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Friday, September 5, 2014 - 17:00
3D Systems at the Marine ExLog games
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3D Systems' Specialized Military Scan-to-Print Solutions

By ScanMaster Flash, Special Correspondent

With the discovery of the world’s largest dinosaur occurring nine years ago and murmurings only now hitting mainstream media, it seems even news about paleontology travels at geologic speeds! Nevertheless, it’s always fun to hear news about dinosaurs, which always seem to capture our imagination.

Now, I may be a public-facing scanning enthusiast, but I am also an avid consumer of all things dinosaurian. That’s not why I’m writing this post, though. No, this post is to highlight one of the emerging trends in paleontology and archaeology that I find particularly interesting. That’s right: 3D scanning. The case of the new largest dinosaur (currently named Dreadnoughtus) is not the first time 3D scanning and preservation has been used on a dig, but it is a fairly well-publicized one. What’s more: the team involved in excavation and research has been more than happy to share the 3D images with the world.

Before we get into scanning details, here’s a little background. Dreadnoughtus was a sauropod (long-neck, for those of you that are less familiar) from a particularly large group of sauropods called titanosaurs (because they were so titanic). These were the largest animals to ever walk the earth (although not the largest to swim the seas – that title belongs to blue whales). The Dreadnoughtus currently trending in the news was a teenager found in Patagonia and weighed around 130,000 pounds (that’s more than half the weight of a Boeing 747).

Contrary to what you might see in natural history museums, it is almost impossible to find a complete dinosaur skeleton from a single individual. The bones you see in the museum are casts of the originals (real bones are too fragile and valuable) and made from pieces of many different individuals. So when paleontologists found 70% of the rear half of Dreadnoughtus (see picture), they were pretty psyched. With that quantity of physical remains, they could easily estimate physiological quantities like age and weight, as well as assert the potential size of a full-grown adult. Though the found specimen was an adolescent, titanosaurs could live well into their 60s, if not longer. Continuing to grow for much of their adult life (unlike humans, who mostly shrink), adult Dreadnoughtuses could very well match the weight of a Boeing 747, or potentially grow even larger.

The pieces of Dreadnoughtus that were found, and where they fit together

Ok, paleontology lesson over. The long and short of it is that this is a BIG dinosaur. Returning to the earlier-mentioned concept that the bones in museums are casts, for a long time if you wanted to copy a dinosaur bone, you had to break out the plaster-of-Paris and get your hands dirty. No more. Now we have 3D scanning to help replicate these rare and valuable finds.

I haven’t looked at the available articles closely enough to find out which scanner was used, but I was able to determine which program was used to help put the pieces together. The scans were processed in software developed by my good friend Ping Fu from Geomagic (now Geomagic Solutions, a division of 3D Systems), specifically Geomagic Studio, a pretty powerful, professional tool for working with scans, STLs and a bunch of other 3D data.

What’s even cooler, the 3D images of all the bones are available for free download here. I say ‘3D images’ because the files are 3D PDFs, which are really neat if you’ve never seen one before, but not in a format you can 3D print (which I know so many of you love doing). There may be a place to get printable models and build your own dinosaur, but I haven’t found it yet. You’ll have to do some “digging” of your own.

It’s exciting to see we’re entering a new age of paleontology, where fossils can be shared with the click of a mouse and examined in hundreds of labs at once. As fun as 3D scanning people’s heads is, the technology has even more profound applications in research and history. It’s never been easier to get to the site of a dig, whether in person or virtually, and we have 3D scanning to thank, in part, for that. And hey, even the Sense has been used on an archaeological dig or two!

For more info on Dreadnoughtus, check out these links:







Of the numerous benefits of 3D printing, reducing or eliminating inventory is perhaps the most appealing to those strapped for space. Due to the implications this feature has for security and military applications, the US Marine Corps is now exploring how 3D scanning, CAD and 3D printing and inspection tools can improve its combat readiness. With the help of 3DS, Marines personnel learned last week how they can create, reproduce and correct a set of broken parts in a quick and streamlined process.

3d scaning-to-print at Marines ExLog gamesAt the Marine Expeditionary Logistics (ExLog) games in Quantico, VA, Marines discovered how to digitize objects within minutes using the Capture 3D scanner, which they could then solidify in a CAD program. From there, spare parts for broken equipment can be printed in a matter of hours on deployable 3D printers for same-day replacements. This “digital thread” represents a closed loop that brings objects from the physical space to the digital realm for regeneration back to the physical world.

The seamlessness of this process is invaluable for entities like the military, though such integration is applicable and appealing in other circles as well. If you need rapid parts delivery, maybe the Engineering Digital Thread is the missing link for your business.

For more than 90 years, the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards have recognized the artistic expression of the nation’s most creative young artists and writers.  Millions of teenagers have participated in the awards, with the list of famous formers including contemporaries like Zach Posen and Lena Dunham, as well as far-reaching icons Sylvia Plath, Andy Warhol, Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates.

This year, 3D Systems has partnered with the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards to create a “DIGITAL DESIGN CHALLENGE.”  Open to students in grades 7-12, the challenge encourages young creatives to think outside the box and bridge conventional forms of arts and writing with 21st century tools like CAD and CAM software.

The Digital Design Challenge calls on students to not only think about how they can be makers of things, but Change Makers to “transform conventional forms of art and writing, inspire change in their communities and celebrate their originality.”  To support this endeavor and encourage students across disciplines to shrink the divide between  art and technology, 3DS is making its Cubify Design and Cubify Sculpt software available to all participants.

To be considered, participants must submit their digital 3D designs by August 1, 2014. Experts from 3D Systems and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers will review them, and the best design created using Cubify software will win a Sense 3D Scanner.

If you are a student, teacher, educator or non-profit administrator working with middle and high school students, we encourage you to participate in the digital design challenge. Try your hand at our Cubify Sculpt and Cubify Design software, and rethink how you express yourself by exploring new mediums. Don’t just join the movement of makers; become a change maker.

To find out more about MAKE.Digital, click here.

For more information about the challenge and to download the software, please visit the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards website.


In the ongoing commitment to more easily enable 3D software and printing education in classrooms, 3D Systems is making available new lines of classroom curricula, videos and discounted bundles on 3D printers and software.

Students use 3D printers at school

These resources have been created in partnership with 3 independent groups – the CityX Project, SteamTRAX and Blokify. 3D printing, scanning and software can now be incorporated into school and after school programs and integrated across both STEM and STEAM subjects. From introductory activities, to week long projects to full year curriculum, 3D printing brings 21st century skills and project based, experiential learning into your classroom.

Find out more and review curriculum options at: http://www.cubify.com/en/Education/EducationResources

Always one to upend run-of-the-mill public school education, North Carolina’s Richmond County Schools is giving students the opportunity to apply 3D technology in unexpected ways.

The school district’s Teen Scene Investigation (TSI) club recently joined forces with award-winning educator Jeff Epps’ G.R.E.A.T. 3D Academy to apply 3D software and 3D printing to crime scene investigation.

Click here to read more about the collaboration and see how these students are getting valuable exposure to the 3D skills of the future.

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