6 October 2014 12:33

Engineers from Lancaster University have helped explorers discover the world’s biggest cave.

The exciting discovery of the giant Miao Room cavern, in China, was featured by National Geographic News and in the July issue of National Geographic magazine 

The cavern was scanned as part of a 2013 expedition into the cave, which was co-led by Richard Walters from Penrith-based company Commendium Ltd.

The scan data was provided to engineers at Lancaster University, who used this raw data to make calculations on the area, volume and other values of the underground spaces.

Up until now it was believed that the largest cave by volume was Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia. Lancaster’s engineers have shown that Miao Room Chamber in China is the largest discovered, with a volume measured as 10.78 million cubic metres. This is approximately ten percent larger than the previous record holder, which still boasts the largest surface area.

In addition, engineers at Lancaster Product Development Unit were able to use its suite of additive manufacturing resources to produce a scaled model of the inside of the cave. This method of production, known to many as ‘3D printing’, has long been part of the research within the Engineering Department.

Jonathan Milburn, a Lancaster University Graduate Engineer who carried out the work, said: “After data collection, several scale model sections of the cave were produced using a process referred to as Selective Laser Sintering.

“The models are helping the team at Commendium Ltd, and others with an interest, to understand more about the geology of these landforms. This demonstrates that 3D printing has a wide range of fascinating applications and I was delighted to have worked on this project that has helped uncover the world’s biggest cave.”

More amazing National Geographic images of China’s super caves can be seen at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/china-caves/

The SusDRAM:EDA Project (Sustainable Design for Rapid/Additive Manufacturing: Engineering Design Academy) which carried out the work in collaboration with Commendium Ltd is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund. It aims to support SMEs in Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Lancashire benefit from business growth in working with a leading knowledge provider.

More information about Lancaster University’s Engineering Department can be found at: http://www.engineering.lancs.ac.uk/