Contributions of 3D printed fracture networks to development of flow and transport models

Suzuki, Anna and Minto, James M. and Watanabe, Noriaki and Li, Kewen and Horne, Roland N. (2018) Contributions of 3D printed fracture networks to development of flow and transport models. Transport in Porous Media. ISSN 0169-3913 (

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Conventional experiments using natural rock samples have trouble in observing rock structures and controlling fracture properties. Taking advantage of 3D printing technologies, a complex fracture network was made by using a 3D printer. This approach allowed us to control the properties of the fracture networks and to prepare identical geometries for both simulation and experiment. A tracer response curve from the flow experiment was obtained and compared with numerical simulations. The result of the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation based on the Navier–Stokes equations was in good agreement with experimental result, which suggested that the results of experiment and the CFD simulation are reliable. On the other hand, comparison with an equivalent permeability model based on the cubic law showed a discrepancy from the experimental result. This validation approach enabled discussion of the limitation of the flow model. Because 3D printed fracture networks could reduce uncertainty between numerical simulation and laboratory experiment, they will be useful for understanding more detailed and more complicated phenomena in fracture networks.


Suzuki, Anna, Minto, James M. ORCID logoORCID:, Watanabe, Noriaki, Li, Kewen and Horne, Roland N.;