Thanks to 3D printing technology, Sacramento District projects are being shrunk into handheld models in a matter of hours to help team members visualize and explain their work like never before.
About 25 miles northeast of downtown Sacramento, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District construction crews are working to complete one of the Corps' biggest projects - a new spillway at Folsom Dam, designed to help reduce the risk of flooding throughout the Sacramento region.
The centerpiece of the project is a 367-foot-wide by 146-foot-high control structure, essentially a second dam. With an estimated project cost of more than $750 million, it's important to be able to show and describe how the project will work to government leaders, the public and project staff.
For the past four years, the Sacramento District has used a 3D printer to build scale models of two of its largest construction projects, the Folsom Dam auxiliary spillway and upgrades to Isabella Lake Dam.
Thanks to precision accuracy and durable parts, the 3D printed scaled models are not only proving to be invaluable to project staff, but also superior showpieces to help explain complicated Corps construction projects.
The printer uses strands of ABS plastic and prints the 1/240-scale model of Folsom Dam's new dam in sections. It took more than three days to complete the whole printing process.
(Images Credit: army.mil)
"When compared to a 2D drawing or rendering that only shows the outer surface of the project, a 3D model provides a much better way to help explain what the project is and how all of its pieces will function to a non-technical audience," said Dave Neff, technical lead for the auxiliary spillway project.
Seeing it all together instead of on separate pages of plans helps the project staff better understand how maintenance or other facility needs can be met, Neff said.
Isabella Lake Dam, located 40 miles northeast of Bakersfield, is nearly 60 years old and among the Corps' most at-risk dams. In 2006, the Sacramento District began studying how it could best modernize the dam and reduce the likelihood of dam failure, which would inundate most of Bakersfield and imperil most of its 350,000 residents.
To get there, project staff considered a wide array of solutions including some uncommon design proposals. 3D models helped them evaluate the options.
"It's said a picture is worth a thousand words; well a 3D model is worth 10 times that," said Nathan Cox, lead hydraulic engineer for the Isabella Dam project.
"It really is just an invaluable tool," Neff said.
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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