Jul.3, 2012

In February 2012, Paleontologist Dr. Kenneth Lacovara and mechanical engineer Dr. James Tangorra at Drexel University announced that they were using 3D printers to recreate Dinosaurs.

They have scanned the university's collection of dinosaur fossils, analyzed the data to render a model of the dinosaur bone and then used 3D printers to create exact replicas of the fossils. They then printed out every bone and assembled these into scaled-down robotic models of the original dinosaurs. According to Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, they also intended to "engineer fully working limbs, complete with musculature to to create a fully accurate robotic dinosaur leg or arm, and eventually, a complete dinosaur."

For the first time in 150 years, paleontologists will be able to test hypotheses about how dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals moved and interacted with their environments. This is one big development step for paleontology. And all the digital curation and archive of digital specimens can be shared worldwide as a "platform for global collaboration among paleontologists."

What exactly have they done in the lab? Lacovara explained the process. First of all they scan the bone with a "$3,000 NextEngine scanner, which uses simple proprietary software to scan around 1 million points on a three-dimensional object in a few minutes." The stl file is sent to the Dimension Elite 3D Printer in their Engineering Department, and the bone is printed out in just a few hours. Dimension Elite 3D Printer is a product line from Stratasys which create models using tough ABS plastic. It uses Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology to produce plastic parts layer by layer within hours.

With 3D printing technology, scientists can make endless duplication for their studies. By watching how the bone and joint structures fit together, they could have a more accurate picture of how the animal actually lived and moved.

Jeffrey Kahn, a second year PhD Student in the Laboratory of Biological Systems Analysis at Drexel University said, "On the surface, this sounds dull, because we have an imagination and have seen 'dinosaurs' in CGI and animation, but, if you get really deeply involved in studying the movement of them, you start to see things like "the possible ancestors and progeny" of dinosaurs."

David McDevitt, an undergraduate who has worked closely with Lacovara on the project, explained that they'll be "striving to make the animal walk as close to the way that it would have walked in the past," and the "physical model produced will be able to act as a testing platform for a whole array of different test conditions," so the application of 3D technology really could lead to a whole new level of understanding of these ancient creatures.

Click here to read the great article from Laura June of the verge "Printing dinosaurs: the mad science of new paleontology".


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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