Feb 10, 2016 | By Alec

If you happen to live in the Sacramento, California region, you’ll have noticed that a huge building project is currently underway at the Folsom Lake. A gigantic $900-million auxiliary spillway for the Folsom Dam is being constructed by a collaboration of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation. It is scheduled to be completed in 2017, but it exactly already exists as a 3D model. The engineers revealed that 3D printing prototyping was an integral part of the design process for the auxiliary spillway.

This ongoing project is one of the most significant dam building endeavors in the US. It is actually an addition to the existing Folsom Dam, and will create an auxiliary spillway that is intended to complement the function of the main dam and will be will used to release water earlier and more safely from the Folsom Lake when water levels become too high. It will be a 158 feet tall structure. The Folsom Dam auxiliary spillway will also give the whole Sacramento region a so-called 200-year level of protection, which means that there will just be a one-in-200 chance for flooding (in any given year).

Though the final colossus will be made from concrete and steel, most important components were actually prototyped using 3D printing technology. The short clip below reveals how one part, the dogging assembly, was actually 3D printed. This is actually a manually operated steel tube that locks the main control structure’s bulkhead gates (a massive 105-ton giant) into place, or opens them. The model is completely 3D printed in ABS. Using a solution tank, they went on to quickly and efficiently remove all support material.

The designers were also very pleased with the technique. “3D printing has really helped the way we design projects and made it a lot easier to conceptualize unique dam components like the dogging assembly”, said Cheuk Wan, Sacramento District civil engineer. “We were able to physically see if everything worked and moved correctly before we started full-scale construction.” Various other parts were also initially prototyped through 3D printing before construction began.

As Corps modeling manager Kevin Russ explained, it also allowed them to interact with the design in a much more comprehensive way than a simple CAD model would allow. “We’ve done the full Folsom auxiliary spillway and actually cut different sections in the model and be able to physically take the model apart and actually see the interior structure of the model as well. It’s an awesome way to see these designs before they get built,” he explained. While work on the Folsom Dam auxiliary spillway is still underway, the Army Corps of Engineers has already said that this experience was so positive that 3D printing will be used for more construction projects in the near future.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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