief map are as follows:

  1. Create a base map. The first step in making a raised relief map is to create a base map of the area. This can be done using imagery from a standard two-dimensional map, aerial photographs, satellite images, or WhiteClouds can do it for you.
  2. Determine the design style of the map. There are over 40 styles to choose from.  Popular ones include satellite, terrain, topography, raised relief, and satellite hybrid.
  3. Add any special design features not included in the source map, such as special features, landmarks, legends, roads, cities, symbols, etc.
  4. Add elevation data. The next step is to add elevation data to the map. This can be done using a variety of techniques, such as contour lines, shading, or digital elevation models (DEMs).
  5. Print the Map Overlay.  Latex vinyl materials are used for the map details and colors.  
  6. Create the 3D physical map. Once the elevation data has been added to the map, a physical 3D structure is created that replicates the topography of the area. This can be done using 3D printed plastic or thermoformed molding/casting or might be sculpted with a CNC machine from HD foam.  All approaches are combined with the vinyl overlay.
  7. Finish the map.  This is where any excess materials are cutaway.  Any special sealers, matte finishes, hardeners, or UV protection is applied.  Wood, metal or plastic bases are built and border flocking or paint may be applied.

3D Raised Relief Map Videos

3D Topography Map Design Styles

Many design styles, or base maps, serve as a starting point for your topography model.  We source and create our base maps using the same digital tools that expert cartographers use to create maps.  Once you have selected your base map, everything else is fully customizable.  We can layer informational text (such as landmarks or other points of interest) and even change the colors to suit your preferences.

Complex layers can be added such as streams and lakes, terrain, roads, and even more detail like political boundaries, religious, and other population-based demographics.  Multiple layers can also be added to the same physical map.  Take a look at the map style categories below for inspiration.

Technology and Materials 3D Topography Models

  • With 3D printing technology, you are not limited to straight lines and boxes. The curves and cliffs are captured accurately and beautifully in astonishing detail.
  • Your vision of the final 3D map determines which materials we will choose to produce the best results. We help you to determine the materials that best suit your project.
  • We use fabrication technologies such as 3D printing, CNC cutting, and molding/casting.
  • Topography models show incredible detail.
  • Our maps are printed in full color (with over 17 million variations of color) for awe-inspiring presentations and displays. No painting required!
  • Typically, we use a special process for finishing the sides of the raised relief maps in a suede-like material, similar to the finish of a jewelry box.
  • Our in-house paint booth gives us flexibility in different types and grades of paint and finishing capabilities; we can provide UV-resistant coatings to protect the coloration of your 3M map for many years.
  • We also offer customized additions to our 3D maps and models. Our in-house carpentry shop will build elegant bases, tables, or cabinetry to display any map you choose. Worried about dust? We can customize a case to protect your display as well. Our skilled artisans can hand-paint details to make your map a true work of art.  

WhiteClouds Marscapes: A Captivating Collection of 3D Raised Landscape Art for Home or Office Decor

Pricing of Custom Raised Relief Map / 3D Topographical Models

The cost of topography maps and models is generally based on your size requirements, specific design needs, and the amount of work it will take to produce. Each model is custom-built and charged accordingly. The best way to determine cost is to email us, call us at 385-206-8700, or fill out the form below and let us bid on your project.

Get a Free 3D Price Estimate for a Custom Topographical Model

Custom Fabrication Workflow

Common Questions & Answers

  • What file type is required to 3D print a model?  We work with all architectural CAD programs including AutoCAD, Revit, Chief Architect, ArchiCAD, and Sketchup, to name a few.  If you design in 3D, we will start with your 3D files.  If you have 2D blueprints and elevations, artist’s sketches (or even napkin drawings), we can build a model from these as well.  We can also create topography models and maps simply from your provided coordinates.
  • What is the largest map you can fabricate?  There is no limit to the size of a map we can build.  There are practical limits that will impact shipping and installation, but we work closely with our customers on these special requirements.
  • What type of 3D maps can you fabricate?  All types.  Satellite Maps, Terrain Maps, Topographical Maps, Raised Relief Maps, USGS Maps, Contour Maps, and many more.
  • Can you fabricate with different technologies and materials? Yes.  Our most common fabrication technology is 3D Printing, but we can also build 3D Maps with CNC Cutting, 3D Foam, Molding/Casting, Thermoforming, and Sculpting.
  • What materials can you 3D print in?  We match the correct material and fabrication process to your requirements in terms of presentation, size, and transportability.  We can 3D print in PLA, FDM, Full-Color Sandstone, UV-cured resin, plastic, rubber-like, acrylic, and nylon – as well as combining multiple technologies.
  • Can you sign a Non-disclosure Agreement that you supply?  Yes.
  • How long will it take to create my map?  That depends on the design and size of the map.  A more complex or detailed map will take longer than a simple map, we can’t really say exactly how long it will take until we have the chance to understand what type of map you want fabricated.  Generally, smaller standard maps can be a couple of weeks and large museum exhibition maps can be 6 months.
  • What do you need from me to start the map fabrication?  Boundaries are a good place to start.  Determining map styles, sizes, height (may be exaggerated), and cabinetry needs are all part of the process.  Special design features can also be added.

Do you have a question we didn’t answer? Don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-385-206-8700 or [email protected].

Worldwide Delivery

WhiteClouds has delivered models around the world.

History of Topographical Models

Way back in grade school, many of us were already experienced 3D model creators when we built our first volcano for a science class. However, the first raised maps were built in the Qin Dynasty over 200 years BCE.  In the past, maps were made of wood, clay, beeswax, wheat paste, and rice.

Later maps were created from layering sheet material, sometimes over a plaster mold.  Then plastic formed maps became common in the late 1940s. These thermoformed maps were the first type of 3D-raised relief maps that could be quickly produced.  They were not known to be highly accurate and had a difficult time forming sharp points, like high-pitched mountain ranges.

One of the most famous terrain relief models is the Great Polish Map of Scotland. This map was created using concrete in the 1970s.  The map was designed by a cartographer and is currently being restored.

Now 3D printers can create raised topographic models more accurately and affordably.  Also, the maps can be designed to be much more portable than versions of the past.  While printers can print plastic raised maps, they can also print using various powders, resins, and metals. Emerging 3D printing technologies is opening the opportunity for 3D maps to be used in more industries than what existed even just a few decades ago.

Snow Capped Great Polish Map of Scotland
Snow Capped Great Polish Map of Scotland located in the grounds of the Barony Castle Hotel. Photo by Novemberscot

Additional Types of Maps

  • Topographical Maps:  Representation of the physical features of a region or area.
  • Contour Maps:  Representation of the contours of the land surface or ocean floor.
  • Raised Relief Maps:  Representation of land elevations with raised features indicating landforms.
  • Terrain Maps:  Representation of the physical features of a terrain or landmass.
  • USGS Topographic Maps:  Representation of topographic features and land elevations based on USGS data.
  • USGS Historical Topographic Maps:  Representation of historical topographic maps created by the USGS.
  • Watershed Maps:  Representation of the areas where water flows into a particular river or lake.
  • Elevation Maps:  Representation of land and water elevations with high precision.
  • Physical Maps:  Representation of physical features of the Earth’s surface such as landforms, oceans, and plateaus.
  • Bathymetric Maps:  Representation of the topography and features of the ocean floor.
  • NOAA Maps:  Representation of atmospheric, oceanographic, and environmental data by NOAA.
  • Nautical Maps:  Representation of the underwater features and depth of an area for navigation purposes.
  • Geologic Maps:  Representation of the geologic features of an area such as rock types, faults, and folds. 
  • Satellite Maps:  Representation of earth from high-definition satellite imagery.

Get a Free Quote

Get a Free Quote