Dinosaur new species: first 3D reconstruction thanks to 3D scanning and printing
3D reconstruction: it’s possible with Geomagic and Projet660
The 3D scanning and printing technology helped the completion, with 3D reconstruction, of partial skeleton of newly discovered species of dinosaur Ugrunaaluk Kuukpikensis – adapted for Arctic living 69m years ago.
It was discovered at Alaska’s Liscomb Bonebed, a three-foot deep layer of prehistoric bones, the richest such bed for dinosaur bones in either polar region. Museum curator of Earth Science and Associate Professor of Geology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Druckenmiller has spent months every year during his 8-year tenure wading, sifting and sorting through the site.
The complexity involved in sorting and categorizing specimens, however, presents an enormous stumbling block for researchers. As Druckenmiller says: “There are thousands of bones in the Liscomb Bonebed, here on the North Slope. Most seem to be from the same species but many of the dinosaur bones are mixed up and disarticulated, which means getting an exact matching left and right bone, for a leg or the skull, is virtually impossible.”
To face the challenge of assembling a dinosaur skull, Druckenmiller turned to Michael Holland, principal at Michael Holland Productions in Bozeman MT, which specializes in creating and building natural history exhibit features. For many years, Michael has used 3D scanning to 3D printing to create accurate exhibits for museums. He instantly saw the potential to take a similar approach with this project.
“We could have estimated or been creative about what the skull looked like, but we would have had serious asymmetry and distortion if we did,” said Holland. “The scientific approach was to take complete fossils in a 3D scan and be able to mirror and accurately replicate them. We could only do that with 3D scanning and 3D printing.”
With the assistance of Peak Solutions, a 3D scanning and printing service bureau, the team took the best sample fossils and created plaster casts and then scanned them using the Geomagic Capture 3D scanner and processed the scan data within Geomagic Wrap.
“We use the Geomagic Capture a lot, and this system just sits and works – capturing even the finest details of the dinosaur fossils,” said Sayers. “In a project like this, when a surface texture is critical, this a perfect solution.” It took a few minutes to scan each fossil and less than 5 minutes to create a fully working 3D model of each bone.
“Geomagic Wrap is just great!” said Sayers. “It has the best set of tools and the interface is easy. The software just works and creates the STL files pretty much at the push of a button.” Within one day, the STL data of the mirrored replicas was prepared and ready to print on the ProJet 660 full color 3D printer.
“The ProJet 660 produces hardened gypsum parts and this is an ideal surface to paint on. We usually use the full-color features of these printers but this time we went for monochrome prints so we could add realistic finishes. The ProJet 660 parts are rigid and bone-like and also work well with the glue, pins and nails that we use for constructing skeletons, so it was a perfect choice.” – Holland
Using both the matched plaster cast and 3D printed bone parts, Holland went to work immediately in building the entire dinosaur skeleton with the 3D reconstruction. With some nails, a bit of wire, some paint and an awful lot of skill, the team constructed the full skeleton in record time. Said Druckenmiller, “This is a very cool and real example of how 3D digital scanning and printing is revolutionizing what we do in our profession – not just for display but for research overall. As a result, we are able to make a 3D reconstruction a new species of dinosaur for the exhibit – faster than we ever could before”.