Printing the past

Missing Bones in Tyrannosaurus Rex Skeleton Provided by 3D Printing

3D printed bones

The Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands used 3D scanning and printing to complete the third most complete T-Rex skeleton.

Her name is Trix, and she’s the third most complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex found to date. In order to finish the puzzle, the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, a Dutch national museum based in Leiden, used a combination of 3D scanning and printing.

To 3D scan Trix, Naturalis hired Valentin Vanhecke, the founder of 4Visualisation. The task, he admits, was not always a simple one:

“The very last two of the vertebrae – which are only a few cm long – I managed to do them but they were really on the limit of the smallest size possible. On the other end is the skull, which is nearly two meters long and has a lot of detail, pathology and hollow space, like the eye sockets and all of the nasal passages.”

Once the complete model was put together, Naturalis 3D printed the bones using the Ultimaker 2+. Vanhecke was then left with “a box of about 200 puzzle pieces without the picture on the front of the box.”

Moderns Advancements Uncovering Mysteries of the Past

When it comes to dinosaur fossils, it’s not uncommon for parts to go missing. The most common cause is scavengers, who sometimes steal a tasty treat. And coming in at around 11,000 pounds, a T-Rex carcass would not have gone unnoticed in the late Cretaceous Period.

Traditional methods of producing absent bones include cutting Styrofoam models or casting equivalent parts from previously discovered skeletons. However, thanks to 3D technology, a much simpler solution now exists.

For some of the missing bones, Vanhecke scanned those belonging to the first and second most complete T-Rex skeletons, Sue and Stan. Others, like those from Trix’s left leg, were reproduced using their anatomical mirrors.

Trix, named after the Netherlands’ former Queen Beatrix, was first uncovered, incomplete, in 2013. Now, just four years later, her complete skeleton is available to the public, all thanks to 3D technology.

Currently, she’s touring through Europe, but will soon head to China before returning to Leiden in 2019.

Sources: TCT Magazine