Cyber Techniques used to Produce Physical Geological Models

Reuben Reyes, Jerome A. Bellian, Dallas B. Dunlap, and Rachel A. Eustice

            Computer applications used for producing and displaying digital 3D models are complex and require many hours of training to use.  Because of this, we explored using different digital techniques to produce 3D physical models.   These models can be used independently or can be used to enhance virtual models.   The models we produced represent real geological data from seismic, X-ray computed tomography, and point cloud lidar sources.  For each data set, a different 3D physical technology was used to produce the model.  The seismic data is represented by an interlocking color model, with each color used to show a different seismic attribute.  A translucent 3D model showing cavities and vugs within a limestone was produced from X-ray computed tomography data.  The last model represents cave geometry and was produced by replicating a lidar point cloud in clear crystal glass.  All three physical models or replicas accurately portray the complex data, yet are scaled so they are small enough to hold. New advances in 3D printing and computer technology allow scientists to produce 3D models from a wide variety of geological data rapidly to use for teaching and research.  These new techniques allow a fast turn around time between gathering geological data and producing a 3D physical model. 

Color 3D model made from seismic data.

Translucent 3D model made from X-ray computed tomography data.

Cave point cloud data in a clear crystal glass.

Link to Conference abstract.
Link to GSA abstract.