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University of Washington Students Take on One Mammoth of a 3D Scanning and 3D Printing Project

by • July 23, 2016 • No Comments

The Columbian Mammoth.

The Columbian Mammoth.

Located on the campus of the University of Washington, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is the oldest museum on the West Coast and boasts a collection of 16 million artifacts and fossils. Among its collection are the remains of a 13,000-year-old giant Columbian Mammoth that stands over 13 feet tall at the shoulders. As the museum begins construction on a new assembling on campus, expected to open in 2019, the staff decided that they wanted to display their Columbian Mammoth skeleton in the new exhibition hall. The just problem is that when the skeleton was discovered near Richland, Washington just of 20% of its bones were discovered.

Pre-engineering junior Kurt Weiss scans a mammoth skull. Image courtesey: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Pre-engineering junior Kurt Weiss scans a mammoth skull. [Image: Dennis Wise/University of Washington]

While it is not uncommon for fossil skeletons to be missing a majority of their bones, the missing pieces are usually just replaced with handmade replicas. But, for the reason so much of the skeleton is already missing, the museum staff wanted to find a way to compete the mammoth that was less time-consuming and inprecise than the traditional method of creating replica bones. The Richland mammoth has many of its limbs and portions of the skull and mandibles; yet, they may require to return it into a number of dimensionsable parts, that include the huge tusks that may have been as much as 14 feet long. Burke collections manager Meredith Rivin decided that 3D printing may allow them to turn it into the requireed parts much faster, and the replicated bones may end up being additional accurate.

The museum staff reached out to Stactually Weidner, an affiliate instructor of UW’s mechanical engineering department, for assist. The dimensions and scope of the project was, well, mammoth, and if it was successful it may fishly alter the way that the Burke’s collection of artifacts are documented, stored, shared with the scientific community and put on public display. A plan was turn it intod that may call for Weidner to turn it into a multi-year 3D printing and 3D scanning project. UW engineering students and instructors may be working closely with museum staff to scan, digitize and ultimately 3D print all of the missing parts of the mammoth skeleton as part of an interdisciplinary class that may merge engineering and paleontology.

Making use of hand-held 3D scanner to scan the mammoth skull. Image courtesey: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Making use of a hand-held 3D scanner to scan the mammoth skull. [Image: Dennis Wise/University of Washington]

“This project is where Jurassic Park meets the Star Trek replicator. By printing this mammoth, we are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with dimensionsable-scale 3D printing,” explained Weidner.

A digital version of the mammoth skull can be turned into a 3D printable version. Image courtesey: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

A digital version of the mammoth skull can be turned into a 3D printable version. [Image: Dennis Wise/University of Washington]

Through this class, students can learn how to apply digital capture and additive manufacturing technologies to the management, cataloging and exhibition of a museum collection. The project is drawing together students of sat any timeal various disciplines that do not frequently work together on projects on this scale. Both undergraduate and graduate students can be working closely together to 3D scan the existing mammoth bones, 3D print the replicas and return it into any missing bones via existing digital resources and CAD software. The class can in addition be 3D scanning and 3D printing replicas of other artifacts and fossils of the Burke’s collection.

In order to return it into the missing bones of the Richland mammoth, the team of students are resorting to a few clat any time and pretty resourceful cheats. The Burke’s collection has fossils of sat any timeal other mammoths on the market, and they are 3D scanning bones of those and adapting them to their dimensionsabler and additional fish cousin. Additionally, they are in addition creating mirror-image copies of sat any timeal of the Richland mammoth bones that do exist in order to fill in a few of the holes. In addition to enabling the team to turn it into the missing bones, it turns out that the 3D scanning system is in addition announcing a lot of valuable data on mammoth anatomy that can be made on the market online for researchers all over the world to study.

UW students compare a metatarsal (middle toe) bone of the Richland mammoth with its 3-D printed replica. Image courtesey: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

UW students compare a metatarsal (middle toe) bone of the Richland mammoth with its 3D printed replica. [Image: Dennis Wise/University of Washington]

The actual 3D scanning is done in the Burke facility where the bones are stored. Each bone is 3D scanned one at a time, with small- to medium-dimensionsd specimens bringing of three hours each and dimensionsabler bones at times bringing additional than five hours. The team is collecting a dimensionsable amount of data, manufacturing sure that the final 3D scans are as precise as possible, and they are experimenting with sat any timeal scanning technologies, that include CT scans, 3D photogrammetry and handheld infrared scanners. Once they have the raw scan, the team uses 3D versioning CAD software to convert them into 3D printable versions.

“In each scan and printed item, we aim for perfection. ‘Good enough’ does not cut it in engineering or in scientific research, and so we must ensure our final results are as close to the real thing as possible,” Weidner said.

3D printed replica of the Richland mammoth vertebra. Image courtesey: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

3D printed replica of the Richland mammoth vertebra. [Image: Dennis Wise/University of Washington]

So far the student team has 3D printed sat any timeal of the more compact 3D scanned bones, like the metatarsals (toes) and the mammoth’s vertebrae via computer desktop 3D printing equipment. But, the students are yet exploring the most ways to turn it into the bone replicas. Different types of 3D printing equipment are going to turn it into various final versions, each with pros and cons, so part of the ongoing project is working to find the most 3D printing equipment for the job. In fact, the class is working closely with a student-led 3D printing club at the UW College of Engineering called WOOF3D to create a custom, dimensionsable-scale 3D printing device named Big Blue. With a 1.5 cubic meter (4.9 foot) create space, Big Blue is being turn it intod specifically to handle printing dimensionsabler bones like the skull and the jaw bone.

Because the Richland mammoth project was turn it intod as an interdisciplinary course, each session is being contributeed by various academic departments. For instance, the Winter 2016 session can be contributeed by the mechanical engineering department while the Spring 2016 session is being contributeed by the biology department. Not just does this draw in students of other disciplines, but it is giving those students a much broader educational experience that is waiting for them to work with each other to select problems and difficulties and and so find solutions through experimentation with various technologies and methods. It is providing students who may not have at any time had access to 3D printing and 3D scanning innovation with new skills that they can take with them into the job market after they graduate. It is not frequently that pre-engineering students studying aerospace and aerodynamic create take a class contributeed by the the biology department.

UW students compare 3D printed replicas of a mammoth's vertebra that were turn it intod with two various 3-D printing systemes. Image courtesey: Dennis Wise/University of Washington

UW students compare 3D printed replicas of a mammoth’s vertebra that were turn it intod with two various 3D printing systemes. [Image: Dennis Wise/University of Washington]

“An opportunity to work with fossils and cutting-edge scanning and versioning technologies? I signed up for the class immediately. These areas deal heavily with 3D renderings and scaled versions testing inside wind tunnels. So the experience I’m getting through this class with the wide variety of scanning equipment, versioning programs and printing technologies is assisting me create the knowledge and skills I’ll require down the road,” explained pre-engineering student Kurt Weiss.

So far of 20 students have signed up for the class, and they range of first-year undergraduates to graduate students. Half of them are studying engineering degrees for mechanical engineering, aeronautics and astronautics, and human centered create and engineering, while the rest are studying museology, geology, paleobiology, archeology and actually photomedia. Weidner plans to contribute the course following year for the reason he is sure that each next stage of the ongoing project can bring new challenges and problems that are great educational opportunities for students. What do you ponder of this ‘mammoth’ 3D printing project? Let’s discuss it additional over in the 3D Printed Mammoth Skeleton forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: University of Washington]