With Jurassic World hitting theaters, today seems fitting to talk about a new use for 3D printing that you might not have thought of: recreating fossils. Researchers in Kenya are taking advantage of this new technology to study and preserve fossils that could potentially be damaged by the intense weather conditions of the Turkana Basin.
According to CNet, 3D scanners have been used for all sorts of tasks, including mapping historic buildings and recreating crime scenes for forensic specialists. Now, handheld scanners can help fossil-diggers get a good look at the remains of ancient creatures. The scanner allows professionals to create 3D models of the fossils for later study, without putting the real ones at risk. The scanners were created by Artec, the company responsible for the Shapify 3D-printed selfies.
Unfortunately, the climate of Kenya, specifically the Turkana Basin, isn’t the most hospitable environment for technology. The harsh sun beats down on electronics and causes them to overheat, restricting what can be done. The scorching wasteland was so hot that laptops, which would normally receive the 3D scans were practically useless. It doesn’t help that there is no nearby power supply, either. With the help of two 3D specialists, the excavation team was able to make the batteries of the 3D scanners last for two whole days.
Despite the circumstances, the power of 3D technology pulled through, and over the course of two weeks, the excavation squad was able to uncover and scan a crocodile skull, another full crocodile skeleton, a massive tortoise, and a species of elephant known to be extinct. Due to the incredibly damaged nature of the fossils, the team had to make haste and get them put away before more damage could occur. The 3D models will allow scientists to study the remains while the real skeletons stay safe in a museum, away from the punishing elements of heat and wind erosion.
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