A comprehensive experimental study on mechanical behavior, microstructure and transport properties of 3D-printed rock analogs

Rui Song, Yao Wang, Sergey Ishutov, Gonzalo Zambrano-Narvaez, Kevin J. Hodder, Rick J. Chalaturnyk, Shuyu Sun, Jianjun Liu, Ranjith P. Gamage

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3D-printed (3DP) analogs of natural rocks have been used in laboratory tests concerning geomechanical and transport properties. Rock analogs manufactured by 3D printing can be used to manufacture batch of the samples with specified heterogeneity compared to natural rocks. Rock analogs were manufactured with silica sand (SS) and gypsum powder (GP) using binder jetting as well as with coated silica beads (CSB) using selective laser curing. The uniaxial and triaxial compressive tests were conducted to investigate the strength and deformation characteristics of 3DP rocks that were quantitatively compared with natural rocks. CSB and SS specimens experienced tensile failure, while the GP specimen has shown shear failure and shear-expansion behavior. The microstructural characteristics (e.g. grain shape, pore type, and bonding form) of the SS specimen were similar to a natural sandstone (Berea sandstone reported in the literature) with a relatively loose texture. In addition, 3DP rocks were more permeable than Berea sandstone (permeability of SS, CSB, and Berea sandstone was 12580.5 mD, 9840.5 mD, and 3950 mD, respectively). The effect of microscopic mechanical behavior on macroscopic strength and failure characteristics was investigated using scanning electronic microscopy. CSB and SS specimens could be suitable to simulate the transport behavior of the highly permeable sedimentary rocks. The GP specimen could be used to study the large deformation characteristics and creep failure mode of highly stressed soft rocks. Despite the early stage of 3DP rock analog studies, the potential applications could be expanded by controlling the physical properties (e.g. wettability and surface roughness).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5745-5765
Number of pages21
JournalRock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • 3D printing
  • Compressive strength
  • Computed tomography
  • Deformation and failure
  • Microstructure

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