Godzilla and the 3D-printed San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO -- Could 3D-printed models of cities be the next great tool in urban planning? The folks at Autodesk and design agency Steelblue think so.

On Wednesday, the two companies showed off what they said is the largest-ever 3D-printed model of San Francisco, and possibly the largest 3D-printed model of any city ever.

Designed and built to help real-estate developer Tishman Speyer visualize the work it's doing in downtown San Francisco, the model showcases 115 blocks of the city at a scale of 1:1,250.

That would make the Godzilla toy placed on the model as a joke very, very large.

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Multicolored city

During the demonstration of the 3D-printed model of San Francisco, a group of visual cues were projected onto it, showing how the model could be used to signify demographic or political differentiations, as represented by colors.

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3D-printed San Francisco

A look at the 3D-printed model of San Francisco, which took about two months to make (including prototypes) and cost less than $20,000 -- not counting labor.

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Transbay development

One of the key value propositions of the model is that it can be lit up to highlight many different projects, neighborhoods, or even individual buildings. Here we see the Transbay Transit Center development project, a major infrastructure upgrade, that is currently under way and expected to be finished by 2017.

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Bay Bridge

The model doesn't cover the entire city, but it does encompass one tower of the famous Bay Bridge.

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CNET HQ

One of the first things most people who look at the model do is find their own buildings. This photo includes CNET headquarters, just to the left of the word "2nd."

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O'Brien with prototype

Steelblue president O'Brien Chalmers carries a smaller prototype of the model across the room.

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Shadow patterns

Another use for the model is to test out shadow patterns throughout the day. By shining light that mimics the transit of the sun, planners can determine where shadows will fall.

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Highlighting zones

The big colored circles were used to demonstrate how different zones of the city could be highlighted differently.

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Before and after models

On the right is an unfinished prototype, while on the left is a finished prototype. The difference is that the before piece has not yet been brushed clean to remove the outer layer of resin left by the 3D printer.

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Traffic patterns

Another use for the model is to visualize traffic patterns on the streets of downtown San Francisco.

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Old freeway routes

Longtime San Francisco residents remember the Embarcadero freeway, which came off the Bay Bridge and ran along the city's eastern waterfront. After 1989's devastating Loma Prieta earthquake, the freeway, and others in the city, were demolished. The red pathways on the model show where those roadways used to be.

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Justin and O'Brien

Autodesk's Justin Lokitz and Steelblue's O'Brien Chalmers discuss the 3D-printed San Francisco project.

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3D-printed city

Another look at the 3D-printed model of San Francisco.

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