3D printing a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton

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Our story starts over 66 million years ago when one of the top predators of the Cretaceous period, sadly died. Its remains travelled through time to be excavated by Naturalis millions of years later in Montana, 2013. Even though the T. rex skeleton was incredibly well preserved, there were a few missing parts – amongst them the left leg. This is not unusual, as when a dinosaur dies, a lot of other animals would scavenge the carcasse, or some parts would just get lost over time.

To help complete the missing parts of the 13 meter long T. rex skeleton, Naturalis turned to 3D printing for some elements. Thanks to the incredible accuracy and flexibility of the Ultimaker 2+, the monumental skeleton will be restored in even greater detail than initially anticipated. In fact, as they are so realistic, the printed parts will be painted a slightly different colour to make sure there’s no confusion telling the real bones from the 3D printed ones.

New modeling method

The more traditional ways to complete partial skeletons include modeling bones out of Styrofoam, which requires a very skilled hand to achieve a life-like result, or to use casts of other almost similar fossils – you can only imagine how difficult it would be to find a bone exactly matching its counterpart in size!

T. rex bone
Scanning bones
3D printed bones

For this skeleton, Dutch scanning wizard Valentin Vanhecke of 4Visualization created a 3D scan of the right leg for the museum, and together with Ultimaker, the museum printed a mirrored version: the perfectly matching restored left leg. Clever thinking! The bones are currently being painted and will be integrated into the skeleton in the next months. No doubt the result will be stunning!

3D printed bone

How to print A T. rex

And if reading this blog fires up a caveman desire inside of you to own a piece of T. rex – you’re in luck! We’ll be hosting a ‘How To Print A T. rex’ guide in the not too distant future. Watch this space.

T_rex_Naturalis
Image credit: Naturalis Biodiversity center

If you haven’t already put it in the diary, we’d highly recommend heading over to the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in September 2016 to see the gigantic nature of these incredible creatures brought vividly to life! Go to the Naturalis website to find out more about the T. rex in Town exhibition.

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