oneFinland may be a small country, but it has a big reputation as an awesome and widely coveted place to live—and that’s not just because it boasts the most heavy metal bands per capita in the world, but also because it is known to have a superior education system and offers, quite basically, an awesome quality of living for their citizens from working to playing and everything in between. Corruption is fairly non-existent, and the people are, by all statistics, very happy—second to only the quite famously satisfied Danish.

No stranger to technology, Finland also reigns supreme as the locale where Rovio’s Angry Birds was created, boasting millions of downloads.

The geography is in essence, very rich in itself. The northern regions and highlands boast dense, beautiful forests, while the southern portion is surrounded by the Baltic Sea in a U shape. Mountainscapes abound along the Norwegian border. The city folk tend to dwell mainly in the south in the Helsinki area, populated by just over a million folks.

logoThe city of Espoo, sharing an eastern border with Helsinki, is currently about to be in the business of setting the bar for 3D printed tactile city maps. Right now, Versoteq is concerned with the more provincial challenge of helping local citizens get around the geography of local malls.

Versoteq, with headquarters in Espoo, is a company dedicated to spreading the use of 3D printing technology out and about in the metropolitan areas of their home country. Founded on the principles of sharing 3D printed products for the ultimate in communication, manufacturing, and user experience, Versoteq is certainly offering benefit to the citizens of Espoo who frequent the Sello mall in the Leppävaara region—and most especially to those who are visually impaired.

The 3D printed maps, produced in full color, are the result of a collaboration between Versoteq and other entities such as the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired, Keskuspuisto Vocational College, and the Espoo Disability Council. Not just meant for the blind and the visually challenged, the 3D printed maps that Versoteq both designed and assembled for the mall can be used by everyone needing a little boost in acquainting themselves with their surroundings. Just think how often we all have to consult those advertisement adorned, vertically based maps encased in glass at the local mall. Versoteq is certainly offering an improvement on that type of system, which is often rather rudimentary, frustrating, and certainly not all that user-friendly.

While the scene is just being set for such 3D printed maps in Finland, the Versoteq team sees the cartographical technology as being not only immediately helpful, but also perhaps still a work in progress as these first maps will serve as a test.two

“There are no standards for 3D printed tactile maps and there is still work to be done to improve the maps,” states the Versoteq team. “Also the materials are rapidly evolving and long term testing has not been conducted. This is a great opportunity for us and anyone interested in 3D mapping to really test them and see the results. With the use of 3D printing any changes (for the buildings or roads etc.) can be updated to the 3D model of the map and the new version can be easily printed. Every tactile map stand will get their very own website to reach for more information. The connection between the physical map and the website will be made at first with the help of NFC tags.”

Due to the ease offered by 3D design for making edits and tweaks, as they refine the maps further, they can be quickly updated regarding feedback from users in the Espoo area. The team has tremendous experience not only in the progressive technology of 3D design printing, but also traditional engineering expertise, as well as mechanics and electronics, and software development.

We’ve reported on several different types of 3D printed maps in the US which operate in a similar vein in city and cultural venues, as well as from hobbyists both using and producing 3D printed topography of beloved cities like San Francisco, to residents of India making 3D printed neighborhoods for posterity, and even a NASA app that allows you to trek around Vesta, a small planet in the asteroid belt.

Are you interested in 3D printed maps? Have you encountered one in a metropolitan area? Share with us in the 3D Printed Finnish Mall Maps forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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