Reconstructing the Extinct Cave Lion through 3D Printing

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Completed 3D print with differing filament colors indicating sources of the remains. [Image: Dušan Hein, TASR]

The Slovak National Uprising Museum (SNP) is located in Banská Bystrica in the middle of a grassy park. The unusual building holds displays and important archival materials related to the development of Slovakia, particularly from the war years of 1938 – 1945. In addition to exhibits, there is an open-air museum of heavy military equipment and a plane that provided the supplies to partisans using the airport Tri Duby in Sliač, as well as a site dedicated to the Unknown Soldier in which burns an eternal flame.

Something else that is at the museum is a state-of-the-art digitization lab, begun in 2012, that includes 3D scanners and 3D printers among other high-tech equipment. The lab at SNP was assembled in order to digitize the holdings at the museum so as to preserve them and allow them to be easily shared among scholars and other interested parties. They won’t be running out of things to scan anytime soon, because other museums and preservationists in Slovakia have realized the potential that such a digitization lab holds and the team at SNP is now working on a variety of projects.

Ján Šperka, head technologist of the Digitalization Centre (DC) of Museum SNP. [Image: Dušan Hein, TASR]

Their most recent project, overseen by Ján Šperka, head technologist of the Digitization Centre (DC), was to scan and then 3D print the complete skeleton of a cave lion, one of the paleontological findings from Leu belonging to the Nature Conservation Museum and the Cave of Liptovsky. The Eurasian cave lion, Panthera spelaea, became extinct approximately 13,000 years ago and was closely related to the modern lion, albeit slightly larger and without the characteristic mane. The creation of a scan of a complete skeleton was enabled by putting together scans of pieces from various preserved individuals.

These lions, which were featured in cave drawings at Lascaux and Chalet, are an important part of Eurasian feline history, but the number of extant skeletons and fossils is not large, and excessive handling can cause deterioration of those limited examples. By scanning the skeleton, not only was the team at the DC able to create a 3D printed replica, but they were able to make available the digital file to be shared with anyone interested in studying the cat and allow them to study it without posing any risk to the original skeleton. A total of nearly 27 pounds (12 kilograms) of filament was required to print the complete skeleton and 110 hours of continuous printing time was dedicated just to the completion of the skull.

The integration of 3D technology has been one of the biggest boons to museums in the 21st century and something that we have seen an increasing number of institutions take advantage of, and everything from Egyptian artifacts to dinosaur fossils have undergone similar digitization processes.  In this way, these objects are not only open to a broader scrutiny by experts, but also become more immediately available to visitors who can now see copies of something they would have previously had to travel great distances to view. They are also often offered the opportunity to physically interact with 3D printed replicas, creating another layer of connection between object and viewer.

[Image: Dušan Hein, TASR]

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: Slovak Spectator]

 

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