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Automated joint mapping using the concentric shells algorithm


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Author P Valenzuela


Joint mapping is a fundamental input for rock mass characterisation and slope stability analysis. The usual way to do it is using a compass in the field or digitising structures on a screen, with a software package.

In this paper a method to identify and map joints automatically along a rock face is presented; it is called the Concentric Shells (CS) algorithm. The method scans a point cloud sequentially, tests if selected points are ‘true pivots’ within an inner shell, and then it searches for points inside a wider sphere (outer shell).

The algorithm, developed by the author, was applied in real data. It reproduces the main features obtained from conventional (compass) and digital mapping (software package). Execution times are approximately 45 seconds for two point sets holding of 3.1 million points. Obtaining the same results via digital mapping takes approximately 3–4 working days.

Key advantages of this method are: significant time reductions; elimination of mapping bias; and the ability to manage very large data sets (>2 million points) without the need of scanning the cloud on the screen. These advantages make this method an attractive tool for engineers and geologists wanting to increase productivity.


Valenzuela, P, 2017. Automated joint mapping using the concentric shells algorithm, in Proceedings Tenth International Mining Geology Conference 2017, pp 257–262 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).