The impact of 3D printing and its application are becoming very diverse each passing day. A technology which was earlier used for prototyping is now being used to make human organs. Recently we came to know that a team of researchers at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History have used 3D scanning to scan the bones of the world’s largest dinosaur known as “Dreadnoughtus”. This step taken by the museum is considered by many as being monumental in the field of 3D printing.
The skeletal of the Dreadnoughtus is 77 million years old and was found way back in 2005 in South- West Patagonia, Argentina. The dinosaur is estimated to be 26 meters long, making the mammoth look like mice! The fossilized bones of the dinosaur were in such a good condition that the actual anatomy of the dinosaur could be easily figured out. From this data the researchers could trace the dinosaur to be from the dynasty of the plant eating dinosaurs called the Titanosaurian Sauropods.
Kenneth Lacovara, Team Leader of the team that discovered Dreadnoughtus says, “Knowing what muscles exist and their size and power is fundamental to formulating reliable hypotheses for how these animals moved.”
The team had excavated many fossilized bones because of which the precise weight and other details of the dinosaur could be estimated easily. Matthew Carrano, a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC says, “The most important thing is that the specimen is relatively complete, especially when compared to other gigantic dinosaur species we know. Although Sauropods are often thought to have all looked pretty similar, once you see the anatomy it’s clear that there’s an enormous variety of shapes and sizes. And understanding exactly how they are built is one of the key things to understanding how they functioned and evolved.”
There are many questions that could be answered with the help of analyzing these bones. For a complete analysis, the bones need to be preserved in an exquisite manner. As preservation is the main concern, the team is looking for the best possible way to analyze the bones.
One of the options that is being considered by the team involves 3D printing. Lacovara says, “The process involves robotic experiments on 3D-printed Dreadnoughtus bones. Because the bones beautifully preserve muscle scars where muscles were inserted, the musculature of a super massive dinosaur can now be reconstructed in unprecedented detail.”
The team has decided to make these 3D files available for the public in order to expose the material to a much larger group of audience. The bones of the dinosaur were scanned with the help of NextEngine Model 2020i Desktop 3D Laser Scanner and the digital models were created with the help of two softwares: NextEngine ScanStudio HD PRO and Autodesk’s Maya 3D animation program. These images were then converted into 3D PDF files with the help of Geomagic Studio software.
Dr. Lacovara says, “Assembling the actual bones into a physical mounted skeleton would be physically, technically, and financially challenging, and risk damage to the fossils. Compounding these liabilities, mounted specimens can be difficult to disarticulate for further examination, which can deter future study. In a virtual environment, fossil bones weighing hundreds of kilograms can be manipulated with ease, thus facilitating the testing of anatomical and biomechanical hypotheses.”
This inclusion of 3D printing into the world of dinosaurs proves that creativity and necessity is the only limit for this technology!