Discovering Human Evolution Using 3D Technology – 3DPrint.com

It has already been shown many times that 3D printing replicas of delicate or rare artifacts and fossils is a great way to share them with students and convey the sum of human knowledge about them in a more tangible way. and tactile. What is less often realized is that new knowledge is created as a result of these digital models and 3D prints. Capturing data from a particular site or set of artifacts means data is quickly and easily transferable. It can be sent from seeker to seeker and studied closely by many other minds at the same time.

Paleoanthropology researchers working in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University immediately recognized the benefits that the reproducing capabilities of 3D printing brought to their study. The interest in studying the bones of a human ancestor, like Lucy, who lived between 2.9 and 3.9 million years ago, cannot be fully satisfied when the bones are so few and that their manipulation is such a delicate process that must naturally be limited for their conservation.

Stony Brook researchers examine models

Stony Brook researchers examine models

And what happens when scientists in Cairo and California struggle to understand their own findings in the context of these bones? Traditionally, they have relied on models made by molding, first in plastic, then later in rubber or silicone. However, when a fine level of detail is required, these molds often fail due to bubbles or other imperfections in the materials. Additionally, the risk of damaging the artifact during the mold making process is a very real and devastating danger.

Fossilized remains of Lucy

Fossilized remains of Lucy

Using 3D technology, incredibly detailed replicas of the artifacts can be created with minimal manipulation of the original. Plus, preparing to print produces digital 3D models that can be easily reproduced and sent wherever needed as many times as needed, creating an unlimited supply of high-quality, extremely accurate study models. It is precisely this access that allowed paleoanthropologists at Stony Brook to compare a femur from a fossil named Orrorin, considered to be one of the first hominids, dating from around 6 million years ago, to a femur from Lucy in order to to determine that while Orrorin most likely walked on two feet, he also likely lived in trees.

The prevalence of this technology makes the dream of unlimited access to models closer to reality with each passing day. And it’s not just a matter of precision. Anthropologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology digitize hominin fossils from their collection using CT machines that produce resolution as fine as 0.8 micrometers. This type of scale facilitates in-depth study otherwise inaccessible through traditional model making, and the scanning technology itself enables non-invasive examination of important aspects of fossils such as tooth enamel and ear cavities.gallery_343_13_57398

The ability to manipulate digital images and physical models has even allowed researchers at the Anthropological Institute of the University of Zurich to integrate a model of a Neanderthal child into the model of a Neanderthal woman’s pelvis in order to acquire new insights into Neanderthal gestation and childbirth. Professor Christoph Zollikofer is intimately involved in the scanning and printing process and described its importance to the study:

“It is simply not possible to mold a fragile fossil skull. The coin is too valuable. But by using scanning technology, the replica can be used for silicone molding. Objet’s high precision and fine detail allow for a perfect copy of the original. This in turn allows for experiments that would otherwise be impossible.

Orrorin Skull

Orrorin Skull

The world of possibilities opened up by these technologies ranges from pushing the boundaries of new inventions to better understanding our ancestors 6 million years in the past. It’s an exciting time to be able to push both ways at once, and who knows how far we may possibly study, while creating the next frontier for advancing modern technology.

Let us know what you think of this innovative use of advanced technology to learn more about ancient history in the Scanning and 3D Printing forum thread to study evolution at 3DPB.com.

[Source: embodi3d.com]