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Whether it’s an anatomical model of the human body or wild cats, 3D printing technology has proved to be a valuable asset for education on the structure and relationship between body parts. For instance, at the tail end of last year, researchers from the New Zealand-based Massey University utilized 3D scanning and 3D printing to create models of extinct bird species. Now, scientists from that very same institution are using 3D technology to help their students learn the anatomy of the cane toad (Rhinella marina) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias).

 

3dprintedfro

Led by Dr. Daniel Thomas of the Massey’s Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, the researchers used a NextEngine HD Desktop 3D laser scanner to create 3D digital replicas of a cane toad skeleton, and a David SLS-2 structured light scanner to model the cartilage from the head of a spiny dogfish. These 3D models were then printed with a laser sintering 3D printer belonging to Massey University’s School of Engineering and Advanced Technology. With these 3D printed anatomical models, Dr. Thomas hopes to not only teach these students about the bodily structure of the cane toad and spiny dogfish, but also to help them to obtain knowledge on how to protect these species from endangerment.

Massey University's Dr. Daniel Thomas

Massey University’s Dr. Daniel Thomas

“Anatomy teaches us about the ecology and evolution of an animal and can give us crucial information for developing conservation strategies,” said Dr. Thomas. “It’s not always possible for learners to study original anatomy specimens though, which is where high-quality 3D printed models come in.”

According to Dr. Thomas, he will continue to use this 3D scanning and printing technique to increase the number a specimens that his students can study in his vertebrate zoology classes. Using the hands-on approach that high-quality 3D printed models provides, students can now have full access to anatomical models that would otherwise be extremely difficult to obtain. Still, there are some drawbacks to using anatomical models, as they don’t truly account for biological variation, and don’t offer a full immersive experience like a traditional dissection does.

3D scan of the cane toad

3D scan of the cane toad

But where 3D printed anatomical models really prove advantageous is with hard-to-find or extinct species. Dr Thomas also explains that, although 3D printers oftentimes have build size limitations, 3D scanned bones that are larger than the print chamber can quickly be broken down—and later reconstructed—part by part. The cane toad skeleton is 77 mm from the anterior end of the skull to the posterior end of the pelvic griddle, providing both accurately proportionate anatomical features, as well as some finely scaled details. The spiny dogfish chondrocranium had an anterior to posterior length of 98 mm, and also contained well-resolved details.

3D printed dogfish cartilage

3D printed dogfish cartilage

Both the cane toad skeleton and dogfish cartilage 3D models are available to download from two different sources. You can find both models in the NZ Fauna collection on Sketchfab.com, or within the article recently published by Dr. Thomas in the Journal of Anatomy, which is entitled “3D scanning and printing skeletal tissues for anatomy education”. As 3D scanning devices continue to go down in cost and up in quality, while 3D printing technology continues to become more accessible to educators around the world, anatomy education stands to benefit greatly from these emerging technologies in the near future, and so do the endangered species that we’re beginning to better understand. Discuss further in the 3D Printed Animal Skeletons forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Phys.org]
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