3D Printing: A Remedy to Common Misconceptions about Earthquakes

Christodoulos Kyriakopoulos

Published June 12, 2019, SCEC Contribution #9225

The implementation of modern technologies in geosciences, and specifically the study of earthquakes, is vital for continued progress in this field. For example, the last 25 yr have seen new technologies such as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar, the Global Positioning System, and light detection and ranging help scientists observe and place new constraints on the seismic cycle over unprecedented time and space scales.

But what about our techniques for communicating these advances to the general public? Have we seen a similar improvement in education and outreach, and most importantly, in people’s understanding of earthquake hazard? Are we keeping up with the available technology to transmit our scientific findings? The combination of advanced visualization software with powerful multicore computers, graphic cards, and 3D printers gives us the ability to generate realistic representations of our work. Scientists are already taking advantage of such tools. For example, the meetings of the Geological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) have recently held special sessions dedicated to 3D printing and virtual reality (VR) technologies and their implementation. In this article, I report on my personal experiences working with such technologies over the last year and a half and show how a 3D printed model of the major faults in California changed the outreach approach of my department and our relations with the general public.

In the summer 2017, I came to the conclusion that the fault system in the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, Version 3 (UCERF3, Field et al., 2013) was too complex for the general public and students to be explained only through a flat 2D monitor or screen. I thought that the complex geometry and interconnected nature of these faults were the ideal tectonic landscape to tell a story and to connect with the general public: a story of how and where earthquakes are generated within the crust and how earthquake faults surround almost everyone in California.

Kyriakopoulos, C. (2019). 3D Printing: A Remedy to Common Misconceptions about Earthquakes. Seismological Research Letters,. doi: 10.1785/0220190121.