Jun 11, 2016 | By Faith

In a consumer industry saturated with functionless prints, providing users with interesting model content is a challenge for desktop 3D printing companies worldwide. Whilst the useless trinkets so often produced by 3D printing first-timers provide vital learning experiences (namely: how to create any ‘thing’ via 3D printing technology), criticism from the industry is being delivered as a result of the wasteful production that excess plastic printing inspires.


As content creation for the 3D printing industry remains a hot topic, different suggestions continue to be made. Creating items with the ability to inspire a sense of history or heritage certainly seems like a valuable reason to make 3D printed objects, especially if such a process heightens the educational aspect of this contemporary tech.

Ancient and unique fossil collections are usually only ever experienced by the public through the thick, glass panes of a museum display - but a University professor in America has made it possible for anyone with a 3D printer to create replicas of many kinds of incredible specimens. By scanning the fossils, the Evolutionary Anthropology team at Duke University in North Carolina have created detailed 3D CAD images for 3D printer users to produce accurate replicas. They’re also putting digital images of the fossils online so to offer out these prints to interested enthusiasts all around the globe.

Much of the stunning collection at Duke is irreplaceable, explains postdoctoral associate Lauren Gonzalez. “If it’s damaged or lost, we can’t necessarily go back to Egypt to even try to attempt to find more of this fossilised animal.” The precious nature of the collection’s pieces means that public engagement access to them is extremely limited (even for educational purposes). The opportunity for a group of young children to actually touch, hold and study these models practically doesn’t exist – but what has been made possible is for scaled, 3D printed replicas to be used in place of the real thing.

“A child can pick this [3D fossil replica] up turn it around, and they can see this is what early primates would have looked like,” added Gonzalez.

The website museum that the Duke University team are creating has been named Morphosource, and defines itself online as ‘a project-based data archive’, giving rapid access to a virtual collection of ancient information. What’s more is that any registered user can immediately search for and download 3D morphological data sets that have been made accessible through the consent of data authors.

Project specimens include remain sets such as the bones, teeth and horns of long-extinct creatures that roamed our world in the past, and an extensive list of taxonomy and world project locations welcomes users through the site’s browse option. Not only is Morphosource giving hobbyists and tech enthusiasts meaningful, world-relevant content to play with, but it also holds the potential to educate us all on the future of our planet via engagement with its living past.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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