Science
6:00 am
Mon January 13, 2014

How A 3-D Printer Is Helping Preserve A Saber-Toothed Salmon

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 of Oregon's saber-toothed fossil skull, prepared for a CT scan.
Credit University of Oregon

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, “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.

“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.

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