Sora Technology Corporation transforms photos into highly accurate landscape models with ZPrinter

"We are able to double our work order value because we're doubling the products we are providing. And we're certainly more than doubling the landscape's impact." - Takayuki Okubo, President Sora Technology Corporation

 

As powerful as Google Earth is, when you try to reach out and touch a location, your hand bumps up against the glass of a flat computer screen. You're still in 2D.

A Tokyo firm is stepping through the glass and into the third dimension by creating highly accurate 3D physical maps of virtually any location on the planet. When you reach out and touch a Sora Technology Corporation landscape, not only are you seeing the precise contours of the land, building or waterway itself, you're feeling them as well.

Challenge

Making A Bigger Impact

For five years, the company has transformed aerial photographs into 3D virtual reality animations for real estate developers proposing new complexes and for news organizations reporting on war zones and land As powerful as Google Earth is, when you try to reach out and touch a location, your hand bumps up against the glass of a flat computer screen.

Sora has recently found a way to make a more dramatic impact with its 3D data: 3D printing. A 3D printer converts 3D data into physical objects in much the same way that a document printer converts word-processing data into a business letter.

Strategy

3D Printing With Spectrum Z510

A demonstration of a Spectrum Z®510 3D printer by Tokyo dealer DICO Inc. revealed to Sora 3D printing's power to communicate the full third dimension in all its dramatic impact. The Spectrum Z510's multicolor 3D printing capabilities distinguished itself from any other 3D printing vendor (including those whose "color printers" print just one hue per build).

"No other machine or method provides such accurate 3D printing with full 24-bit color," says Takayuki Okubo, President of Sora Technology Corporation. "Clients are amazed at our ability to vividly and accurately depict land and buildings and are very, very curious about how we can do this. Real estate clients are astonished at the beauty and accuracy of the models and the speed with which we create them."

Results

Bigger Impact, Higher Profits

3D printed maps cost one-third that of handcrafted models and take a few hours versus weeks or months to build. And unlike handcrafted models, 3D printed landscape models easily incorporate clusters of buildings on slopes a real challenge for handcrafters.

The printed models also help developers more deeply understand their sites and the positioning of key buildings, conveying a visceral impact that two dimensions simply cannot.

"Observers have the freedom to walk around a model, stand back, move in, hover over the scene at will, and run their hands along a busy city street," Okubo says. "The viewer is empowered since the third dimension is no longer an abstraction."

Sora has used 3D printing to convincingly demonstrate its superior 3D data discovery and production capabilities. The company obtains 3D GIS data through stereographic photography, and also uses 1/10,000 scale aerial photographs taken by airplanes flying at 1,500 meters above the ground.

Using just two photographs and coordinate points of any place on earth, Sora can render it in three dimensions. The company developed a proprietary method of extracting data from satellite images. It demonstrated this capability by mapping a three-kilometer by three-kilometer section of Pyongyang, North Korea a restricted city for which there are no publicly available aerial photographs.

In the Pyongyang case, Sora created a 2.5-meter by 2.5-meter 3D map with accurate contour lines, including feature polygons of large buildings. Since Pyongyang is such a curiosity, the 3D map has become something of a sensation in Japan, and the printed 3D Pyongyang city model has appeared with it on Japanese television.

"It's inspiring to the see the reactions, whether to the Pyongyang map or any product we do," says Okubo. "When observers view animations together with the 3D map, it's a one-two punch. It's also a boost to our profits. We are able to double our work order value because we're doubling the products we are providing. And we're certainly more than doubling the landscape's impact."