Thinking Big

    A design grad's 3-D simluations get super-sized

    January 24, 2011

      Andrew Czarnietzki

    Czarnietzki with some of his simulation subjects.

    We’ve worked with some incredible local companies that are amazingly innovative within their own industries,” says Andrew Czarnietzki, ’07 BDes.

    The “we” in question is 3DI High-Fidelity Simulations, the Edmonton-based company with a 15-member staff — 12 of whom have U of A degrees — of which Czarnietzki is the co-founder and technical director. The company began in 2005 by offering architectural simulations so that people could take a virtual walk through buildings that didn’t yet exist, including the then-unbuilt Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton.

    “We started entirely with architecture,” says Czarnietzki. “But our primary focus now is physics-based simulations for mining, energy and construction.

    What 3DI mainly does now is build computer-generated advanced interactive simulations that look, sound and feel like the real thing so that people can, for instance, learn how to properly operate heavy equipment before they ever climb into the driver’s seat. This helps enhance employee safety, cuts down on training costs, and saves wear and tear on expensive equipment. Think of flight simulators where pilots get to crash — or not — virtual planes and you’ll have a good idea of what 3DI is up to, albeit in a scaled-down version.

    One of the “incredible local companies” that 3DIs has worked with is the Edmonton-based MARL Technologies Inc. Working with the engineers at MARL, 3DI developed a design verification model for a submersible core drilling platform designed to be operated by remote control at depths of up to three kilometres under the sea.

    As for what the future holds for 3DI, Czarnietzki hopes it involves a little extraterrestrial excursion in a virtual environment. “I would love to simulate the next Mars Rover or something for NASA,” he exclaims. “We shared a booth with a Mars Lander Prototype at a tradeshow — very cool stuff! If not that, I’m always in awe of the sheer size of mining equipment. One day I would love to build a simulator for the world’s largest dragline.”

    Draglines — super-large excavation systems such as those used in the tar sands — rank amongst the largest mobile equipment ever built to operate on land, typically weighing about 2,000 metric tonnes. You certainly can’t blame a boy for thinking big.

    For more on 3DI go to