How A 3D Printer Helped Preserve A Sabertooth Salmon

Jan 7, 2014

For years paleontologists have searched for a way to duplicate fragile fossils without damaging them. Now scientists with the University of Oregon say 3D printing is the secret.

The university scanned the fossil and then sent the image to a 3D-printer.
Credit mrdavisdc/Flickr

The University’s Museum is building an exhibit on the evolution of salmon. The centerpiece is the fossil head of a sabertooth salmon that spawned in Oregon roughly 5 million years ago. Imagine a sockeye,

Famoso: “Put a big old gnarly tooth in the front jaw. That would be a saber-tooth salmon. And also make it a lot bigger.“

That’s paleontologist Nick Famoso. To duplicate a fossil scientists usually pour latex over it to make a cast. But that can damage delicate specimens.

Famoso: “This is where the 3-printing comes in, where it’s really exciting.”

The university scanned the fossil. And then sent the image to a 3-printer. It uses liquid plastic to build a perfect replica of the salmon, layer by layer. Paleontologists at the University of Washington are also experimenting with 3-D printing techniques.

Copyright 2014 Oregon Public Broadcasting