STM Unveils 3D, Full-Color Model of British Columbia

FILLMORE, Calif. & VICTORIA, British Columbia /BUSINESS WIRE/ -- Solid Terrain Modeling (STM), manufacturer of the "world's most accurate 3D solid-terrain models," unveiled a stunning new model of the entire province of British Columbia (BC) at the historic Crystal Garden in Victoria, BC. The 3D, full-color model is 40 by 74 ft., larger than a doubles tennis court, and is the "world's largest" physical-terrain model ever created from digital-data sources. The model can be viewed from many levels and allows visitors to see BC as it actually appears from outer space, with every geographic feature in vivid color and exquisite detail.

The model is the centerpiece of the new "BC Experience" geographic discovery center, and is located under the beautiful glass-and-iron canopy of the Crystal Garden. The BC Experience allows visitors to navigate through the physical and cultural wonder that is British Columbia. The grand opening for the "BC Experience" will be held on Monday, June 26.

What the BC Model Looks Like
The BC model is a literal transcription of the best geophysical data that modern science can provide and offers visitors the unique opportunity to see how our planet looks from space. The most remarkable feature is its accurate representation of the curvature of the Earth. Because of the curvature, viewers on lower levels see the great arc of the horizon rather than the ends of the model.

To appreciate both the big picture and the exquisite details included in the model, visitors can view it from various levels and locations to take in all of the natural splendor of BC—the beautiful mountain ranges, wide valleys, penetrating fjords, mighty rivers and their tributaries, blue lakes, and green islands—all in vivid color. They can even see the contours of the ocean floor beneath the coastal waters. Evidence of glaciers, earthquake-prone fault lines, agriculture, forestry, cities, and even roads can be seen clearly.

To augment the information provided by the model, fourteen flat-screen electronic GeoStations are mounted on balcony railings surrounding the model. The touch-screen GeoStations provide visitors with instant access to in-depth geographic information on scores of locations in British Columbia.

How the BC Model Was Built
Consisting of 100 separate curved panels, the model was created from digital elevation and imagery data obtained from Earth-orbiting satellites. Using the elevation data, the panels were carved from high-density foam by STM's highly calibrated custom cutting machines. The completed panels were spray coated white and then, using the imagery data, an image of the geographic area was applied directly to the surface of each panel by STM's unique printing machine. Because each panel was individually shaped to accurately represent the curvature of the Earth, no two panels are the same shape. The finished panels were assembled onsite and installed over an intricate steel grid that includes individual supports for each panel. These supports allow each panel to be adjusted so that it fits perfectly with the adjacent panels.

Technical Information About the BC Model
The BC model is unique in both size and shape. It was manufactured from than 260 million elevation data points and is covered by more than 100 billion droplets of ink. At a scale of 1:99,000, the terrain on the model surface is vertically exaggerated by 50% while the curvature is an accurate one-to-one representation of the Earth. This model represents approximately 1/190th or 0.52% of the Earth's surface.

The model's 100 panels are arranged in a 10-by-10 array, with each panel having a unique shape. The overall shape of the model is defined by a section of a sphere divided into panels along "great circle" lines. A "great circle" is a cartographic concept that provides the shortest distance between two points and is defined as the intersection of a plane that passes through two points on the surface of the sphere and the center of the sphere.

Each panel of the model was cut along the great circle lines created by planes that pass through the center of the sphere and the corner points of each panel. The result is that the panels fit together almost seamlessly and any visible seams between panels appear as long, smooth curves when viewed from above, with the long edges providing the most pronounced effect.

The source data for the model was processed by WorldSat International and is of two distinct types: a digital elevation model, which provides height measurements on the surface of the Earth, above or below sea-level, at regular intervals of about 90 m, and satellite photographs collected by the U.S. Geological Survey's LandSAT 7 sensor. The LandSAT imagery was mosaiced (stitched together) and color balanced by Robert Stacey of WorldSat. Once the master files for elevation and color were completed, they were cut into 100 sections and reprojected from the standard system of latitude/longitude into 100 panel-specific coordinate systems that combine the differential horizontal and vertical scaling factors along with the curvature of the Earth.

About Solid Terrain Modeling and STM Models
Lawrence Faulkner and Mark Fisher spent 10 years developing a revolutionary, patent-pending technology to produce the world's most accurate, full-color, 3D solid models of geographic terrain. In August 2000, they founded Solid Terrain Modeling Inc. to bring their spectacular models to the marketplace.

To produce a model, STM uses digital elevation and imagery data obtained from Earth-orbiting satellites or from airborne sensors for the selected geographic area. The elevation data controls STM's highly calibrated cutting machine as it carves the model into high-density plastic foam. Then imagery data controls STM's huge printing machine as it applies the image directly onto the model's surface. (Other images, such as maps, photos, graphics, and text can also be printed on a model.) The result is an exact replica of the geographic area, in breathtaking detail and in brilliant color.

STM models are used by law firms, emergency response groups (e.g., fire, police, and search and rescue), land management offices (e.g., construction, civil engineering, real estate, and recreation), developers, transportation agencies, utilities (e.g., oil, gas, and hydro), architects, museums, military, government agencies (e.g., federal, state, and municipal), the U.S. Department of Defense, and others.

Solid Terrain Modeling is located at 340 Fillmore St., Fillmore, CA 93015. Phone is 805-524-7307. Fax is 805-524-1973. For additional information, check the company's Web site.