Reproducing Delicate Fossils with CT Scans and 3D Printers

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3D printers can be used for all sorts of different things, but here’s an application that could actually prove to be very valuable to the world of science. Researchers from Charite Campus Mitte in Berlin have developed a technique where they can create incredibly accurate reproductions of delicate fossilized bones using a 3D printer.

It starts with a 3D scan, using a 320-slice multi-detector system. What’s great is that the fossil itself can remain inside of the rock, because the system can detect the difference in radiation absorption rates between bone and the surrounding materials. This way, they don’t have to handle the actual physical fossilized bones, as they can be extremely delicate, after they’ve been encased in a plaster jacket.

Conventional study would require the removal of this plaster cast before bones can be studied. By using the CT scan, they get an accurate 3D model of the bones found within, and then they can replicate it using a 3D printer with selective laser sintering. This kind of procedure is even better, because it means the CT data can be easily sent to other researchers in other parts of the world, allowing them to print 3D models of their own for further study and examination. And the original fossil remains intact and unharmed.

If you have access to the RSNA database, you can read the full article in the Radiology journal.

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