We hear more and more about 3D printing and what it is able to do. 3D printers have come down in price and can be bought for under $500. Here is an example of using a 3D printer from a recent project that I consulted on.
The open pit was going to be located in hilly terrain, and issues related to haul road access, waste dump sites, and leach pad location were all important. The client used a 3D printer to create a small desktop model of the terrain, which was given to each of the consulting firms.
The photo below shows the scale of the model.
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 even a small 3D model gives you a feel for the site. The model shown above was for undisturbed topography but one could easily print off a similar model once the final pit and dump design is done.
With the current three-dimensional printing capabilities, creating simple 3D topographic models for the engineering team is feasible and I recommend doing so.
At the same time provide the Owner’s team with their own models, helping them understand the site issues that must be dealt with.