Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printing Paleontology


Tessa Blokland  


I think the reason why I like design so much is that designers have the skill to visualize and materialize stories that otherwise remain inaccessible, with design these stories are expressed in material, shape and color. Same goes for paleontology and 3D printing, I really think it is magic how with 3D scanning and 3D printing we can reproduce entire dinosaur skeletons, not only in museums, but even at home and at school! The top image is an example of a lesson plan, developed by Matthijs Graner from Naturalis, with 3D printable bones of a T.Rex, that was on display in the museum.

Another great example of a digitalized dinosaur is the 3D printed head of Dippy, a UK-based Diplodocus. The head of the Diplodocus skeleton was 3D scanned and 3D printed at the National History Museum. One of the great advantages of 3D scanning and 3D printing is that the original object (in this case – fragile ancient bones) are never touched, so it eliminates risks of damaging the original. “Laser scanning and 3D printing are very safe ways to create models of original specimens. The old way of making models of specimens was by producing a mold of the surface and then making a cast. But molding from original materials can be risky. If you get any material from the mold stuck anywhere on the surface you risk damage to the object, and you will potentially create an inaccurate replica,” states  Alex Ball, Head of Imaging and Analysis.

For the completion of the T.Rex skeleton at Naturalis, the museum turned to Dutch scanning wizard Valentin Vanhecke of 4Visualization to create a 3D scan of the right leg, and together with Ultimaker, the museum printed a mirrored version: the matching restored left leg. I have been to the exhibition last year and it was quite amazing to see the result.

Materialise, Belgium biggest 3D printing solutions provider, recently created a life-size replica of the first mammoth skeleton. The skeleton was composed of 320 bones which have been scanned and digitally reconstructed. “Working on the first entire mammoth skeleton ever to be 3D printed has been a unique experience,” said Dr. Mietje Germonpré, Resident Paleontologist of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) and advisor on this project. The museum piece is a reproduction of an actual mammoth skeleton, which was excavated near the Belgian city of Lier in 1860.

3D printing not only makes it possible to reproduce fragile bones (and so saving the original pieces), in this last example using original bones would have been too heavy for the construction. With 3D printing it was possible to reproduce missing pieces of the 3D printed life-size Titanosaur as well as making the reproductions more lightweight.

LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_3D Printing Paleontology


Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

For more inspiration and information follow us on Pinterest or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>