3-D Printing as a Novel Tool for Rock Physics Investigations
3D printing presents a unique opportunity to build a physical link between those scales and techniques. We demonstrated the feasibility of using 3D printing as a novel technique to physically measure digital changes to a pore network using two different 3D printers. We used 3D printing to access multiple scales digitally and experimentally, to test hypotheses about how changes in rock microstructure affect bulk transport properties, and to connect lab measurements to quantities that are traditionally impossible to physically measure such as time-lapse changes in surface area and tortuosity.
While 3D printing utility is currently limited by resolution and material, the technology continues to advance. In addition to resolution improvements, 3D printing materials and our ability to manipulate and dope the current materials are also rapidly diversifying. Some printing companies are starting to include more geologically relevant materials; these new materials and manipulations of the current materials could enable tests beyond the transport properties of the void space of rocks into elastic properties, wettability, and more.