- Applications & 3D Scans
- 3D Services
- Help Center
Challenge: To digitize the skull of a triceratops for virtual viewing, academic study, and to create a replica for use in another museum.
Solution: Artec Leo, Artec Studio, a ladder
Results: With a full 3D model of the dinosaur skull, visitors and students are able to view the CU Museum of Natural History’s most popular exhibit despite coronavirus closure.
Dinosaurs – Creatures that have inspired study and research for centuries, and they continue to intrigue millions around the world up to the present. For the preserved remains of one triceratops that roamed the earth in prehistoric times, modern technology has assigned a status that few fellow dinosaur fossils have achieved: digital immortality.
Originally discovered in 1891 near the town of Lance Creek, Wyoming, the skull of this plant-eater was on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. until the late 1970s. It was then loaned to the CU museum, where it now resides; the museum as we see it today was literally built around this skull.
To capture the entire skull, a ladder needed to be used. (Image by David Cano / 3D Printing Colorado)
“The Smithsonian put together an estimate of how much it would cost to knock that wall down, get this thing out, and ship it back to them because they own it, and it was just so expensive and risky that no one wanted to go through with it,” says Nick Conklin, Applications Engineer II at Artec Gold Certified partner 3D Printing Colorado. This means that the skull will remain where it is for the foreseeable future, but with 3D scanning technology, previously impossible opportunities have already started to present themselves.
When Conklin and his colleague David Cano first visited Colorado University’s Museum of Natural History in January of this year, it was for the sale of an Artec Leo 3D scanner. “On the way in, we spotted the triceratops skull and thought ‘Hey, that would be a really cool scan, we should do that sometime!’” Conklin recalls.
For every scanner that 3D Printing Colorado sells, training is included. But for Dr. William Taylor, Curator of Archaeology at the university, already familiar with Artec 3D scanners, another add-on was suggested.
“Dr. Taylor had already used Artec Space Spider quite a bit, and so instead of the training, he elected to have us bring Leo in for one of his classes,” says Conklin. “He wanted us to show his students what can be done with Leo and scanning technology.”
Thus a project of prehistoric proportions began – to digitize a dinosaur skull in its entirety.
The scanning was done as part of a lesson at the university. (Image by David Cano / 3D Printing Colorado)
“For 30 to 40 minutes during one of Dr. Taylor’s night classes, I was scanning the triceratops skull as I was talking to the students – explaining what I was doing, so it was a bit of a show-and-tell teaching moment,” says Conklin. This skull scanning soon caught the attention of CU Media.
“The university’s media relations were all over it, and they wanted to take pictures and videos of a dinosaur being scanned,” says Cano. “Once they got wind of this, we were invited back, and this time instead of a teaching experience, it was more of a film photoshoot,” adds Conklin.
During their second scan, one thing enabled even better access for the scanning process: a ladder. “With the ladder, I was able to get some details that I had missed previously, just because there was a more conducive environment for that,” Conklin says.
The scan took a total of 30 minutes, while scan processing was completed entirely in Artec Studio 3D software within two hours.