10 March 2013 – It is going to be the largest object ever made by the new production technology of three-dimensional (3D) printing (the above shows a one-eighth-scale rendering).
What is it? This fall … assuming all goes well … a new exhibit will go on show at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC. It will be a life-sized (ok, death-sized) model of a 5 million-year-old fossil whale found in Chile in 2011.
The whale was one of more than a dozen exposed by the widening of the Pan American Highway. Local experts planned to remove the bones before the site was paved over, but that would have destroyed useful information about the context of the find. (Was it, for example, a mass stranding?) By chance, a team from the Smithsonian, led by Nick Pyenson, was working nearby.
As Dr Pyenson explained to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (we have been pouring through last month’s annual meeting papers), he recruited the institution’s newly created 3D-digitization team to fly down and scan the skeletons with lasers, before … Read more