Image credit School of Industrial Engineering
Dinosaur models in museums are rarely real bone; it is too fragile. most of them are made by clay modelling, molding and casting. It is expensive and time consuming and can be hard on the original fossils. But this is changing; David at Ponoko describes how palaeontologists from Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is now printing out dinosaurs.
To build a juvenile apatasaurus, Engineers at the Center for Shape Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (SEAM) 3D scanned the pieces of bones and then virtually build a model of the complete bone. Where they didn't have a bone, they scanned another grown apatasaurus and reverse-engineered it to fit. Still others were "sculpted from virtual clay".
After printing out plastic bones, it was easy to make moulds and cast the pieces that go on display.
Each method allows for all the 292 juvenile apatosaurus bones to be reconstructed more efficiently, in less time and with fewer volunteers. The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and SEAM collaboration allowed for a unique application of the reverse engineering tool and processes.
Meanwhile, Scientific American writes about another scientist who prints out copies of skulls without even touching them.
"My research is in the evolution of higher primates," says paleoanthropologist Eric Delson, who uses digital models and an Objet Eden260 printer housed at Lehman College in New York City to produce models of primates' skeletons. 3-D printing allows him to make accurate replicas without damaging the originals, and to generate larger versions of fossils and even reconstructions of lost bones. In fact, the digital models that 3-D printers use as templates make it possible to re-create the remains of long-lost ancestral primates, putting classical model-making methods to shame by printing calculated re-creations of bones that failed to form fossils.
3D printing is the next personal computer, changing the way people have been doing things for years in every field that it touches.