ABSTRACT

Three-dimensional (3-D) printing provides a fast, cost-effective way to produce and replicate complicated designs with minimal flaws and little material waste. Early use of 3-D printing for engineering applications in the petroleum industry has stimulated further adoption by geoscience researchers and educators. Recent progress in geoscience is signified by capabilities that translate digital rock models into 3-D printed rock proxies. With a variety of material and geometric scaling options, 3-D printing of near-identical rock proxies provides a method to conduct repeatable laboratory experiments without destroying natural rock samples. Rock proxy experiments can potentially validate numerical simulations and complement existing laboratory measurements on changes of rock properties over geologic time scales. A review of published research from academic, government, and industry contributions indicates a growing community of rock proxy experimentalists. Three-dimensional printing techniques are being applied to fundamental research in the areas of multiphase fluid flow and reactive transport, geomechanics, physical properties, geomorphology, and paleontology. Further opportunities for geoscience research are discussed. Applications in education include teaching models of terrains, fossils, and crystals. The integration of digital data sets with 3-D printed geomorphologies supports communication for both societal and technical objectives. Broad benefits that could be realized from centralized 3-D printing facilities are also discussed.

You do not currently have access to this article.