AM Energy

3D Print Your Own Fossils Thanks to MorphoSource

Electronics
AMR Military

Share this Article

skullIn 2013, a group of paleoanthropologists led by Lee Berger embarked on a three-week exploration of a South African cave. Known as the Rising Star Expedition, the exploration resulted in some groundbreaking discoveries, most notably the discovery of bones belonging to previously unknown human ancestor Homo naledi. On September 10, 2015, the discovery was officially announced, and a model of the hominin’s skull was presented – a realistic 3D printed model almost indistinguishable from a real fossil. Then came another announcement that thrilled scientists and teachers: the research team had scanned and uploaded the fossils, and made them freely available on MorphoSource so that anyone could print their own replicas of Homo naledi.

“The Rising Star Expedition’s opening up of information so soon after discovery is unprecedented and very, very welcome,” says Forbes.com contributor Kristina Killgrove, an anthropologist from the University of West Florida.  “In the past, fellow researchers and teachers would have to wait multiple years — and pay hundreds of dollars — to get a cast of the new fossil.  And wait many more years for all the data to be opened up.”

Within twelve hours of the announcement, Killgrove had printed five pieces of Homo naledi on her lab’s MakerBot 3D printer.

Bone_Dating_2x519

Technology Review

The Rising Star Expedition was notable not only for its discoveries but for the many ways in which it was made accessible to the public. The team live-blogged and tweeted the entire time they were on-site, so that anyone interested could easily follow along at home. Now the availability of the fossil files for 3D printing means that anyone with access to a 3D printer can study them up-close without needing a museum membership.

The expedition’s files are not the first that have been made available to the public, but never before have such a large number been so instantly and freely accessible.  Public access of fossil scans is still very new, and comes with its own challenges, but Killgrove hopes that the Rising Star Expedition will set an important new precedent.

“There are unfortunately only a small number of 3D models available,” she says. “Why small?  Well, not all fossil remains have been digitized, not all researchers want them digitized, and not all companies that make and sell casts want them digitized and made freely available.”

Photo credit: Kristina Killgrove

Photo credit: Kristina Killgrove

When she was approached by colleagues wanting to know how she printed her fossils, Killgrove decided to compile a list of as many available printable fossils that she knew of. She notes that several other sites, such as the Smithsonian, maintain collections of 3D printed fossils that have not, at this time, been made available to be downloaded or printed. With the publicity that the Rising Star Expedition has generated, however, it will be surprising if other organizations do not follow suit, opening the doors to anthropological study wider than they’ve ever been opened before.

Share this Article


Recent News

3D Systems Unveils Multi-Material, Completely 3D Printed Dentures

New Ender-3 V3 from Creality Sets CoreXZ Trend in Consumer 3D Printing



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Sponsored

BASF Forward AM Offers Ultrafuse® PLA Tough: The Ultimate Functional PLA designed for High-Speed Printing

It’s seven times faster, seven times tougher making it seven times as advanced as any other standard PLA. The team at BASF Forward AM is constantly focused on developing innovative...

Sponsored

Advancing Space Applications with Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing (AM) has been used on spacecraft since the early 2010s, one early example being the NASA Juno Spacecraft, which launched in August 2011. AM is beneficial for spacecraft...

Sponsored

3DXTECH Launches “Pellet to Part” Program for 3D Printing Materials

Always looking to shake up the material extrusion segment of 3D printing, Michigan-based 3DXTECH has introduced a novel initiative named the “Pellet to Part” program. To further drive collaboration with...

Sponsored

Creality Unveils K1C: The New Champion of Speed and Skill

Creality’s K1 series of 3D printers have been a sensation among consumers since early 2023, known for their remarkable 600mm/s speed and ready-to-use design. In a move to continue this...