FARO laser scanner reconstructs dinosaur fossils

July 19, 2011
Lake Mary, FL--Rejecting more laborious methods, the University of Oklahoma used laser scanning from FARO to reconstruct the anatomy of a juvenile apatosaurus.

Lake Mary, FL--Rejecting more laborious methods, Binil Starly and his team of students at the University of Oklahoma decided to use laser scanning from FARO to reconstruct the dinosaur anatomy of a juvenile apatosaurus. The team was challenged to complete the reconstruction for the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (Norman, OK) as a member of the Center for Shape Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (SEAM)--a multi-university collaboration that has pooled together engineering resources to focus on creating and disseminating innovation. Since only 15% of the bones had been collected, the remaining fossils would have to be anatomically created by the team of scientists. Traditionally, sculpting clay models by hand has always been common practice. However, using this process is extremely time consuming, often inaccurate, and highly irreproducible.

The university’s objective was to provide individual prototypes of each individual bone of the juvenile apatosaurus for the paleontologists to create castings for the display model. The team decided to reverse engineer the current adult apatosaurus skeletal model so they could proportionally create the missing bones of the juvenile dinosaur. With the adult skeleton standing at 25 ft. tall and 45 ft. long, digitally creating nearly 300 bones would have been an enormous challenge for traditional methods such as sculpting. But the FARO Laser Scanner Photon was used to create a virtual 3D representation of the adult apatosaurus to then be modified to the acceptable anatomic size for the reconstructing of the juvenile cast models.

The FARO Photon sends out an infrared laser beam to the object that is being scanned and is reflected back to the laser scanner. The laser scanner collects nearly a million points per second and from these points it creates a virtual point cloud. Using these point clouds, digital 3D models can be created, scaled and edited to the correct dimensions needed. This dinosaur LIDAR (light detection and ranging) has even been used to map dinosaur track pathways.

"Laser scanning serves as an enabling digital technology for the accurate anatomic representation of prehistoric life on earth," said Starly. Certain portions of the adult skeletal display were either hidden, in tight locations or too hard to reach. Despite the space constraints, the FARO Laser Scanner Photon was able to fully scan the bones that normally would have been impossible to access. The ease of use and transportability of the FARO Photon aided the team of students in scanning the entire adult apatosaurus, which consisted of only 9 scans. Once completed, virtual models of the adult skeleton were then modified to anatomically match what would be the remaining skeleton of the juvenile apatosaurus.

According to Kyle Davies, one of Sam Noble’s paleontologists, applying the traditional method of reconstructing a tail bone vertebra took about a day to sculpt. Using the new methods of laser scanning, the same vertebra only takes 15-30 minutes to generate. Thus there is about 93-96% savings on time for each vertebra.

Since fossils are so delicate, implementing laser scanning proved to be invaluable to the museum. While working with objects such as fossils, the FARO Laser Scanner was ideal since it was nonintrusive to the fragile Apatosaurus display and it allowed the dinosaur exhibit to remain open during scanning.

SOURCE: FARO; www.faro.com/content.aspx?ct=&content=news&item=3641&tab=3?elq=67f32b45f264404cbb9b55c08647f361

Posted by:Gail OvertonSubscribe now to Laser Focus World magazine; It’s free! Follow us on TwitterFollow OptoIQ on your iPhone. Download the free App here

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