Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

On November 25th 2020, an international team of researchers led by Professor of Anatomical Sciences Dr. Patrick O’Connor of Ohio University (OU) spoke of their work analysing the fossilised remains of a previously unknown species of Mesozoic Era bird. (The Mezosoic Era spans circa 252 million to 66 million years ago.) Their research was published in the journal Nature. The bird was named Falcatakely, after a combination of Latin and Malagasy words inspired by its small size and sickle-shaped beak.

OU argued that the fossil provided new evidence on how the skulls and beaks of birds and their close relatives have evolved, and that this showed that very distantly related animals can have similarly shaped heads despite them evolving in different ways. For example, it was found that some modern birds like toucans and hornbills evolved similarly sickle-shaped beaks tens of millions of years after Falcatakely went extinct. Being too fragile, individual bones were not removed from the rock the fossil was embedded in. Instead, the team used 3D scanning and enlarged 3D printed digital models to reconstruct the bird’s skull for comparison with other species.

Other examples of 3D printed replicas of fossils include Materialise of Leuven, Belgium and Triceratops skull No. 21. In October 2018, Materialise unveiled a 3D printed replica of a mammoth skeleton that had been discovered in Lier, Antwerp in 1860. They boasted that the replica measured 5m long and 3.5m tall, weighed 300kg, and took 9 3D printers a total of 1,259 hours to make. While the original skeleton remains on display at Belgium’s Museum Of Natural Sciences in Brussels, the replica is on display at Lier museum.

In the case of Triceratops skull No. 21, 3D printed pieces were used to fill in its final gaps when it was reconstructed, albeit for the third time. Discovered in 1884, it was first reconstructed between 1953 and 1956 as part of a fossil exchange between Yale University’s Peabody Museum Of Natural History and Delft University Of Technology in the Netherlands. However, it was badly damaged in transit across the Atlantic, and reconstruction efforts by Dutch geologists that finished in 1961 left the specimen with scientifically inaccurate features. The once again reconstructed skull went on display at Delft University circa early October 2020.

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Disclaimer: Featured image of “Cnemiornis” is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.