The 3D-Printing Technology of Geological Models Using Rock-Like Materials

  • Xia-Ting FengEmail author
  • Yan-Hua Gong
  • Yang-Yi Zhou
  • Zheng-Wei Li
  • Xu-Feng Liu
Original Paper


The common practice in understanding some puzzling geotechnical and geomechanical issues by large-scale three-dimensional physical model tests is recently much improved by the introduction of 3D-printing technology which can realize the reconstruction of complex geological structures. However, during 3D printing process, the regular rock-like material suffers from some general problems such as short initial setting time, water segregation, decreasing fluidity induced by chemical reaction, and some other unclear influencing factors. To promote further development of physical model via 3D printing method and to fabricate large-scale high-precision 3D geological models, in this paper, the flow characteristics of rock-like materials were first investigated using a new fluidity testing apparatus. Based on the test results, a novel 3D-printing technology of geological material was formulated. Then, the technologies of fabricating the desired structural specimens, acquiring samples with mechanical properties and cracking behaviors similar to natural rock, printing large-scale complex geological models were formulated. The results show that the 3D-printing technology of geological materials had a principle: no losing fluidity during printing time. The parameters of print head diameter, line width, line span, and line slump were the four key factors affecting desired structural samples. From the enlightenment of printing small-scale sample, the printing methods of complex large-scale geological models including decreasing printing time, acquiring heterogeneous geological model with inner structures, desired density, and surrounding smooth surface were proposed.


Rock-like materials 3D-printing technology Desired structural specimens Mechanical properties Cracking behaviors 



The authors acknowledge the financial support from the China Coal Research Institute under Grant no. 2017YFC0804203, the 111 Project under Grant no. B17009, the CAS Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences under Grant no. QYZDJ-SSW-DQC016, China Postdoctoral Science Foundation No. 2017M621150.


  1. Bauyrzhan P, Jonathan C, Richard C, Gonzalo ZN (2017) 3D printed sandstone strength: curing of furfuryl alcohol resin-based sandstones. 3D Print Addit Manuf 4:149–156. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bryan MP, Kent MD, Rickenbach J, Rimmer G, Wilson DI, Rough SL (2015a) The effect of mixing on the extrusion–spheronisation of a micro-crystalline cellulose paste. Int J Pharm 479:1–10. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bryan MP, Rough SL, Wilson DI (2015b) Investigation of static zones and wall slip through sequential ram extrusion of contrasting micro-crystalline cellulose-based pastes. J Non Newton Fluid 220:57–68. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caillahua MC, Moura FJ (2018) Technical feasibility for use of FGD gypsum as an additive setting time retarder for Portland cement. J Mater Res Technol 7:190–197. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cao RH, Cao P, Lin H, Ma GW, Zhang CY, Jiang C (2018) Failure characteristics of jointed rock-like material containing multi-joints under a compressive-shear test: experimental and numerical analyses. Arch Civil Mech Eng 18:784:798. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen TY, Feng XT, Zhang XW, Chao WD, Fu CJ (2014) Experimental study on mechanical and anisotropic properties of black shale. Chin J Rock Mech Eng. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen Y, Zhang L, Yang B, Dong J, Chen J (2015) Geomechanical model test on dam stability and application to Jinping High arch dam. Int J Rock Mech Min 76:1–9. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chia HN, Wu BM (2015) Recent advances in 3D printing of biomaterials. J Biol Eng 9:1–22. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Feng XT, Pei SF, Jiang Q, Zhou YY, Li SJ, Yao ZB (2017) Deep fracturing of the hard rock surrounding a large underground cavern subjected to high geostress: in situ observation and mechanism analysis. Rock Mech Rock Eng 50:2155–2175. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fereshtenejad S, Song J (2016) Fundamental study on applicability of powder-based 3D printer for physical modeling in rock mechanics. Rock Mech Rock Eng 49:2065–2074. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fina F, Goyanes A, Gaisford S, Basit AW (2017) Selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing of medicines. Int J Pharm 529:285–293. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fumagalli E (1966) Stability of arch dam rock abutments. In: Proceedings of first ISRM congress. Lisbon, Portugal, pp 503–508Google Scholar
  13. Gosselin C, Duballer R, Roux P, Gaudilliere N, Dirrenberger J, Morel P (2016) Large-scale 3D printing of ultra-high performance concrete—a new processing route for architects and builders. Mater Design 100:102–109. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Huang SH, Liu P, Mokasdar A, Hou L (2013) Additive manufacturing and its societal impact: a literature review. Int J Adv Manuf Technol 67:1191–1203. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jiang C, Zhao GF (2015) A preliminary study of 3D printing on rock mechanics. Rock Mech Rock Eng 48:1041–1050. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jiang Q, Feng XT, Song LB, Gong YH, Zheng H, Cui J (2016) Modeling rock specimens through 3D printing: Tentative experiments and prospects. Acta Mech Sin 32:101–111. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jiang C, Zhao GF, Zhu J, Zhao YX, Shen L (2016a) Investigation of dynamic crack coalescence using a gypsum-like 3D printing material. Rock Mech Rock Eng 49:3983–3998. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jiang Q, Feng XT, Song LB, Gong YH, Zheng H, Cui J (2016b) Modeling rock specimens through 3D printing: tentative experiments and prospects. Acta Mech Sin 32:101–111. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jiang Q, Feng XT, Gong YH, Song LB, Ran S (2016c) Reverse modelling of natural rock joints using 3D scanning and 3D printing. Comput Geotech 73:210–220. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jin T, Tian H, Gao X, Liu YL, Wang J, Chen H, Lan YQ (2017) Simulation and performance analysis of the perforated plate flowmeter for liquid hydrogen. Int J Hydrog Energy 42:3890–3898. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ju Y, Xie HP, Zheng ZM, Lu JB, Mao LT, Gao F, Peng RD (2014) Visualization of the complex structure and stress field inside rock by means of 3D printing technology. Chin Sci Bull 59:5354–5365. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ju Y, Wang L, Xie HP, Ma GW, Zheng ZM, Mao LT (2017a) Visualization and transparentization of the structure and stress field of aggregated geomaterials through 3D printing and photoelastic techniques. Rock Mech Rock Eng 50:1383–1407. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ju Y, Wang L, Xie HP, Ma GW, Mao LT, Zheng ZM, Lu JB (2017b) Visualization of the three-dimensional structure and stress field of aggregated concrete materials through 3D printing and frozen-stress techniques. Constr Build Mater 143:121–137. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kazemian A, Yuan X, Cochran E, Khoshnevis B (2017) Cementitious materials for construction-scale 3D printing: laboratory testing of fresh printing mixture. Constr Build Mater 145:639–647. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Khanlari G, Rafiei B, Abdilor Y (2015) Evaluation of strength anisotropy and failure modes of laminated sandstones. Arab J Geosci 8:3089–3102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Khelifi H, Perrot A, Lecompte T, Rangeard D, Ausias G (2013) Prediction of extrusion load and liquid phase filtration during ram extrusion of high solid volume fraction pastes. Powder Technol 249:258–268. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Khoshnevis B, Bekey G (2002) Automated construction using contour crafting—applications on earth and beyond. Rapid Prototyping J 7:32–44. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Khudhair MH, El Youbi MS, Elharfi A (2018) Data on effect of a reducer of water and retarder of setting time admixtures of cement pastes and mortar in hardened stat. Data Brief 18:454–462. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kruth JP, Leu MC, Nakagawa T (1998) Progress in additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping. CIRP Ann Manuf Tech 47:525–540. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lanaro M, Forrestal DP, Scheurer S, Slinger DJ, Liao S, Powell SK, Woodruff MA (2017) 3D printing complex chocolate objects: platform design, optimization and evaluation. J Food Eng 215:13–22. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Launhardt M, Worz A, Loderer A, Laumer T, Drummer D, Hausotte T, Schmidt M (2016) Detecting surface roughness on SLS parts with various measuring techniques. Polym Test 53:217–226. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li SC, Wang Q, Wang HT, Jiang B, Wang DC, Zhang B, Li Y, Ruan GQ (2015) Model test study on surrounding rock deformation and failure mechanisms of deep roadways with thick top coal. Tunn Undergr Sp Tech 47:52–63. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Li ZG, Xu GL, Huang P, Zhao X, Fu YP (2017) Experimental study on anisotropic properties of Silurian silty slates. Geotech Geol Eng 35:1755–1766. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lille M, Nurmela A, Nordlund E, Metsä-Kortelainen S, Sozer N (2018) Applicability of protein and fiber-rich food materials in extrusion-based 3D printing. J Food Eng 220:20–27. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liu YR, Guan FH, Yang Q, Yang RQ, Zhou WY (2013) Geomechanical model test for stability analysis of high arch dam based on small blocks masonry technique. Int J Rock Mech Min 61:231–243. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liu P, Ju Y, Ranjith PG, Zheng ZM, Wang L, Wanniarachchi A (2016) Visual representation and characterization of three-dimensional hydrofracturing cracks within heterogeneous rock through 3D printing and transparent models. Int J Coal Sci Technol 3:284–294. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ma GW, Wang L, Ju Y (2017) State-of-the-art of 3D printing technology of cementitious material—an emerging technique for construction. Sci China Technol Sci 61:475–495. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Melchels FPW, Feijen J, Grijpma DW (2010) A review on stereolithography and its applications in biomedical engineering. Biomaterials 31:6121–6130. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mondschein RJ, Kanitkar A, Williams CB, Verbridge SS, Long TE (2017) Polymer structure-property requirements for stereolithographic 3D printing of soft tissue engineering scaffolds. Biomaterials 140:170–188. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Otten W, Pajor R, Schmidt S, Baveye PC, Hague R, Falconer RE (2012) Combining X-ray CT and 3D printing technology to produce microcosms with replicable, complex pore geometries. Soil Biol Biochem 51:53–55. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pham DT, Gault RS (1998) A comparison of rapid prototyping technologies. Int J Mach Tool Manuf 38:1257–1287. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shakor P, Sanjayan J, Nazari A, Nejadi S (2017) Modified 3D printed powder to cement-based material and mechanical properties of cement scaffold used in 3D printing. Constr Build Mater 138:398–409. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Skawinski WJ, Busanic TJ, Ofsievich AD, Venanzi TJ, Luzhkov VB, Venazi CA (1995) The application of stereolithography to the fabrication of accurate molecular models. J Mol Graph 13(2):126–135. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tan HB, Zhang X, Guo YL, Ma BG, Jian SW, He XY, Zhi ZZ, Liu XH (2018) Improvement in fluidity loss of magnesia phosphate cement by incorporating polycarboxylate superplasticizer. Constr Build Mater 165:887–897. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tian W, Han NV (2017) Mechanical properties of rock specimens containing pre-existing flaws with 3D printed materials. Strain 53:e12240. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vogler D, Walsh S, Dombrovski E, Perras MA (2017) A comparison of tensile failure in 3D-printed and natural sandstone. Eng Geol 226:221–235. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wang PT, Liu Y, Zhang L, Huang ZJ, Cai MF (2017) Preliminary study on uniaxial compressive properties of 3D printer fractured rock models: an experimental. Chin J Rock Mechan Eng 37:364–373. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Weng ZX, Zhou Y, Lin WX, Senthil T, Wu L (2016) Structure-property relationship of nano enhanced stereolithography resin for desktop SLA 3D printer. Compos Part A Appl Sci Manuf 88:234–242. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Xiong ZQ, Jiang Q, Gong YH, Song LB, Cui J (2015) Modeling natural joint of rock mass using three dimensional scanning and printing technologies and its experimental verfication. Rock Soil Mech 2015:1557–1565. (in chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yan X, Gu P (1996) A review of rapid prototyping technologies and systems. Comput Aided Design 28:307–318. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Yang FL, Zhang M, Bhandari B, Liu Y (2018) Investigation on lemon juice gel as food material for 3D printing and optimization of printing parameters. LWT Food Sci Technol 87:67–76. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zhang L, Liu YR, Yang Q (2015) Evaluation of reinforcement and analysis of stability of a high-arch dam based on geomechanical model testing. Rock Mech Rock Eng 48:803–818. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhou T, Zhu J (2017) An Experimental Investigation of Tensile Fracturing Behavior of Natural and Artificial Rocks in Static and Dynamic Brazilian Disc Tests. Proc Eng 191:992–998. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhou T, Zhu JB (2018) Identification of a suitable 3D printing material for mimicking brittle and hard rocks and its brittleness enhancements. Rock Mech Rock Eng 51:765–777. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zhu WS, Zhang QB, Zhu HH, Li Y, Yin JH, Li SC, Sun LF, Zhang L (2010) Large-scale geomechanical model testing of an underground cavern group in a true three-dimensional (3-D) stress state. Can Geotech J 47:935–946. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhu WS, Li Y, Li SC, Wang SG, Zhang QB (2011) Quasi-three-dimensional physical model tests on a cavern complex under high in-situ stresses. Int J Rock Mech Min 48:199–209. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xia-Ting Feng
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yan-Hua Gong
    • 1
  • Yang-Yi Zhou
    • 1
  • Zheng-Wei Li
    • 1
  • Xu-Feng Liu
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education on Safe Mining of Deep Metal MinesNortheastern UniversityShenyangChina

Personalised recommendations