Monday, May 14, 2012

Robotic Dinosaurs on the technique for Next-Gen Paleontology

Researchers at Drexel University are bringing the newest technical advancements in 3-D printing to the study of antique life. Using scale models of real fossils, for the first time, they will be able to check hypotheses about how dinosaurs and extra primitive animals moved and lived in their environments.

"Technology in paleontology hasn't tainted in about 150 years," said Drexel paleontologist Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, and relate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. "We use shovels and pickaxes and burlap and plaster. It hasn't distorted until now."

Lacovara has begun creating 3-D scans of massive dinosaur bones and other fossils in his lab. The 3-D scan puts a virtual picture in a digital workplace that researchers can control and analyze.

To transport these scans to life, Lacovara is also teaming up with mechanical engineer Dr. James Tangorra, an assistant professor in Drexel's College of Engineering, to use 3-D printing technology to make and check scale models of fossil bones.

A 3-D printer is a technology for fast prototyping and developed objects based on a digital design. Common models work by regularly extruding very thin layers of a resin or added material, building up strata to make a physical object.

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