WebWithin the ranks of dinosaurs, Rhoetosaurus brownei isn’t one of the most glamorous or well-known. The mild-mannered herbivore lacks the bloodthirsty tendencies that make the Velociraptor and the T-Rex so appealing to moviegoers and kids, and it possessed no particularly distinctive attributes like a Triceratops, for example. However, the Rhoetosaurus is about to have its moment in the spotlight, at least in Australia. The Queensland Museum and the Maranoa Regional Council are planning to 3D print a life-sized replica of the dinosaur to attract tourists.

For the Rhoetosaurus, life-sized is pretty big – the sauropod is estimated to have weighed at least 20 metric tons, with a length of 14 to 17 meters. Such a reproduction would undoubtedly be a popular attraction, but building it won’t be a quick process. The dinosaur would be modeled using photographs of its skeleton and built using a combination of 3D printing and CNC machining. The construction is estimated to take about two years.

“It’s a long time to get to a big dinosaur, so fingers crossed we can actually create something this large,” says Dr. Scott Hocknull, senior geosciences curator at the Queensland Museum.

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Dr. Scott Hucknull, Queensland Museum [Photo: ABC News Australia]

While it may not be a household name in most of the world, the Rhoetosaurus is pretty popular in Australia, as it was the country’s first named dinosaur. The dinosaur’s bones, which currently reside at the Queensland Museum, were discovered in 1924 near the small town of Roma, which hopes to attract visitors with the 3D printed replica.

“Regional communities have an interest in tourism but it is also a great way of taking people from the city to show them the outback that is different to what they are normally seeing,” says Dr. Hocknull, who has long championed 3D printing as a way to bring people close to things they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. “Just imagine being able to walk up close to one of these things … because it’s a replica, because it’s something you could potentially touch, kids can get a really direct engaging, exciting experience, by seeing these things close up.”

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I can attest to that; one of my favorite local attractions as a child was Steggie, a large stegosaurus statue outside the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Kids were encouraged to climb on Steggie, and we certainly did; most people I know have at least one picture of themselves as children sitting on the dinosaur’s back. He was a popular attraction for both natives and visitors, and he got me excited about going to the museum, which my parents would have had to drag me to otherwise. I imagine that the prospect of seeing a life-sized, realistic dinosaur like the one the Queensland Museum is proposing will have a similar effect on people who otherwise wouldn’t think to visit the area.

rhotoDr. Hocknull and others behind the project also hope that seeing the life-sized representation of Austalia’s first named dinosaur will encourage visitors to keep their eyes open for other fossils. There’s still a lot out there that hasn’t been discovered, he says, and the hope is that both locals and tourists will be reminded of the location’s important history of fossil discovery. The project is expected to cost about $200,000, but for the drought-ravaged Queensland, the influx of tourists brought by the massive dinosaur should hopefully make it worth the money – particularly if it encourages them to explore the area and potentially make new discoveries.

“We really are well and truly using new technology to bring these dinosaurs back to life,” Dr. Hocknull adds. “Short of having DNA, it is the closest you can get to having a real dinosaur.”

Let us know if you happen to pay a visit to this museum when this large print is complete.  Discuss in the Life-Size 3D Printed Dinosaur forum on 3DPB.com.

Images: Queensland Museum

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