Manhattan, the single most densely populated of the five boroughs which make up New York City, is bounded by the East, Hudson and Harlem Rivers and encompasses several small adjacent islands and a small area on the mainland.

It's the economic and cultural center of the United States. Home to the United Nations Headquarters, Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. Manhattan real estate is horrifically expensive and New York County, the most densely populated county in the United States, is itself more densely populated than any individual American city. On a typical business day, a swarm of commuters swells the population of Manhattan to more 3.9 Million – that's 170,000 people per square mile.

The profile of the island also makes it a showcase spot for multinational corporations all vying to demonstrate mastery of their fields and those corporations are all keen to get a cutting edge on the competition.

So when Vick Art Advisors was called on to come up with a sculpture to call attention to a 24-foot niche in a recently renovated corporate space on the island, they began researching the feasibility of abstractly representing Manhattan. The company specializes in providing art consulting services to international corporations, firms and institutions.

But as is often the case, the deadlines were tight as a drum and called for a very fast turnaround.

VAA then called on Sparks 3D Design to take on the project. Sparks looked at using CNC technology and hand fabrication to create the finished piece before settling on 3D printing as the logical method of fabrication.

Sparks then went to Quickparts.com, the on-demand, 3D printing service bureau offering from 3D Systems.

"We needed to print very large models – very quickly – and in full CMYK color, so their ColorJet technology was the one option that made this even feasible," said Sparks' senior designer David Shamlian.

Thanks to Digimation Model Bank, Sparks found a 3D digital file of the Manhattan district and used that file as a template to refine and create the sculpture. The resultant CAD model, after being optimized for 3D printing, was separated into 15" x 15" segments for printing as 28 separate tiles.

Once the raw files were created, Quickparts called on their service centers to begin outputting the tiles on their ProJet 860 full color 3D printers. Half of the job was done at Quickparts' French facility and the other half in Andover, MA, and the parts where then shipped overnight for the final assembly of the installation.

"The last models arrived from Quickparts on the Wednesday," Shamlian said. "All the pieces were prepped and pre-hung by Sparks craftsmen on Thursday. It was shipped to New York and installed – to the delight of the client – on Friday."