Librarians at University of Oregon 3D Print “Backup copies” of Rare, Fragile Fossils

When scientists want to study Oncorhynchus rastrosus, the saber-toothed salmon, they have to treat the fossil skull housed in the University of Oregon’s paleontology department with great care. Its age and porosity make it nearly impossible to handle without damaging it. Displaying it to the public is out of the question.

Lower portion of salmon skull, seen from right side

Lower portion of salmon skull, seen from right side

However, paleontologist Edward Davis did have a CAT scan of the remains, and science librarian Dean Walton has used that data and a MakerBot Replicator II to make a 3D plastic replica which can be handled, measured, and used in displays and demonstrations for the public.

3D Printer at work (image courtesy of UO Science Library)

3D Printer at work (image courtesy of UO Science Library)

Other scientists are lining up to print their own bones. Next up is anthropologist Stephen Frost, who intends to print plastic copies of samples that he usually travels to Africa to work with.

No word on whether UO will make the models available for home printing via Thingiverse or another repository of 3D-printing instructions.

Posted by Karl S.

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