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Technology catches up with large-scale printed globe projects

Graphics | January 1, 2010 | By:

Twenty-five years ago, before the age of digital graphics, and more than a decade after the Apollo 11 mission landed the first man on the moon, a flourishing small business was just getting its creative inspiration. The first high-resolution photographs of Earth taken from outside the atmosphere landed in the lap of Eric Morris, owner of Orbis and creator of the Rainier Globe. Morris wanted to show the rest of the planet what Earth looks like, observed from outer space. These globes offer the most visually authentic replicas of the planet available anywhere.

Large scale printed globe construction was a challenging feat in the mid 1980s, before the influx of 3-D rendering software, digital graphics software programs and wide-format printing capabilities. The original 16-inch globe was derived from an artist’s spherical rendering of NASA photographs and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather maps. It was dubbed the Earthball, due to the post-production resemblance to a beach ball. Imagine if you were to deconstruct the colored panels of a beach ball—you would be left with six colored 2-D tapered panels, called gores. To facilitate reproduction of the Earthball, the artist’s spherical rendering was dismantled into gores and screenprinted.

By the early 1990s, technology had finally caught up with Morris’ vision. Morris collaborated with Rainier to take advantage of our fabrication skills, evolving software and print capabilities to develop globes that were larger, more detailed and more accurate. We have acquired up-to-date NASA and NOAA flat map imagery applied to custom cartographic software that transforms the images into multiple gores for creating spherical globes. Each gore is nested into a Photoshop file set to the width of the material.

To get the most out of the material and help reduce waste, smaller sized gores are filled in, creating a back stock to fill future orders. Our files include finishing details, such as cut lines and tick marks around the perimeter of each gore. These lines and tick marks aid in cutting and image alignment when the gores are sewn together in the fabric shop.

The gores are printed on a Durst Rho 351 wide-format UV ink roll printer. The 351 can print up to 132 inches wide at 600dpi, with double-sided and white-ink capabilities. The UV ink is water-soluble and VOC free, and not harmful to the environment.

Working with Morris, Rainier has produced globes from four feet in diameter up to 23 feet in diameter, and built with 12 different gores. Some globes are illuminated and printed on Durst printers in back-lit mode for richer color when internally lit. Most are motorized to turn, mimicking the Earth’s rotation. Rainier has produced Globes seen in museums, libraries, building lobbies, churches, parades, trade shows, special events and concerts. Globes are produced to order, or are available for rent from Orbis. Globes have been produced of the moon and other planets in the solar system.

Rainier recently received quality control certification G7 Master Printer through Idealliance. G7 is a method of calibrating printing presses by targeting specific balances of gray values and creating an overall similar appearance from one printer to another and from one material to another, regardless of size. By utilizing the G7 method of press calibration and characterization, an image, such as the NASA-provided images of Earth, always has a consistent appearance.

Achievement in producing dimensional print products can be compared to Morris’ inspiration from the early photographs of the Earth viewed from outer space.

Building 3-D products requires skilled designers, engineers and craftsmen to visualize the end result by mapping out production and providing quality service and sustainable print and material options to protect the real globe. The outcome is a high-quality product that turns heads and raises global awareness.

Kelly Morris is creative director at Rainier Industries, Seattle, Wash. Her experience in web and print design makes her the point person for all of Rainier’s marketing design needs. While working in the art department, she applies her design skills to client side projects as prepress for Rainier’s large format digital printers.

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