Apr 4, 2016 | By Tess

While almost everyone may be familiar with the infamous reputation of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and of course, its Hollywood representations, many of us have not actually laid eyes on the 70 million year old dinosaur species in its mighty, fossilized glory. Now, however, thanks to the innovative work of paleontologists and the amazing capabilities afforded by 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies, the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, The Netherlands will soon be debuting a recently restored, partially 3D printed full T. Rex skeleton.

In 2013, a team of paleontologists from Naturalis uncovered the Tyrannosaurus Rex’s fossils in the state of Montana, and though the skeleton was incredibly well preserved, some of its key bones, including its left leg and arm bones are missing. In order to complete the T. Rex’s colossal 13 meter long skeleton and prepare it for presentation, the team at Naturalis did what many other paleontologists have done in recent years, and 3D scanned, mirror imaged, and 3D printed the missing bones.

Before 3D scanning and printing technologies, missing dinosaur bones had to either be modeled from styrofoam, a task which required astonishing skill and precision, or existing bones from other dinosaurs had to be cast and added to the skeleton, which proved challenging if an appropriately sized bone could not be accesses. With 3D scanning, however, researchers have been able to accurately generate a digital model of the bones, digitally mirror them, and 3D print them at a high resolution, effectively creating an accurate replica of the missing dinosaur bone.

To complete the T. Rex’s skeleton for the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Valentin Vanhecke, of Dutch 3D scanning company 4Visualization, 3D scanned the right leg and arm of the dinosaur. From there, the museum, in partnership with 3D printer company Ultimaker, was able to additively manufacture the missing bones and incorporate them into the final skeleton. Funnily enough, the bones replicated on the Ultimaker 2+ are so lifelike that they will actually be painted a slightly different color than the real bones so viewers can tell which bones are real and which are fake.

"We are very excited that Naturalis Biodiversity Center is using an Ultimaker for this project," says Siert Wijnia, CTO and founder of Ultimaker. "Ultimaker 3D printers offer an easy and accurate way to create seamless replicas of the bones, helping to visualize the missing bones of the T. rex."

As the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton’s restoration nears its end, the Leiden Naturalis Biodiversity Center is preparing to publicly unveil it in September 2016 as part of its new dinosaur hall. Of course, if you can’t make it to Leiden to see the impressive skeleton yourself, don’t fret because Ultimaker is reportedly planning on hosting a “how-to-print-guide” for a selection of the T. Rex’s bones, and will even be releasing the .STL files used by the museum itself, so that makers can 3D print the bones themselves.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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