3D printing is helping researchers at the London natural history museum discover how Stegosaurus might once have moved.The museum acquired Sophie, the most complete Stegosaurus skeleton in the world, in December 2013 and recently provoked the help of model factory Propshop to print parts of the ancient animal.
Unearthed in Wyoming in 2005, the skeleton stands 5.6 meters long by 2.9 meters high. The bones are fragile and valuable, so life-size, to-scale models would enable scientists like lead dinosaur researcher Professor Paul Barrett to study the skeleton more thoroughly without fear of damage.
Dr. Charlotte Brassey, a paleobiologist and specialist in biomechanics, was hired in 2013 to digitize the skeleton. Her long-term goal was to discover the weight of the Stegosaurus and how it moved, as well as to study the strength of its plates and teeth and what the plates might have been used for. “The most basic parameter of how an animal moves is its weight…We have to get an idea of how much she weighed before we can do other cool stuff,” she said.The researchers used photogrammetry, computer tomography and surface laser mapping to scan the Stegosaurus’ body, then CT scanned and X-rayed the skull.
‘It’s an honor to have been asked to help,’ says James Enright, Propshop’s Managing Director of voxeljet UK, ‘We were able to use our experience in digitally scanning rare, large or one-off objects to good effect. The skeleton was scanned using Lidar technology, and the data gathered from the non contact handheld high-res Laser scanner was then digitally manipulated to create a highly accurate computerized model. We 3D printed the skull, the radial plates and tail bones using one of voxeljet’s larger printers, the VX1000, and then fabricated and finished the parts using traditional modelling craftsmanship.'