Updating these frequently asked questions and their answers is an ongoing process -- please bear with us as we continue to add information...
Microscape models are detailed, 1:5000 scale replicas of cities. They're 3D-printed from our own accurate, up-to-date aerial scan data, meaning that they can evolve along with the built environment. Because we manually process all of that data to make it printable, they can also include buildings still under construction or still in planning.
Yes, definitely. We started with Manhattan because it was a great challenge and it’s our home, but we really want to continue this across the US and around the world. Sign up for our mailing list for updates on availability of new models and opportunities to weigh in on where we should focus our efforts next.
It’s definitely a possibility. Stayed tuned for updates on the availability of colors besides white by signing up for the Microscape mailing list. Alternate materials are also something we’re considering and have already tested in the studio, but that’s a little further down the road.
A great deal of the value in our product is the data that the physical models represent. You can definitely find models of full cities and individual buildings out there on the web -- some for sale, some being given away for free. If you look carefully at these, you'll find that they're not particularly up-to-date. The geometry is also generally not in a form that will slice well and yield workable tool paths for 3D printing or CNC milling. They'll almost always require a lot of manual cleanup and revision.
If you don't particularly care about how current or accurate your end result is, you're down for some vertex-level mesh editing, you've got your own 3D printer and time on your hands, then by all means -- print your own Manhattan model! (And send us some pictures of the finished product...)
What's "special" about the Microscape project and the models we're producing is that we start by collecting and processing our own scan data. We don't buy it from someone else and we don't hire a third party to do the scanning. We shoot our own aerial photos. We process those photos into 3D geometry using photogrammetry software running on our own in-house cluster of heavy-duty computers. And then we manually refine all of that geometry into a cleaned up, edited form that will look good printed at 1:5000 scale.
That last, manual editing step is extra important because it also gives us an opportunity to make editorial decisions about what to include, what to exclude (trees and vehicles in our current series of models, for example), and what topographic or architectural features to exaggerate or de-emphasize in order to achieve the final "look" we want in physical form. Our final product is a one-of-a-kind artistic interpretation of raw data that remains true to reality while taking certain, carefully considered liberties for the sake of visual impact.