Over the past several years, Belgian manufacturing firm Materialise has 3D-printed items such as running shoes, a dress and a wheelchair. Now, the company has created something a little larger – a complete wooly mammoth skeleton.
The artifact is a reproduction of an actual mammoth skeleton, which was excavated near the Belgian city of Lier in 1860. The city had no museum of its own at the time, so the skeleton was put on display at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels. Lier now has a new museum that will be opening soon, so the 3D-printed replica skeleton was made to go there.
Working with Dr. Mietje Germonpré, who is a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, a team at Materialise started by 3D-scanning each of the original 320 fossilized bones. Digital files from each of those scans were then used to print the replica bones, which were composed of 0.1-mm-thick layers of resin.
The whole printing process took a little under seven weeks, involving 1,259 hours on nine of Materialise's patented Mammoth Stereolithography large-format printers. And in case you're wondering, the machines were named long before the mammoth skeleton project began.
Once all the bones were printed, several layers of paint and varnish were added to the transparent resin. Additionally, in order to hold the skeleton together without the need for external scaffolding, a modular carbon fiber structure was created to support it from within – that structure can't be seen from the outside.
The finished product measures 3.5 meters tall by 5 meters long (11.5 by 16.4 ft), weighs 300 kg (661 lb), and was recently unveiled in the Lier City Museum.
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