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 July 16th 2021, the University of Utah spoke of how a group of its researchers had used 3D printed reconstructions of cephalopod fossils to investigate potential links between their shell structure and movement and/or lifestyle. The team found that cephalopods with straight shells called orthocones likely lived a vertical lifestyle, moving up and down to catch food and avoid predators. In addition, other cephalopods with spiral shells called torticones were found to have added a gentle spin to their vertical motions.

The researchers took 3D scans of fossils of an orthocone species called Baculites compressus that lived during the cretaceous period, resulting in the designing of 4 different digital models with each one having different physical properties. With the help of the University’s George S. Eccles Student Life Centre, the team built a camera rig in a 7-foot-deep part of the building’s Crimson Lagoon swimming pool, releasing the nearly 2-foot-long 3D printed models to observe how they naturally moved. This showed that the most efficient method of movement was vertical, due to the amount of drag created by horizontal movement.

In addition, the researchers found that orthocones may have been able to accelerate upwards sufficiently fast to evade animals like crocodiles or whales, even though they may not have been as lucky against fast swimmers like sharks. (Modern predators were unsurprisingly used as substitutes for orthocones’ now obviously long-extinct predators.) The team also experimented on 6-inch-long 3D printed replicas of torticones in a 50-gallon water tank, concluding that torticones gently span face-first while descending, spinning in the opposite direction while ascending due to the shape of their shells. (Each 3D printed torticone replica was sufficiently small such that experimenting on them in a swimming pool was unsurprisingly unnecessary.)

The researcher’s results on orthocones were published in the journal PeerJ. Their results on torticones are intended to be published in a American Association of Petroleum Geologists and Wyoming Geological Association special volume for the late palaeontologist W. A. Cobban, who died in 2015 at the age of 98. However, as of mid-August 2021 this hasn’t happened.

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Disclaimer: Featured image of “The cephalopods of the north-eastern coast of America (1882) (20562255806)” (as it is known on Wikimedia Commons) was taken from Flickr’s The Commons and has no known copyright restrictions. (On Flickr it is known as “ Image from page 108 of “The cephalopods of the north-eastern coast of America” (1882).”)