Researchers at Drexel University have announced plans to use 3D printing technology to advance our understanding of dinosaurs. Dinosaur fossils are incredibly cumbersome because of their weight and size, making their manipulation nearly impossible. This means that, for instance, learning how the bones fit together, and in turn how the dinosaur moved, is nearly impossible using actual life-sized specimens. Drexel's plan is to make small, light resin models which will also be to scale and exceedingly detailed, allowing for all types of applications and uses in the study of fossils, especially for the largest dinosaurs.
Dr. Kenneth Lacovara of the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel is teaming up with the College of Engineering to bring paleontology into the 21st century. They have already started to create 3D scans, giving them a digital workspace which can be manipulated and analyzed, and the next step is to create the actual models. The technology is currently capable of creating a six-inch model in a few hours, and Dr. Lacarova estimates that they will have a functioning, robotic dinosaur limb finished by the end of the year. Down the road, the same basic technology could be used to create cheaper, full-sized replicas of expensive, rare fossils for display in museums.