Whale bones reproduced by 3D printing and used in museum exhibits

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Using an Artec Eva 3D scanner and the Stratasys F900 large-format 3D printer, the Camosun Innovates team creates replica whale bones to fill in missing pieces of massive displays in museums around the world .

Camosun Innovates is located on the campus of Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It is home to the Camosun Technology Access Centre, an applied research and innovation center that provides local businesses with access to specialized technology, equipment and expertise. They help customers develop, test and refine products, and typically find creative solutions to customers’ most confusing challenges.

The center is by far one of the best equipped for additive manufacturing technology and applications in Western Canada, and one of the few to have the Stratasys F900 3D printer.

Stratasys F900 printer. Source: Stratasys

Camosun Innovates manufactures replicas of missing whale bones for its client Cetacea Contracting of Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Cetacea creates exhibits of marine mammal skeletons for museums, which, thanks to Camosun Innovates, now house 3D-printed bone replicas. Spare parts are used to complete a display when a real bone of this type is not available.

Whale bones reproduced by 3D printing and used in museum exhibits.  Printed in the Stratasys F900 large format 3D printer.
Hanging blue whale bones on display in Perth Australia. Source: Museum of Western Australia

3D-printed whale bones are precise, durable, and economical, and can be produced quickly. Compared to traditional methods of model making, such as hand sculpting or using silicone molds, the use of 3D scanning, digital data manipulation and 3D printing saves several thousand dollars and save nine months on production time. Since partnering with Camosun Innovates, Cetacea, a small family business, has been able to increase its staff and capacity, helping them expand its mission of creating skeletons that inspire understanding and protection of the natural world.

Matthew Zeleny, an applied research technologist at Camosun’s Technology Access Center, leads projects that involve digitization and additive manufacturing.

He said that sometimes his team receives the scanned data for the bones and sometimes they do the scan themselves, using the Artec Eva 3D scanner. The Eva is a versatile handheld scanner that captures precise measurements in high resolution. Using a combination of Geomagic Wrap, Geomagic Design X and SOLIDWORKS, Matt’s team works closely with Cetacea, leveraging scanned data for joint planning and armature design, and to create full replicas or prosthetic caps for partial bones.

The bones they scanned in-house include those of a Cuvier’s beaked whale and a baby humpback whale.

Whale bones reproduced by 3D printing and used in museum exhibits.  Printed in the Stratasys F900 large format 3D printer.
CTAC’s Connor Yutani-Patterson 3D scanning an orca skull using the Artec Eva 3D scanner

“Working with scanned data is like replacing a traditional modeler’s hands with our digital hands,” Matt said.

Large-scale projects, like printing whale bones, require a large format industrial 3D printer (a jaw bone replica is 14 feet long). The Stratasys F900 tray measures 36 x 24 x 36 inches and has a build volume of 18 cubic feet. It offers 16 different high performance materials to serve a wide range of manufacturing applications.

For the whalebone replicas, the team uses white ABS-M30. They print the skeleton parts in 1.5mm shell sections, fill the core with expanding foam, and join the parts together using ABS plumbing glue.

Matt said the F900’s large build envelope, along with the print material’s variety, strength and thermal stability, meets the demands of local industry, which wants reliable and repeatable results.

“Having a high-end business unit here sets us apart. We can do things that cannot be done elsewhere in the region.

He added that it was also about sharing knowledge and expertise with customers.

“Technology is constantly evolving and we are the reference. People don’t just come to use the technology, they want to learn how to use it well. Our combination of technologies allows us to find creative ways to combine technology to achieve the best possible results. »

With access to advanced technology in the center, Camosun College faculty and students from a variety of disciplines can enhance their work and study. Beyond 3D printing replica whale bones for museums, professors can undertake applied research projects and students are exposed to the state-of-the-art equipment and processes they will encounter in the marketplace. work.

The diversity of the center’s advanced manufacturing projects is impressive, from laser-cut trays to aid in the safe distribution of Pfizer vaccines in remote communities, to the design and printing of custom seats and assistive devices for parasport athletes.

For nearly 10 years, Camosun has relied on Javelin for the latest software, hardware and technical advice.

“Javelin (now TriMech) is our one stop shop. They support us with SOLIDWORKS tools, 3D scanning technology, and 3D printers, and have helped us with grant applications to secure critical infrastructure funding. They provide technology, services and advice, just as we do for our customers in industry. »