3D Topographic Map for Australian Water Sources


Expand knowledge of the proximity of arable land to water sources in Western Australia by utilizing 3D printing to create a three-dimensional map representing hydro-geological interactions

A major agricultural effort, the La Grange project south of Broome in the Kimberley region of Australia, has a 3.5 million hectare groundwater area, including a major aquifer called the Broome aquifer. Researcher, Nick Wright, wanted to be able to create a direct visual representation of the physical relationship between the land and the aquifer.

The goal was not to create a model of detailed precision but something to aid in presentations. “It’s not meant to be a super-precise representation of what’s going on,” explained Wright. “It’s about creating a conceptual model, so people understand how the different units interact with each other.”​

Wright combined data collected on surveys of the La Grange area with data collected by NASA. He spent a month working with the data to develop a system of computer modeling that would yield a fully three-dimensional, 3D-printed map. Although he had originally hoped to draw from similar models, Wright learned after an extensive search that nobody else was really doing what he had in mind. He realized that he was pioneering a new process that he hoped would be used more widely.

One of the major goals of Wright’s 3D mapping project was to find a way to demonstrate visually how the Broome aquifer flows from inland towards the ocean. The model he eventually produced had multiple, interlocking layers. Rather than looking at a flat map and imagining the variations in elevation, the contours, as with a traditional topographic map, Wright’s 3D-printed map can be picked up, rotated, and studied from all sides.

“We were using it at a seminar a couple of weeks ago,” Wright related, “to explain the data we’ve collected over the past couple of years about the irrigation opportunities and constraints.”

Source: 3D Print

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