Dr. Allan Drummond, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, has done something very incredible with 3D printing. He has recreated some amazing ancient creatures by 3D printing them in metal, the idea was to show how ancient species looked with their soft tissues like gills, antennae, and legs. That’s something which is not evident with fossilized shells even though they are museum staples across the globe.
Drummond is a human genetics and biochemistry researcher and he grew interested in trilobites, these arthropods are now extinct, they did live in the oceans for close to 270 million years. Over 17,000 species of these creatures are known today and they remain the most diverse group of animals that are preserved in the fossil record.
He decided on the Ceraurus genus which existed about 470 million years ago since this seemed like the best choice after eliminating groups with delicate spines or those that were simple to print with great detail. “They have long yet substantial genal [head segement] and pygidial [tail segment] spines, complex thoracic armor, gorgeous curves, unmistakable trilobite form. Enough detail to warrant 3D printing, enough structural solidity to survive it,” Drummond says, explaining his decision to go with Ceraurus.
He first drew the creature by hand in pencil and later in Inkscape to create the guides for 3D modeling. It was detail-oriented and laborious work yet Drummond stuck with it and ended up creating something that looks marvelous.
The 3D models were printed using a form printer which uses a laser to cure dots of liquid plastic resin in solid form. All parts in the print were cut from the base and then polished and assembled again in plastic and then in steel, bronze and finally in silver. The results speak for themselves.