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These 3D Printed Trilobites Are Absolutely Stunning

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Trilobites are everywhere: you’ve probably seen them in museums, or if you’re lucky, in the rocks near where you live. While we’re used to seeing the fossils, one scientist has turned to 3D printing to get a sense of what these creatures were like in life.

Dr. Allan Drummond is a professor of biochemistry at the University of Chicago, and decided that he wanted to try his hand at printing up a trilobite.


Reconstruction of C. pleurexanthemus from Harrington, 1959. [Source]

He chose the Ceraurus pleurexanthemus species, because of the existing images that had been put togehter, but also because there were some examples of where soft tissue had been preserved. With that information to go on, he put together a 3D model using Blender:


Drummond has been documenting his process over on a discussion forum, in which he outlines how he’s been modeling each specimen:

So I looked at as many ceraurids as I could find, and made 2D drawings, first in pencil, then in Inkscape, to provide guides for the 3D modeling. The initial goal was not to model a specific species, but to capture the organism in a recognizable way. The eyes are larger and more stalked in the drawings, and present model, than in Ceraurus, among a huge number of features that are just wrong. At the same time, any knowledgeable person can identify the genus immediately. Over time, I’ve been pushing the model closer and closer to identifiable species, influenced in large part by the folks on FF who can identify species instantly from details of an isolated hypostome. No pressure!

With the model completed, he printed out a prototype in clear resin, and later, in Black Resin. From there, he went and printed them up in in stainless steel, bronze, and finally, silver: “3D printed in wax and cast in silver, with silver wire for the antennae.”

The resulting sculptures are absolutely stunning.


Not going to lie: I really want one of these.

[Nerdist, The Fossil Forum]

Image credits: Allan Drummond