3D printing with ancient fossils

Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals and plants, as well as other organisms from the remote past. They are often buried  in sediment under ancient seas, lakes and rivers. Once excavated, fossils can be carefully studied, allowing scientists to bolster their understanding of life on ancient Earth.

Although detailed images of fossils are readily available online, hands-on interaction with such specimens is understandably limited due to the two-dimensional format of standard pictures.

A 3D database maintained by the British Geological Service hopes to change the way we interact with fossils by allowing site visitors to download and create fossil models on 3D printers such as the Atmel-powered Makerbot or RepRap.

According to 3Ders, the database is billed as the world’s first 3D virtual fossil collection which can be searched by taxonomic group, species, genus, geological age, locality and country.

“Users can browse, zoom in, rotate and download the interactive 3D models and metadata, as well as high-resolution images and stereo (anaglyph) photographs,” the publication explained. “The 3D models may [also] be viewed and/or downloaded in PLY and OBJ formats.”

Bits & Pieces readers may also want to check out the website of Martin Galese, a 31-year-old lawyer in New York who routinely searches the USPTO (US Patent Office) archives for the design DNA of antique inventions – subsequently “reinterpreting” them as design files for 3D printers. Indeed, Galese has already printed a chopstick holder from the 1960s, a portable chess set from the 1940s, a pot scraper from 1875 and a 1989 bookmark / pen holder.

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the Maker Movement has used Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now, but it is quite clear that 3D printing recently entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces, including the medical sphere, architectural arena and scientific field.

25 thoughts on “3D printing with ancient fossils

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