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Michael Holland

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Michael Holland last won the day on July 24 2015

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About Michael Holland

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    Advanced Member & Blogger
  • Birthday 08/26/1971

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  1. Hello, Mr. Benks - Are you able to create .STL files from micro-CT scans? The data sets are often somewhat large (I've seen some around 4 GB in size). Thanks, Michael
  2. A recent publication by D. Andrew Thomas features CT scan-based digital reconstructions of the cranial anatomy of Tenontosaurus tilletti, a basal Iguanodontid dinosaur of the lower Cretaceous. Tenontosaurus has a special place in my heart, as I've built exhibit mounts featuring this dinosaur. (Below is a link to a photo of one mount of an "exploded" skull reconstruction). I'm of the opinion that the methods used in this study offer a glimpse into the future of vertebrate paleontology. http://michaelhollandproductions.com/mhpgallery/ltenonto.html Historically, fossils are excavated and brought into a lab where the delicate and laborious process of fossil preparation can be performed. Having considerable experience in fossil preparation, I can attest to the many hours of intent focus needed to carry out the tasks of stabilization, consolidation, assembly, etc. on a fossil. While I don't expect that the interest in exposing the actual fossil and rendering it into a condition that allows it to be safely handled by researchers or displayed in museum exhibits will subside, I see tremendous promise in digital preparation, as was done here. By creating 3D images of the specimens and then digitally removing the surrounding rock matrix, a specimen can be interpreted while it is still embedded in rock. This has a few advantages. First, while the specimen may take many months to liberate from the rock matrix, CT scan data is available immediately, so researchers can get a look at the morphology of the fossil much sooner than has historically been the case. Second, having a 3D model printed can create a helpful guide for preparators to follow while doing the actual physical preparation (much as Dr. Mike has done with anatomical features of patients prior to surgery). Third, the potential to share information is greatly increased, as digital files are easily shared among colleagues, and this can happen much more quickly (and with no risk to the fossil) than making molds and casts to share. Extra bonus - the author has included in the publication the STL files for the skull bones. You can find the publication and the STL files here: Paper: http://palaeo-electronica.org/content/2015/1178-skull-of-tenontosaurus Appendices: http://palaeo-electronica.org/content/component/content/article/285-450/1181-skull-of-tenontosaurus-appendixes#a3 From the earliest days of paleontology, publications have featured illustrations. Many of these engravings and lithographic plates not only offer good anatomical detail, but are beautiful works of art in and of themselves. (For some wonderful examples, see Hatcher's USGS monograph on ceratopsian dinosaurs, and H.F. Osborn's description of the holotype of Tyrannosaurus rex.) While photographs later came to be staples of scientific illustration, other forms of illustration still play a significant role. Today, 3D image files are rapidly becoming an important part of scientific illustration. I'm seeing a future where a publication concerning anatomy without 3D files will be considered inadequate. Michael
  3. A few years ago, a friend and colleague of mine was working in the Hell Creek formation of Montana and collected a small fossil jaw fragment. Due to the tiny size and incomplete nature of the bone, along with the need to continue work during the limited time available, he wrapped up the specimen, tentatively labeled it as a crocodilian jaw and moved on. Later, another friend of mine was evaluating this specimen in the museum collection (Museum of the Rockies) and concluded that the jaw was not that of a crocodilian, but rather of a tyrannosaur. Named "Chomper", this specimen generated a lot of excitement, due to the paucity of baby/juvenile T. rex material known and the strong current interest in dinosaur ontogeny. The specimen was sent to Dr. Larry Whitmer, who brought it into the digital domain to realize a very interesting new exhibit feature. After CT-scanning the jaw, Larry and his cohorts digitally created the rest of the skull. To do this, they used scans of another (but substantially larger) juvenile T. rex skull known as "Jane". Using other existing tyrannosaurid fossils for reference, they edited the Jane skull model to shrink it down to the correct proportions needed to fit the tiny jaw bone. Simply scaling down an adult T. rex skull wouldn't do, since growth in the skull is allometric (different areas grow at different times/rates). The resulting skull model was then printed on an Objet printer (a supremely nice machine) and is now being prepared to go on exhibit at the Museum of the Rockies. You can see a nice chronicle of the process on the WhitmerLab Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/witmerlab As someone who has spent a lot of time manually sculpting/reconstructing dinosaur skulls by hand, I can appreciate the mix of artistic sensibility and anatomical knowledge needed to do this kind of reconstruction, and I must say that the results of the WhitmerLab crew are fantastic, and this technology allows for many amazing possibilities. Michael
  4. Here is an interesting article about how digital specimens are helping young aspiring paleontologists access museum collections: https://crackingthecollections.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/digital-paleontology-bringing-museum-specimens-into-the-high-school-classroom/ - Michael
  5. I would also definitely be interested in seeing those tutorials, Dr. Mike!
  6. I wondered about this possibility myself. It's great to see it being realized, as there is so much potential. Whole series of models could be made with each one featuring a specific element - vasculature, nerves, etc. And with the Z-printer, color prints are pretty economical. MH
  7. Anthony Maltese of the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Wyoming has this to say: We took a stab at it recently with the articulated Hell Creek gar that I found back in 2010. There was no chance of me taking it apart and the researcher I was working with was really interested in seeing the lower jaw lodged under the head. The result here https://skfb.ly/BS6Z let us get a look at both it but also the neurocranium, ribs, verts, etc. I'm considering printing one out for my desk. Anthony Maltese Curator Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center
  8. Hi, Dr. Mike - This is exciting! A friend of mine (also a talented artist) worked on this specimen at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia for several years. I'm not sure if 3D PDF files can be converted to STL, but it wouldn't surprise me if that were possible. MH
  9. Excellent! I've been wanting to try this since I had my head scanned a few years ago. How great would it be when someone asks whose skull is on the shelf and I could answer, "mine".
  10. I've been getting some responses to my question for peers who work in paleontology, and they've offered some interesting thoughts on using 3D scanning and printing in fossil preparation. Below is the response from my friend Matt Brown: I remember seeing my very first 3D printed CT scan at the Dinosaur/Bird Evolution Symposium in Florida in 2000. My preparator's response to the enthusiastic exhibitor was that he was going to put me out of a job. Almost fifteen years later, I'm confident that this isn't the case, and that CT and 3D printing are very valuable additions to the preparator's toolkit. Groenke et al. presented on the use of medical CT at the 2007 SVP meeting, Balcarcel discussed some considerations in 2011, and in 2012, Marsh et al. and Colbert and Brown presented on some case studies. There are at least a few other examples that I can't think of off the top of my head (I think Cornish et al. 2010 in the Geological Curator? Discusses Archaeopteryx, I believe), and in 2010 Tim Rowe and I gave a talk discussing ways to integrate CT along with other new technologies into the preparation workflow, and a few institutions have since made this part of their common practice. As a quick aside, I consider any digital segmentation of fossil datasets to amount to fossil preparation, this includes all those kinds of pretty spinning 3D models (see: Digimorph.org) presented at conferences over the years since UTCT hit the scene in the late 90s, and have accelerated with all of the new labs built since then. We've now got several generations of digital preparators out there, some of whom may not even realize that they are! Back to your question of printing, 3D printouts can indeed be useful in the lab, and in ways that might not seem obvious at first. Scaling up a model of a microfossil can yield amazing insights into anatomy that is normally only visible under magnification, and rarely can you fit an entire specimen into the field of view. A 3D print out can be a tremendous aid from that perspective, additionally, just as scientific illustrators can remove obscuring anatomy with pen or pencil, the digital preparator can use the power of Xrays to reveal data under rock or other bones. Joe Groenke has recently done some amazing work making hybrid casts with both traditional molding/casting and digital printouts. For me, the real power of CT integration in the prep lab lies not in printing however, but rather the raw data itself. A stack of DICOM or JPG files open on a computer are a game-changing addition to the preparation toolbox. Mounting a monitor near my workstation, I would use a wireless mouse to scroll through stacks of CT slices to help guide my way through a block of matrix. Members of the research team can develop a strategy early on to determine where work needs to be done, as well as the safest approach to reveal new data while minimizing risk to delicate specimens. Projects can be prioritized in this way, and even though the scans will probably cost money, the potential time, money, and risk saved by scanning specimens first must be factored in to total cost. Digital preparation is just another skill, like mechanical or chemical preparation, for the 21st century preparator to master. Matthew A. Brown Head of Collections, Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory Lecturer, Department of Geological Sciences Jackson School of Geosciences The University of Texas at Austin
  11. I met a gentleman at a 3D printing conference in 2013 who has a business offering this service to expecting parents. He does his prints with a Z printer, which offers good resolution and decent durability. These gypsum-based prints will break if they're dropped on the floor, but generally can be safely handled. We're using a lot of them for the MacroMicro exhibition.
  12. Hi, Dr. Mike - This is happening in some instances. CT scanning is sometimes able to yield good images of fossils within rock matrix, but results can vary considerably depending on the matrix. If the bone and the rock matrix are very similar in density, the scanner has trouble distinguishing one from the other. When successful, having a 3D glimpse into the rock can be very helpful in preparing the fossil. Better still, if the preparator can have a 3D print of the fossil (with matrix removed) sitting on the work bench next to the fossil, they can know what lies beneath the rock as they remove it. This can help them to decide which areas to work on first, and advise them of potentially thin or fragile regions of the fossil. A few years ago I had a specimen scanned at our local hospital. In that case, I had a fossil that had been prepared almost completely, but with sandstone matrix remaining in some regions. Within the sandstone I could see the broken edges of what appeared to be thin slices of bone, and I wanted to know how far those bone pieces went into the fossil in order to determine if they were part of that same bone or if they were separate elements. My suspicion was that they were separate elements, but before attempting to separate them, I wanted verification. The CT scans showed that my suspicion was correct, and that these "floating" slices of bone were in fact part of different bones (anterior pterygoids). This helped me to determine how to finish preparing the fossil, but even more importantly it also offered in-situ proof of the correct orientation of these bones in this animal. The animal in question was Tyrannosaurus rex, and this new information offered an arrangement of the palatal anatomy of this species that is different from the previous arrangement that had been figuring into the scientific literature since the genus was first described a century ago. A closer look at previously recorded CT scan data from another well-known T. rex specimen showed the same orientation of the bones in question, offering further confirmation. I'll ask around to see who else might be using CT scanning and 3D printing to get a "preview" into a fossil specimen, and what software is being utilized. Stay tuned... MH
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