Paper No. 26-32
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM
COMPARISONS OF FIDELITY IN THE DIGITIZATION AND 3D PRINTING OF VERTEBRATE FOSSILS
Recent innovations and advances in the field of additive manufacturing (AM) and three-dimensional (3D) printing have led to significant reductions in the cost and complexity of utilizing such techniques. As the technology enters the mainstream, the increasing levels of accessibility open new venues for the fields of science and technology, including, but not limited to, paleontology. However, until recently, the use of 3D printed samples as research specimens has remained infeasible due to the large overhead associated with high-quality AM devices and limitations of the technology, such as low print fidelity. This study systematically explores the quality of digitization processes and 3D printed specimen samples in quantitative terms to determine if the use of additive manufacturing for research purposes is feasible for most paleontologists. First, high-resolution resin casts of a shed tooth from Tyrannosaurus rex and a dorsal osteoderm from a Cretaceous crocodilian were digitized into 3D models using two different techniques: white-light structured digital scanning and laser texture scanning. Each resulting digital model was statistically compared for differences in morphology of the resulting meshes. Second, the resulting digital models were then 3D printed on two different fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers and thermoplastics: crylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polyacetic acid (PLA). The resulting printed models were then microscopically compared for differences from the original digital file to determine which material and printer yields are more accurate product. The results of this study suggest that while differences in digitization methods and 3D print materials and machines exist, these differences are exacerbated by variation in original object morphology. As such, even low-cost digitization and 3D printing systems are suitable for many paleontological research initiatives.