As the amount of scientific data continues to grow, researchers need new tools to help them visualize complex data. Immersive data-visualisations are helpful, yet fail to provide tactile feedback and sensory feedback on spatial orientation, as provided from tangible objects.
The production of a tangible representation of a scientific data set is one step in a line of scientific thinking, leading from the physical world into scientific reasoning and back: The process starts with a physical observation, or from a data stream generated by an environmental sensor. This data stream is turned into a geo-referenced data set. This data is turned into a volume representation which is converted into command sequences for the printing device, leading to the creation of a 3D printout via additive manufacturing (“3D-printing”). As a last, but crucial step, this new object has to be documented and linked to the associated metadata, and curated in long term repositories to preserve its scientific meaning and context.
This presentation showcases a reference workflow to produce tangible 3D data-prints based on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), using both GRASS GIS and Paraview. The workflow was successfully validated in various application scenarios using a RapMan printer to create 3D specimens of elevation models, geological underground models, ice penetrating radar soundings for planetology, and space time stacks for Tsunami model quality assessment.