Ancient Wonder

3D Printed Trilobites in Metal Look Absolutely Incredible

3D Printed Trilobites

Scientist creates a set of beautiful 3D printed trilobites in steel, bronze and silver, using a Formlabs printer and metal printing service from Shapeways.

Dr. Allan Drummond3D Printed Trilobites is a professor of biochemistry at the University of Chicago. One of his areas of interest are trilobites, extinct arthropods which lived in the world’s oceans for 270 million years. With over 17,000 known species, they are the most diverse group of animals preserved in the fossil record.

In a remarkable case of art meeting science, Drummond decided to try resurrecting the ancient creatures by 3D printing them in metal. And as you can see, the results are simply stunning.

Like any good scientist, Drummond documented the progress of his project on a community hub called The Fossil Forum, where he outlines every step from 3D modeling to printing to final assembly.

For his trilobite he chose the species Ceraurus pleurexanthemus, because of the quality drawings and materials available to work from, including a famous sketch drawn in 1951 by Norwegian palaeontologist Leif Stormer. Drummond says:

Ceraurus is ideal. They have long yet substantial genal and pygidial spines, complex thoracic armor, gorgeous curves, unmistakable trilobite form. Enough detail to warrant 3D printing, enough structural solidity to survive it.”

The trilobite was first sketched out in 2D using open source illustration software Inkscape, and then recreated as a 3D model using CAD software Blender (also open source).

“Laborious, detail-oriented work over many, many hours,” he jokes, “with several points where I wondered why I was doing this, and wouldn’t it be more fun to read a book or watch Youtube.”

3d printed trilobites

With the model completed, he went on to print out several prototypes in first clear and then black resin using a Formlabs Form 1+ 3D printer.

3d printed trilobites

Once satisfied with the design, Drummond used a metal printing service from Shapeways to have his 3D printed trilobites made using a lost wax casting technique in stainless steel, bronze, and even silver.

3d printed trilobites

With some hand-finished touches to apply the antennae and polish the metal, the final results are a remarkable recreation of a fascinating creature. “You can imagine her exploring her world, questing with her cephalic appendages and antennae, seeking prey and potential mates,” says Drummond.

Naturually, the paleontology community are giddy with joy over his work. Dr. Glenn Brock was especially excited in a comment on his Instagram account:

“Via the wonders of 3D printing my IG friend and colleague @dadrummond has produced these completely amazing 3D metallic models which include all anatomical details including the paired appendages and the long whip-like antennae. The next iteration will even include the gills on the legs of the model. This is just fantastic… Palaeo drool level? Off the scale!!!!”

Other paleontologists and hobbyists have been encouraged to try recreating their own fossils using 3D printing, and are busy documenting their work on The Fossil Forum.

And as for Drummond, he’s now moved on to other projects like a metal 3D printed scarab beetle and a dividing yeast cell, which you can also see on his Instagram account.

What do you think of the 3D printed trilobites? Feel inspired to model something of your own? Let us know in the comments.