Aug 1, 2013

GB/3D type fossils online at the Sedgwick Museum -Continued

To mark the public launch of the GB/3D type fossils online project and the world’s first virtual fossil collection, the Sedgwick Museum is one of 18 organisations participating in a nationwide geological treasure hunt.
Category: 2013
Posted by: Sarah

To mark the public launch of the GB/3D type fossils online project and the world’s first virtual fossil collection, the Sedgwick Museum is one of 18 organisations participating in a nationwide geological treasure hunt.  Simply find the 3D printout of one of the Museum’s fossils that has been hidden somewhere amongst the Sedgwick Museum displays, record its position on the entry form and hand the entry form in at the Museum shop.

Five correctly completed entry forms will be selected from amongst Sedgwick Museum entries. Winners will be contacted by email and arrangements made for them to attend a VIP museum tour. Each winner aged under 18 may bring a parent or guardian.

Two national winners will be selected from amongst the winners of all participating organisations.  National winners will be contacted by email and arrangements will be made for them to attend a VIP collections tour at BGS Keyworth. One overall winner will also receive a tablet computer pre-loaded with a collection of virtual fossils

Sedgwick Museum entries must be submitted to the Museum shop by 5pm on Thursday 12th September 2013.

With the official launch of the GB3D Type Fossils website, the Sedgwick Museum’s work on the project is now drawing to a close.  If you are unfamiliar with the project you can find out more about it on our blog of 23rd January at and the project website and blog:

During the project the Sedgwick has identified over 7,000 British type fossils in its collections.  Over 22,000 high resolution photographic images have been taken by project photographers Lindsay Percival and Mark Box. Dr Hilary Ketchum has painstakingly created nearly 500 3D digital models using data generated by a desktop laser scanner on loan from BGS.  The project has generated over a terabyte of data that had to be copied to a USB hard drive and couriered to BGS. Fans of the Sedgwick Museum’s fossil collection will have to wait a little longer though as it will take some time to bring all this digital information together onto the website.

As well as being a useful resource for research and learning (or even an aid to help identify your own fossils), such a large scale digitization project also has many hidden benefits.  Over 6,000 specimens that had previously been spread throughout the Museum’s vast fossil collection had to be brought together in one place to make photography and scanning practical.  This made it possible to significantly upgrade the storage conditions for the type collection as a whole.  The digital record that has been made of the collection in itself gives the Museum a valuable snapshot of the condition of each type specimen.  This resource will help the Museum’s Conservator monitor for any future signs of decay in the specimens and ensure their preservation for the future.

There has been a lot of interest in 3D printing in the media in recent months. 

The 500 3D models that we have produced have the potential to be printed out using many of the methods that are now becoming available.  The 3D printout hidden in the displays for example was printed out by BGS on a domestic 3D printer based on ‘fused filament fabrication’ technology using PLA filament, a biodegradable polymer. Such printers are now available for under £2,000, and the cost of a small 3D printout of a fossil is £10 or so.

Because fossils are natural objects with complex shapes it is not always possible for the laser scanner to produce a perfect scan.  The 3D models produced for this project are also intended to be used by scientists.  We took the decision early on in the project not to manually repair any imperfect scans in order to keep the amount of inaccurate data to a minimum.  This means that the majority of the models are ‘holey’ and cannot immediately be printed.  However ‘holey’ 3D models can be repaired using software available over the internet for free, or can usually be fixed (for a fee) by companies offering a 3D print service. The Museum has, however, also generated about 250 ‘watertight’ versions of some of the models which should be easily printable. We hope to eventually make these available for free over the Museum’s website in the .STL file format that is compatible with many 3D printers.

3D printing technology therefore has the potential to make copies of rare fossils that can be used in teaching, museum displays and, as the price comes down, souvenirs (check out chocolate 3D printing on the internet, the technology is almost here!).

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