3D printing is a revolutionary technology which is capable of converting digital 3D models into solid objects, utilizing a laser technology to build multiple layers. In recent years, 3D printing has transitioned into a next-generation manufacturing technology, where on-demand production appears to be its most practical application. We are still in the early augmentation stages, but in decades to come there is promising potential for the technology to transform various processes.
A recent development which has sparked great interest, particularly with regards to educating the public about prehistoric earth, is the to scale construction of 3D dinosaurs. Blueprints are currently in creation which will allow users to manufacture miniature 3D replicas of dinosaurs, and form models that mimic the organism’s skull shape and additional attributes perfectly.
Vince Rossi is part of a three-person team who works at the Smithsonian Museum of National History, and their current mission is to ambitiously scan and 3D print more than 200 bones of the ‘Nation’s T. rex’, which despite dying out more than 66 million years ago has a revived opportunity to exist in artificial form. This particular dinosaur stood at a staggering 38 feet long, and has been remarked as one of the most complete T. rex skeletons ever discovered.
The museum is one of the pioneers of using 3D technology to preserve artefacts, and they have committed to using the technology as part of their Smithsonian Digitization Program, which aims to bring history to life. In the above picture you can see a scaled down version of a T. rex skull, and the finished version of the life-size ‘Nation’s T. rex’ model is expected to go on display in 2019. The team is currently working in collaboration with 19 Smithsonian museums to further their progress in the field, to the adulation of enthusiasts.
There have also been global attempts to recreate dinosaurs with Computed Tomography (CT) scans, especially in Germany where scientists are exploring the concept in accordance with 3D printing. These efforts are focused on non-destructively separating real fossilised bone to produce a 3D print, a process which involves delicately removing sediment from fossils. This encouraging prospect has unlimited applications, and researchers have recently used the method at the Berlin Natural History Museum, on a fossil which was discovered under rubble following WWII.
CT scans have allowed an accurate reconstruction of the fossil they discovered, and the rapid development of technology permits digital models of fossils to be easily transferred, and for endless copies to be made. This suggests there could be a global interchange of fossils between museums, researchers, and schools, generating promising informational access to rare fossils.
Further use of the technology can be experienced in films such as Jurassic World, which incredibly used an Artec scanner to create some of the most realistic dinosaurs ever witnessed. The craftsmanship required to achieve this created an ore-inspiring movie, and the way the artificial dinosaurs mimic their real life versions is breathtaking. 3D printing technology allowed the team to go to any scale they needed, and this introduced a level of realistic recreation unlike anything the world has seen before.
As 3D printers become more readily available and affordable, the concept of recreating dinosaurs is a realistic prospect not just for researchers, but for the public too. In years to come, blueprints to construct to scale versions of dinosaurs will be easily accessible, an exciting reality for those who are keen to learn more about the history of the earth, in particular reference to a species that paved the way for our existence.