Student 3D prints Northwestern University campus

Last November, Northwestern University student Ben Rothman decided he didn’t want to be bored over Winter Break and set out to design a virtual 3D model of the NU campus in Minecraft. Later, as if that was not enough he decided to 3D print the whole thing.

“I started by building Slivka when I was bored, and then I just started expanding from there,” Rothman said. “I didn’t really know how far it was going to go.”

It took the then sophomore a couple months to recreate all of Northwestern’s north campus in Minecraft, the sandbox-style video game that lets players create 3D buildings and landscapes in any way they choose. It’s quite a Minecraft world he’s created, and in the following video you can see it as it was by the end of January, as the point of view flies through the campus.

As he saw how much work it really involved, he recruited other students to help out. A mere 600 hours later, he was done.

With his 3D world in Minecraft completed, it was time to think about 3D printing it. He selected the free program called Mineways, which lets you export a model from a Minecraft world map into a file that 3D printers will accept. Rothman did not have his own 3D printer so he uploaded the file to Shapeways who printed and shipped the pieces to him.

You can see the end result in the gallery of photos at the top of this page. It sits on a five-foot wide table and has the distinction of being the largest Minecraft 3D print to date, and the first university campus ever modeled in the program.

The cost of printing all the models at Shapeways was in the range of $2000 to $2500, with some of the models costing as little as $5. But this was less than the cost of building the display case. (Nice example of how 3D printing really is more efficient than human hand-crafted items!)

If Mr. Ben Rothman can do all this in his sophomore year, we can’t wait to see his senior project.

Sources: Shapeways and NorthbyNorthwestern