Different particle properties, such as shape, size, surface roughness, and constituent material stiffness, affect the mechanical behavior of coarse-grained soils. Systematic investigation of the individual effects of these properties requires careful control over other properties, which is a pervasive challenge in investigations with natural soils. The rapid advance of 3D printing technology provides the ability to produce analog particles with independent control over particle size and shape. This study examines the triaxial compression behavior of specimens of 3D printed sand particles and compares it to that of natural sand specimens. Drained and undrained isotropically-consolidated triaxial compression tests were performed on specimens composed of angular and rounded 3D printed and natural sands. The test results indicate that the 3D printed sands exhibit stress-dilatancy behavior that follows well-established flow rules, the angular 3D printed sand mobilizes greater critical state friction angle than that of rounded 3D printed sand, and analogous drained and undrained stress paths can be followed by 3D printed and natural sands with similar initial void ratios if the cell pressure is scaled. The results suggest that some of the fundamental behaviors of soils can be captured with 3D printed soils, and that the interpretation of their mechanical response can be captured with the critical state soil mechanics framework. However, important differences in response arise from the 3D printing process and the smaller stiffness of the printed polymeric material.
Artificial sand analogs were 3D printed from X-ray CT scans of sub-rounded and sub-angular natural sands. Triaxial compression tests were performed to characterize the strength and dilatancy behavior as well as critical staste parameters of the 3D printed sands and to compare it to that exhibited by the natural sands.