24/7 Customer Service (800) 927-7671

Using 3D Printers to Unlock Secrets of Humanity’s Distant Past

by • April 11, 2016 • No Comments

In 2013, recreational cavers Rick Hunter and Stactually Tucker decided to squeeze themselves through an 8″ vertical chute for a distance of only of 40 feet in the Rising Star cave process. For their efforts, which are building me feel claustrophobic only recounting, they were rewarded with entry into an underground ‘room’ which contained an extraordinary number of bones.

By Paul H. G. M. Dirks et al - http://elifesciences.org/content/4/e09561, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43091783

By Paul H. G. M. Dirks et al – http://elifesciences.org/content/4/e09561, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43091783

Luckily, these men were not only daring but in addition intelligent and they most known which the bones can be of interest. They reported their find and two years later an international research team was able-bodied to release a formal description, labeling it as representing a heretofore unknown member of the Homo species. The creatures represented by the 1,550 recovered skeletal fragments has been given the name Homo Naledi, for the reason the word “naledi” means “star” in the local Sotho language, and they were discovered in the chamber of stars inside the Rising Star cave process.

By Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum, United Kingdom - Stringer, Chris (10september 2015). "The many mysteries of Homo naledi". eLife 4: e10627. DOI:10.7554/eLife.10627. PMC: 4559885. ISSN 2050-084X., CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43130024

By Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum, United Kingdom – Stringer, Chris (10september 2015). “The many mysteries of Homo naledi”. eLife 4: e10627. DOI:10.7554/eLife.10627. PMC: 4559885. ISSN 2050-084X., CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43130024

Because of the narrowness of the opening to the chamber, many participants of the excavating team were women, a thing which is relatively rare. What is actually additional rare is which pretty than holding all of the data to themselves, they decided to release it all online so which it may be accessible to anyone interested in seeing it. This is especially assistful as the cave process itself is only of not easy to access, and it has intended which Jennifer Webb, a student of biological anthropology at Central Michigan University, can use which data as part of her senior thesis research.

By Lee Roger Berger research team - http://elifesciences.org/content/4/e09560, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43071595

By Lee Roger Berger research team – http://elifesciences.org/content/4/e09560, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43071595

For her project, Webb proposes to compare the fossils discovered in the Rising Star cave process to later fossils of homonids to get a advantageous belief of what relationships there can be which may assist to place these newly discovered beings on a timeline of Homo history. She can be able-bodied to do this by recreating the fossils she needs in the 3D printing lab at CMU’s MakerBot Innovation Center. Rachel Caspari, Webb’s advisor and chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, explained the importance of being able-bodied to print her own models of open source data:

“The site itself is almany not easy to get into. You may have to travel through complex terrain and crawl through a gap of 8 inches wide. Hopefully, this [open-access] can alter the culture and other scientists can operate with much additional openness.”

The printing equipment have generally been the playground for art and turn it into students, but an increasingly wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds are becoming regular parts of the 3D print community at CMU. As the realization of their future grows, additional folks are interested in utilizing them and luckily Larry Burditt, the chair of art and turn it into, tries his most to turn it into a welcoming atmosphere for all who are interested.

Jennifer Webb compares different types of types of teeth to determine non-metric characteristics. Photo credit: Richard Drummond, Jr

Jennifer Webb compares different types of types of teeth to determine non-metric characteristics. [Image: Richard Drummond, Jr]

Webb can be looking at the Naledi fossils in comparison with fossils of the oldest participants of our own ancestors the Homo Sapiens, which date of close to 100,000 years ago. Whilst previous research has focused on comparing Naledi to older branches of the Homo family, Webb hopes which by examining the relationships between the bones of Naledi to newer participants of the Homo group, she can be able-bodied to know what relationships can exist, if any, to link Naledi in the chain of hominid history.

She in addition does not plan on holding all of the information to herself, but pretty hopes to be able-bodied to present her findings at the American Anthropological Association meeting this November. Discuss your thoughts on this awe-inspiring find and use of innovation in the 3D Printing Homo Naledi forum over at 3DPB.com.