These days we hear more and more about 3D printing and what it is able to do. 3D printers are coming down in price and can be under $2000.   I don’t know how many real applications there are for the mining industry but here is an example from a recent project that I consulted on.
The open pit project was going to be located in hilly terrain, and issues related to haul road access, waste dump sites, and leach pad location were all going to be of importance.   The client used a 3D printer to create a small and simple desktop model of the terrain that was given to each of the consulting firms.  The photos below show the size of the model (click on image for a large image).
3D printed topography

3D printed model of the mining project topography

3D printed mining topography

3D printed model of the mining project topography


Numerous members of the engineering team were each given their own 3D model to take back to their offices.  Putting one of these on your desk helps with familiarity of the overall site and allows you to better understand the siting and drainage issues.  Topographic maps may give data on actual elevations and distances, but the 3D model gives you a feel for the site.    The model shown above was created for the undisturbed topography but one could probably print off a similar model once the final pit and dump design is done.
My bottom line is that with the current 3D printing capabilities, creating a simple 3D topographic model for each member of the engineering team is possible and I recommend doing so.  Also provide the Owner’s management team with their own models, helping them understand the issues the geologists and engineers must deal with.
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One thought on “21. 3D Printing – A Simple Idea

  1. hardrockminer

    I see this as a valuable tool to look at topos to understand the issues related to site layouts. I’ve never used it but I’m going to check into it.

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