3D printing is used by scientists in many fields of study for things such as rapid prototyping and more. A group of German researchers recently used a 3D printer along with CT scanning to print a version of a fossil without having to remove the delicate fossil from its protective plaster covering. The new technology can potentially be used to study fossils that are too fragile to be handed.
The fossil in question was among several that were buried under rubble in the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin during a bombing raid in WWII. The fossils survived because they were encased in plaster, but some of the labels were destroyed.
Scientists have been having difficulty identifying the fossils because of the plaster overlay. CT scans are able to tell the difference between the fossilized bone and the plaster. The researchers used the CT scan data to determine that the bone was excavated in a clay pit near Halberstadt, Germany between 1910 and 1927.
The researchers say that the 3D printing was an after though. One of the scientist said they just wanted to see if they could do it. The 3D printing of the fossil is the first time that a fossil was recreated from a specimen encased in sediment. The 3D printing of fossils may become more common. The Smithsonian Institute announced that it would be allowing access to scanned, printable 3D models of objects in its collection. The printable options include fossils and lots more.