People can become obsessed with dinosaurs, and its no wonder why. The popularity of these gigantic beasts that roamed the earth millions of years ago is great fodder for the imagination, and pop culture stories too, with the most recent being the major motion picture “Jurassic World.” The more we learn about dinosaurs, the more we realize there’s so much more to learn. For example, one question that has been plaguing researchers is “Why did dinosaurs become extinct?” (And it’s not from smoking cigarettes, as that Far Side cartoon suggests!) But that question is a complicated one to answer, so some researchers decide to break it down into parts that lead them to inquire more about how dinosaurs lived, instead of died.)
What qualities, characteristics, and habits did they have? One German team of researchers has an innovative angle on dinosaur research, and it has taken up the question: “How smart is a Tyrannosaurus rex, anyway?” Yes, in order to answer this question they worked with an actual T-rex skull fossil, scanning, and 3D printing parts of it to get a better idea of the T-rex’s intelligence quotient.
The question of dinosaur intelligence is hotly debated among paleontologists. Some believe they weren’t that intelligent (exchanging brain power for size in many cases?) while others believe that they were in fact intelligent for reptiles, but not as intelligent as modern mammals. Maybe studying a dinosaur skull in detail can tell us more. The skull that is being studied is estimated to be 66.4 million years old and belonging to a female T-rex whose fossils were discovered in Montana in 2013. This is also believed to be one of the five best T-rex fossils in the world, and it is only missing the end of its tail, one leg, the claws and teeth.
The skull fossil was scanned using a machine called an XXL tomograph, which is the biggest type of this machine in the world and located at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institutes. With 1,500 separate exposures, this is said to be “the highest resolution scan ever conducted on a T-rex skull.” Unfortunately for researchers, the T-rex brain is almost untraceable, but the inside of the skull’s shape demonstrates the highly developed brain areas. Studying brain areas can reveal, for example, if a T-rex’s eyesight was poor, fair, or excellent, as well as other qualities.
The scan also helps in restoring the skull, which is where 3D printing comes into this project. By being able to conduct a complete scan in the large XXL tomograph machine (which took 45 hours in total), researchers have also been able to reveal fractures and reconstruct missing parts of the jaw using 3D printing. If it weren’t for 3D printing’s ability to customize replacement jaw parts for the skull to be completed, it would have been much more difficult to get a full idea of other T-rex qualities related to the issue of intelligence.
So, as we frequently describe 3D printing as a technology of the future, it is research applications such as this one studying a T-rex skull that also makes 3D printing a technology of the far distant past! As researchers continue to work on this project and others like it, the hope is to develop a better understand of these magnificent reptiles, and eventually learn just why they are no longer with us.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this research project in the T-Rex forum thread on 3DPB.com.
You May Also Like
3D Printing Webinar and Virtual Event Roundup, August 2, 2020
It’s another busy week in the 3D printing industry that’s packed full of webinars and virtual events, ranging in topics from medical materials and flexible electronics to polypropylene and market...
T3D Announces New LCD-Based High-Speed 3D Printing System
Taiwan 3D Tech, also known as T3D, is a startup spin-off from the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST). Headquartered in Taipei, the company was officially founded in...
Fraunhofer and RMIT Form Cross-Continental 3D Printing Partnership
While RMIT University is known for specializing in technology and design, Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS is a force to contend with, known as a leading applied...
3D Printing News Briefs, July 25, 2020: MakerBot, ANSYS, Sintavia, Nexa3D & Henkel
We’re all business in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs! MakerBot has a new distribution partner, and ANSYS is launching a new product. Sintavia has acquired an additional Arcam 3D printer...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.