3D Fossil Printing Project

This campaign ended on May 01, 2019, but you can still make a gift to East Tennessee State University by clicking here!

About this ETSU Campaign

This fundraising campaign requests your support for the purchase of a sufficiently large 3D printer to accurately replicate signature fossils discovered at The Gray Fossil Site. Scientists working at the Fossil Site and the ETSU Center of Excellence for Paleontology are hoping not only to improve research resources, but to convey the excitement and wonder of paleontology to the public. Each year, thousands of children visit the ETSU & General Shale Fossil Museum to follow the footprints left by those who roamed the Earth during the early Pliocene Epoch. Your donation will help fund new possibilities for young learners across the region.

Many of the fossils discovered at the Gray Fossil Site are well preserved and are unique. But the fossils are approximately 5 million years old, and they are fragile. That makes hands-on experience with the fossils difficult. Laser scanning and 3D printing of fossils helps solve that problem. Dozens of the Gray fossils have already been "3D-scanned" using laser scanners; 3D printing will allow the fossils to be replicated in a medium that is accurate, robust, and affordable.

Why "print" 3D fossil replicas?

  • accurate replicas of delicate fossils will reach the hands of more researchers and students
  • accurate replicas will be provided to more museums, schools, and visiting students
    • more than 4,700 students and teachers visited the Gray Fossil Site last year
  • accurate replicas will be available for on-site and off-site classrooms, presentations, and displays
  • otherwise incomplete fossil specimens can be augmented with the missing pieces
    • for example, a missing left femur could be replaced by printing a mirror image of a right femur
    • an incomplete bone could be scanned, digitally patched, and printed in a complete form

As you can see, the goal of this campaign is to put accurate fossil replicas into the hands of all those who wish to study them. Scientists and students are learning about the lives of the animals and the subtropical ecosystem that existed in our region 5 million years ago. They are learning about evolution, comparative anatomy, biodiversity, climate, and much more.

Please continue below for more links about 3D scanning and printing of fossils and additional information about the Gray Fossil Site, the Hands On! Discovery Center, and the ETSU Center of Excellence in Paleontology.

3D Scanning Demo at the Gray Fossil Site (video)

3D Scans from the East Tennessee Museum of Natural History (scans)

Mastadon Lower Jaw Repair with 3D Printed Tusks (video)

Tapir Research with Lasers (video interview)

Gray Fossil Site and Hands On! Discovery Center Web Page

ETSU Center of Excellence in Paleontology

Gray Fossil Site on Facebook

ETSU & General Shale Fossil Museum on VIPSeen LIVE

Publications by Dr. Chris Widga - including a presentation abstract on the importance of 3D imaging in paleontology.

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