Printing a Dinosaur for a museum

In November 2017, Dinosaur Island General Manager and Curator Martin Mount organized an exhibition of the comprehensive pattern of Neovenator salerii as part of the exhibition Theropods: From Carnivorous Dinosaurs to Flying Birds at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum in Japan.

As part of the project, the Fukui Museum will display a replica of the Neovenator skeleton and some original bones from Dinosaur Island. I was assigned to help disassemble and reassemble the skeleton to scan and package original specimens for loan to the Fukui Museum.

Predatory dinosaur

The Neovenator is a large, predatory dinosaur that can be found in other fossils in southern England and France, but has been clearly identified only on the Isle of Wight. Dinosaur Island contains a fair amount of Neovenator, including the most complete person discovered to date (the overall pattern), as well as some partial skeletons made as isotope shapes and many isolated remains.

The overall pattern was first discovered in the late 1970s on the island’s southwest coast by private collectors. The excavations were later conducted by Dinosaur Isle staff and volunteers. Although most specimens were collected for Dinosaur Island, some of the bones found by private collectors were obtained by the Natural History Museum in London. Most of the skeleton is found, with most bones other than the arms represented; No material for upper limbs found.

The Holoti model kept by Dinosaur Isle will be displayed and displayed in a static form (claimed to be the largest theropod assembled in Britain) with a mixture of real, cast and sculpted bones. Working with my colleague Gary Blackwell, we studied the anchor to find the best way to disassemble it safely for scanning. With the support of many volunteers, we registered and completely dismantled the anchor within two days. The key to the process was to take notes about the joints, how the structure and bones were secured, how the weight of the bones affected the anchor, and the order of their collapse all, making the assembly a fairly smooth process.

Newfinator Holotype Show on Dinosaur Island; A mixture of cast real bones. © Dinosaur Island. Please click on the image for a larger version.

The scan was performed by Replicate 3D, based in Southampton, which scored all samples using photometric. Photometry is the process of capturing images from multiple angles to create a field of images, while performing more accurate scans with a greater amount of high-resolution images. The images are processed by software that uses specific markers (either bone markers or specific bone features) to combine the panoramic image into a 3D image.

Adrian and Aaran of Replicate 3D examine the carved skull. © Dinosaur Island. Please click on the image for a larger version.

The details that can be reproduced by photogrammetry depend on the quality of the cameras used, with a higher resolution producing scans with more detail. The specific equipment that Replicate 3D used for scanning produced replicas that are as standard, if not more detailed, than replicas made using standard casting methods.

For items not found

Various techniques were used to fill in the gaps of our assembled Neovenator. The front legs are replicas based on the closely related Allosaurus’ arms (since they were completely absent from the specimens found). The aquarium belt for the overall pattern was not complete, so umbrella pattern samples were used. The spine was also incomplete and so some of the bones (missing cervical vertebrae) were made on the basis of allosaurus, while others (tail and back) were replaced by impressions of the vertebrae closest to them in sequence.

There are several advantages to using 3D scanning to reproduce such grouped skeletons. If there is a missing bone such as a caudate, subsequent vertebrae can be enlarged or reduced instead of using direct impressions to make the pregnant more realistic (rather than having 3 or 4 of the same vertebrae in a row).