Dec 21, 2015 | By Benedict

What do you get when you mix some of the planet’s oldest creatures with some of its newest technology? 3D printed dinosaurs, of course. Thanks to research undertaken by students at the University of Manchester, fans of prehistoric beasts can now receive their perfect Christmas present: a realistic 3D printed T-Rex.

The 3D printed dinosaurs actually evolved from a slightly different goal. Originally, the researchers only wanted to create computer-based simulations, as part of ongoing research into dinosaur movements. However, when the team realized the full potential of their project, they decided to go one step further and turn the 3D images into 3D printed models. “These models are amazingly accurate and a lot of fun,” explained Dr Bill Sellers, research lead. “Children will love them as will anyone who has an interest in dinosaurs. Just imagine their surprise when a lifelike model appears beneath the Christmas tree.”

To save time and money, dinosaur lovers can even choose to print smaller sections of the 3D models. “If you haven’t got the time to 3D print the whole skeleton – you can just print out the skulls,” Sellers added. “They’re still very striking.”

The original movement simulation project required the creation of an open source computer program. To develop the special application, the researchers used large amounts of information regarding the physiology of the extinct animals. Using this information, Sellers and co. were able to create lifelike 3D animations to be used in the unique program. To animate the 3D dinosaurs in specific ways, the researchers also made use Kinect, a motion detection system commonly used in computer games to sense the physical motions of a gamer. “We are interested in understanding how dinosaurs actually moved, and these computer simulations upon which the designs are based are very helpful in achieving that,” Sellers explained.

The special software developed by the team of scientists allows users to control the movement of the simulated dinosaurs, by measuring body movements via the Kinect interface. This feature is both fun and educational, since the rigorous design of the 3D simulations restricts them to the probable movements of real dinosaurs. A hunched trot performed in front of the webcam will be replicated by the on-screen dinosaur, but a high kick followed by a delicate pirouette will likely see the on-screen tyrannosaur perform a more restricted action. Users can therefore try out a range of motions to understand how dinosaurs once moved.

"The software doesn't just animate the dinosaurs, it uses the Kinect PC interface to measure your body's movements and then drives the muscles in the dinosaur simulations,” added Sellers. "These muscles generate forces and the software solves Newton's Law's of Motion to calculate how the dinosaur could actually have tried to copy your movement. So it's about learning some physics as well.”

Try out the software yourself and turn motion capture into motion raptor. The 3D printable dinosaur models and open source software can be downloaded for free at Dr Sellers’ website.



Posted in 3D Software



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