Science News magazine recently published an interesting article about how paleontologists are using Reality Computing technologies to virtually dissect, reanimate, and 3D print extinct creatures captured in fossils.
In the past, the only way to create a physical 3D model of a fossil was to grind down the fossil in very thin sections, photograph each slice, and then use those photographs to create a 3D wax model of the original fossil. Besides being incredibly tedious, this method destroyed the original fossil.
In the age of CT scanning, computerized 3D modeling, and additive printing, paleontologists can now digitally capture the existing fossil in microscopic detail and move that reality data into modeling software for visualization and analysis. To create a physical replica of the creature, the virtual fossil model can then be 3D printed.
CT scanners produce extremely detailed images of the inside of the fossil without destroying it. This nondestructive method of reality capture is particularly important for some fields of paleontology where fossils are rare and scientific research sometimes stems from a single fossil. This ability to see inside the fossil helps paleontologists understand the evolution of the organism and its relationship to modern organisms.