Mining industry consultant makes models in Acrobat

A consulting firm that advises mining operations is using 3D software to help its clients determine the most effective and safest places to dig for ore.

Itasca Consulting Canada Inc., a division of international mining and environmental concern HCItasca, generates reams of mathematical data that can be applied to all types of mining, including copper, silver and gold. Itasca Canada is headquartered in Sudbury, Ont., the nickel capital of the world.

For the last six months, Itasca Canada has been using Adobe Acrobat 3D to produce three-dimensional representations of mines that can stretch down to depths of 10,000 feet or more.

“You could probably put five and a half CN Towers to the bottom,” said Luigi Cotesta, a specialist in geomechanics and scientific visualization.

“When decisions need to be made, particularly regarding the stability of these excavations at depth, it’s pretty much a necessary evil to use a 3D software and numerical model methods,” he said. “The deeper you put an excavation underground, the higher the stresses will be around this excavation.”

3D software is already commonplace in the mining industry – there are a number of CAD-type applications in use – but the advantage of using an Adobe product is that it’s already a standard, saud Cotesta. For example, a 3D model of a mine could be inserted into a PDF as part of a presentation. It can also be compressed down to the size of a few megabytes, so it can easily be sent as an e-mail attachment.

The software is meant to be used as an adjunct to existing 3D applications, said Mark James, business development manager at Adobe Systems Canada. The format it uses, U3D, will support most major third-party 3D tools.

“You can have a very interactive experience with the 3D model – you can rotate it, zoom in, you can animate specific objects or the whole model. We can even do cross sections . . . or change the texture or lighting properties of that object,” he said.

Mining is one of the target markets for the tool, said James. It also has applications for the automotive and aeronautics industries and could be used in various manufacturing processes. Theoretically, it could also be used by the video game industry to demonstrate game levels or by the legal industry to illustrate car accidents.

“The beauty of the software is that it can capture just about any open GL,” added Cotesta. “You could be playing of game of Quake or something like that and because it’s rendered in open GL . . . Adobe can intercept that at the graphics card level and bring that right into the package for you.”

Itasca Canada was one of the beta testers for Adobe Acrobat 3D. The product has been publicly available since January.


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