Giant 3D Printed Whale Fossil Now On Display At The Smithsonian

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The National Museum of Natural History now has the 3D-printed fossil of a whale on display. 3D Systems is working in partnership with the Smithsonian in order to bring fossils to the 21st Century by 3D-printing more than 20 artifacts in order to show them to visitors in the exact same way that they were found in nature.

Archeologists at work uncovering the whale

Archeologists at work uncovering the whale

The masterpiece of the project is a prehistoric fossil of a whale found in the Chilean desert. The 3D-printed version of the rorqual is 20 feet in length.

This whale was found in one of the largest fossil sites discovered in recent years and the actual fossil is on display in museums in the Chilean cities of Caldera and Santiago, however a 3D-printed version of it is available for all to see in the United States as well.

“We are honored and excited to be part of this visionary Smithsonian initiative,” said Avi Reichental, President and CEO of 3DS, “To increase the visibility and accessibility of our national treasures for all.”

Screen grab of the Smithsonian X 3D

Screen grab of the Smithsonian X 3D

Not only did 3D Systems and the Smithsonian collaborate on actual physical 3D-printed pieces for all to see in the museum, they also worked together to create an interesting website “the Smithsonian 3D“. Videos, animated gifs and pictures explain thoroughly the process of 3D-printing these masterful fossils and artifacts.

Every single step in the creation of these 3D models, from design and scan to printing, is documented on the website. Moreover there’s a software called Smithsonian X 3D Explorer in which visitors of the website can cyber-manipulate the 3D objects of the collection.

One of the many features of the new website

One of the many features of the new website

A series of nine videos explains in depth the amount of work required and the tools used by the joint teams of 3D Systems and the Smithsonian. They can all be found on the website. These videos are overviews of what’s going on in the museum and can be used as educational tools.

Reichental, President and CEO of 3DS, says that “the Smithsonian has shown both foresight and technological leadership in embracing the potential of 3D printing to preserve and showcase today’s and tomorrow’s collections, making them readily available to a global audience while demonstrating the power of 3D printing in a compelling and meaningful way.”

The whole collection, which includes fossils as small as 12 inches in length to as large as the 20-foot whale, is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington DC; admission is free and the museum is open from 10am to 5:30pm daily. Discuss this story at the ‘3D printed fossil‘ forum thread at 3DPB.com.  Check out the video below.

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