We just read this great article on Newscientist.com we had to share with you. Author of the story Rowan Hooper explains how the combination of CT scanning and 3D printing is taking the discovery and recreation of ancient fossils into the 21st century.
Just scan it and print it
Hooper tells the story of Sergio Azevedo, a paleontologist from Brazil. He and his team were prospecting at an old railroad site in São Paulo state, when they discovered the fossilised bones of an unknown animal. “Many times when you find a fossil in the field it’s impossible to determine how much of the ancient animal you have,” Azevedo said. “Sometimes you have just part of a bone or a tooth.” Azevedo has a solution to this problem. Just scan it and print it.
How does this work?
First they use a portable CT scanner to determine the orientation of the specimen on site, then they cut out a large section of rock to take back to the lab. There the encased fossil is scanned using a more powerful scanner, lastly a 3D replica is printed out in resin.
Interesting quotes from the article
“This gives us safe access to the inner structures usually not accessible to conventional palaeontology,” – Sergio Azevedo
“3D printing will be a step change in the science of palaeontology once the costs come down,” – Louise Leakey
“You can now use laser scanners to capture surface detail of delicate fossils in the field in 3D before they are excavated to provide an in situ record of a fossil or a site before it is disturbed,” – Louise Leakey
“We are developing several research lines in palaeontology using CT and surface 3D scanning. These include the nervous system and biomechanics of crocodiles, dinosaurs and other vertebrate fossils.” – Sergio Azevedo