An enormous, 3D printed model of San Francisco which is believed to be the largest ever made was unveiled this week by digital modeling software giants Autodesk and design firm Steelblue

An enormous, 3D printed model of San Francisco which is believed to be the largest ever made was unveiled this week by digital modeling software giants Autodesk and design firm Steelblue.

This 3D printed behemoth, built to aid real estate development company Tishman Speyer visualize the impact of their work throughout the city, was produced at a mere fraction of the cost and timelines required to create architectural models using traditional methods.

The model depicts 115 blocks of the city and weighs in at somewhere near 150 pounds

Steelblue, a creative agency dedicated to documenting the next generation of great places, uses strategic visual marketing to document and display premier development projects, and the firm says this sort of architectural model has the potential to impact politics, demographic studies and even traffic planning.

A scaled down representation of San Francisco's downtown and SOMA districts, the model depicts 115 blocks of the city and weighs in at somewhere near 150 pounds. The raw data was taken, for the most part, from city planning documents and architectural drawings, and at a scale of one to 1,250, the model also serves as a window on the future and includes some structures which won't be complete until 2017.

Displayed in the South of Market (SOMA) building, the model is rendered entirely in off-white resin, but a projector mounted directly above it the ceiling can bring focus and color to a single building or highlight an entire neighborhood at the touch of a button.

The model city took more than two months to complete, from prototype builds through the finished product

Constructed at Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop, the firm used two Objet Connex 500 printers. It took more than two months to complete, from prototype builds through the finished product. Justin Lokitz, a senior product manager at Autodesk, said the model required just $20,000 in materials.

O'Brien Chalmers, the President of Steelblue, says that while there's nothing new about examining the details of cities via detailed digital models, the value of being able to walk around and touch a physical model is hard to overstate.

Constructed at Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop, the firm used two Objet Connex 500 printers.

"With 3D printing, we add in a rapid-prototyping capability. We can swap in buildings or entire city blocks to explore design options and to keep the model up to date in rapidly evolving neighborhoods," Chalmers said. "Adding layers of data visualizations gives us even more power to understand and visualize the way new buildings and infrastructure will impact the urban landscape, and the people who live and work there."

Lokitz added that it may well have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to hand-craft an analogous physical model of San Francisco at the scale of the project, and he says that's due in large part to the high degree of detail 3D printing can offer.