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3D printing

Various printing processes enable the creation of spatial physical models using 3D printers. With that, we can transform digital geodata into an analogue 3D model.

Cover picture: 3D printing

Possible data basis

Depending on the application, different swisstopo 3D geodata products are suitable for 3D printing. The products can also be combined if required.

Sample data

As an example, you can print the Matterhorn at any scale. To do this, use the sample data converted from the product swissALTI3D  and DHM25 in STL format. 


No. For 3D printing, please contact a specialised 3D printing provider.

Typically, an STL file (STereoLithography or Standard Tesselation Language), extension .stl, is required. This extension is used for stereolithographic CAD data. STL is one of the standard formats of many CAD systems and is used mainly for rapid prototyping and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM).

Many modelling and visualisation programmes can export to STL. Workaround: Import geodata and then export again as STL. Blender, QGIS, ArcGIS, FME etc. are suitable for this.

The data type provides information about the compression of the data. For this purpose, the more compact binary STL format is quite sufficient.

For printing, the model must not contain any gaps. It must be watertight and have a closed, continuous surface. The software of the 3D printer must be able to reliably recognise where should be built and where not. Overhangs, such as building roofs, can lead to errors depending on the printing process and thickness.

The degree of detail (resolution of a 3D printer) depends on the printing method and the utilised material. With current devices, the thickness of a single layer ranges from about 0.1 mm to 0.02 mm. Note the selected resolution of the input data and the printing scale.

In 3D printing, the model has built in additive layers. Various methods are used for this.

  • A laser melts and consolidates applied powder.
  • The print material melts and is applied continuously.
  • With exposure, parts of the plastic bath harden.

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern
+41 58 469 01 11


Relevant authority

Geodata Distribution

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern


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