Naturalis 3D prints a full size replica of their original Tyrannosaurus Rex
After a year of 3D scanning, modelling and 3D printing, Naturalis, the national museum of natural history in Leiden, Netherlands has finished their fully 3D printed replica of the T-Rex skeleton excavated in 2013. Measuring 12 meters long and 5 meters high it is due to be shipped to the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum located in Katsuyama, Japan late April 2021.
This Jurassic story started in 2013 when a small T-Rex bone was found in a field in Montana, USA. A team from Naturalis travelled to Montana to see if there were more T-Rex bones to be found. After weeks of carefully digging, they found a fantastic well preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton which was 99% complete. It was only missing a large hip bone. After a crowd funding campaign, Naturalis was able to get the T-Rex to their museum in Leiden and then were able to 3D scan, mirror and 3D print the right hip bone to complete the original skeleton which has been on display since 2016.
The T-Rex is one of the biggest attractions of the museums and other museums worldwide were very interested in the T-Rex. When the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum found out that Naturalis has its own 3D scanning and 3D printing lab, they requested to have a full size replica printed in a slightly more attacking/walking position than the original T-Rex on show at Naturalis.
To digitalize the original T-Rex and to be able to 3D print it, the skeleton was carefully taken apart so that all the bones could be 3D scanned individually and change the position of the T-Rex as requested by the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum. Another huge advantage of having all the bones in 3D files is that Naturalis was able to integrate the full metal frame, which holds all bones in place, inside the bones making the replica even more realistic.
After the 3D models were prepared and the position of the T-Rex was approved, the 3D printing started. Naturalis owns two Builder Extreme 1500 PRO 3D printers and have previously used them for other dinosaur projects. In total, 300 bones have been 3D printed on the Builder Extremes, from the extremely large skull to the very small bones of the claws. Some parts, such as the skull and hip bones, have been digitally cut into 2 or 4 pieces to print the parts in the most efficient way, so using less support material and simply because they were too big. All bones have been 3D printed in the highest resolution using a 0.3 mm layer height and 6% infill and the material used for this project was PRO1, a very strong PLA based material.
Once the bones were printed, the paint expert started painting each bone by hand. Every 3D printed bone was taken to the original skeleton to make an exact replica of the colour for that specific bone. Then it was time to integrate the frame into the bones. This hasn’t been done before and it worked out perfectly. When you see the 3D printed T-Rex, you hardly see any steel parts of the frame.
The entire process of assembling the 3D printed bones onto the frame took place in the beautifully designed atrium of Naturalis. After the first assembly, they took the replica apart a few times to make a detailed manual of how to put it together.
The replica will now be packed and shipped to Japan and will be on display at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum Japan from October 2021.