Paleontologists are people who study fossils of extinct animals and birds in order to find the reasons of their extinction. This study helps to predict the future of the animals of today. These fossil diggers have to deal with extremely rare bones hence any new find is considered to be great achievement. These rare fossils are extremely delicate hence giving them to amateur researchers is certainly not possible, these fossils are preserved in nature because they were logged into earth in a certain conditions those conditions themselves rare.
We all know that in order to study something we need to get access to them, but until now all that these Paleontologists had to study fossils were the 2d images of them. But things are changing thanks to 3D Scanning and 3D Printing technology. These rare fossils can now be 3D scanned and later 3D Printed and shared with experts as well as amateurs; this new found tool could be a real boost to our study and research in the field evolution.
The Importance of 3D Scanning and 3D Printing of fossils is once again into limelight because of Dr. Roger Close, a Postdoctoral Research Associate and vertebrate paleobiologist. He used 3D scanning and 3D printing techniques to create a scaled-up 3D printed model of 170-million-year-old fossilized mammal jaw of a mouse-sized creature called Palaeoxonodonooliticus. The 3D Images and prints can now used for close inspection and easy sharing of the ancient specimen.
The Mouse size Jurassic fossil was found in a Middle Jurassic rocks on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, the fossil was extremely rate and very small and the team who discovered it though the bones were too small and delicate and they feared it would be damaged. Dr. Close explained “As recently as ten years ago it would have been standard practice to expend a considerable amount of time and effort manually removing the fossil from the hard limestone rock. However, we were able to use an X-Ray Computed Tomography (CT) scanner at the Natural History Museum in London to obtain an amazingly detailed three-dimensional image of the specimen, so all the preparation could be done digitally.”
Once the Fossil was 3d scanned the files were sent to i.materialise a 3D printing service provider, Dr. Close was aware of the company but had never used their services himself, but he had suggested their services to other colleagues, He said “I already knew how amazingly detailed the models could be,” said Close, having previously helped colleague process fossil scans for other 3D printing projects. However, this was the first time I had used 3D printing for my own research.”
Down at i.materialise, the company helped Mr. Close scale but the miniature model which was the originally the size of just a few millimeters. This allowed the researchers associated with the finding study the finer details of the bones and teeth patterns. Mr Close sounded very excited when he said “The fact that the model could so easily be scaled up to 20 times its original size made it all the more fun. I found that being able to scrutinize a 3D print was genuinely helpful while describing the anatomy of the fossil for publication, as it highlights features that might not be immediately apparent on a computer-screen rendering.”
Mr. Close did not stop here; he uploaded the 3D Printable files to DataDryad page, where it has been downloaded a few times and now researchers all across the globe have access to study the rare find. 3D Printing is helping people realize the real meaning of the word Globalization as it destroys the hurdles of distance and resources and let the whole world be the playground for the development of our future.