Hurricane Julio. Image via NASA.

The immense growth of the 3D printing industry is simply mind blowing – I just love how people are starting to apply the technology to more and more innovative areas (just a few examples: cranium replacement, 3D printed skin, tattoos, fossils, entire rooms). Now, it’s time for nature to be 3D printed: after Doug McCune 3D printed the USGS Earthquake Data from last month’s quake in the Napa Valley, NASA released, for free, 3D printing files of Hurricane Julio, as seen from outer space.

Francis Reddy, a science writer who’s on contract with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has 3D printed a hurricane, then shared his work so that everyone can do this at home. The process was not simple, as he himself explains.

“The time-consuming thing was finding the right set of image,” explained Reddy to 3DPrint.com. “You want flat lighting because in this technique the gray value of the pixel is translated to height, so highlights from sunlight striking the clouds at an angle create false elevations. The infrared image doesn’t have this problem, but the visible image, which reveals the most detail, does. Once I found what I was looking for, I merged the images in a way that was pleasing to me, generated and simplified the mesh, and sent it to the printer.”

Reddy’s model has been provided to NASA, who has responded by allowing the public to download the .stl file free of charge. The two images used were taken at a near perfect angle by the GOES 15 satellite.

Julio was a Category 2 storm that threatened to hit Hawaii, but stayed North of the island, sparing the island from disaster.

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