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Dinosaur skeleton from photos

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Picture of Dinosaur skeleton from photos
123D Catch Pes.jpg
Blender Sacrum-Illia.jpg
Cura Sacrum-Illium.jpg
Blender Skull.jpg
Printed at MakerFaireKC.jpg
This was not a short project working with the entire skeleton, but individually, it did not take long to bring each bone into 3D space using photographs and Autodesk 123D Catch.  Once the photos are uploaded and stitched, 3D models were exported which I cleaned up and closed with Blender, but just about any 3D design program will do.  From there I exported finished models for slicing and printing.
 
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Step 1: Photos and stitching

Picture of Photos and stitching
The first step was propping the bones up in modeling clay.  Where possible, many bones are articulated and tacked with glue to save time.  I found that scratching marks into the clay base with my fingernails helped provide more points of reference when manually stitching images together.  I also found that focus and lighting are important considerations.

I chose to shoot images outside after having no luck with the lighting conditions in my house.  I shot as dusk approached or when I had sufficient cloud cover to produce well dispersed low-angle light.  I found that the sky and relatively featureless backgrounds do not work well.  It is important to have variety in the background throughout the images to provide queues for the stitching process.  I used the macro feature on my point-n-shoot camera and attempted to carefully shoot at perspectives about 15 degrees apart.  Each specimen was captured with between 45 and 65 images which were uploaded to Autodesk 123D Catch.  From here I deleted background objects which were preserved around the subject as meshes and exported .obj files for further editing.

Step 2: Cleaning and closing

Picture of Cleaning and closing
I used Blender to import the .obj files, clean and close them, and export .stl files.  The slicing software I used also works with .obj's, but using two different model types helps me keep track of which files are ready to slice and which may not be. 

Step 3: Fitting the Print Bed

Picture of Fitting the Print Bed
Working with Ultimaker 3D printers, my available print bed dimensions are 200x205x205mm.  Some specimens exceed these dimensions so these must be split into two models.
arorie9 months ago
Wow Wow Wow! This so much more than just printing a cool 3D item, this is legitimate paleontology! I think its great that you used ACTUAL fossils you uncovered and imaged. This is by far the most impressive project on here!
dinosaurhunter (author)  arorie9 months ago
Thanks! I appreciate the enthusiasm! Hope you enjoyed watching the project coming together.
andrewt9 months ago
So, So Rad. Great to meet you in KC and really glad you posted it as an Instructable!
dinosaurhunter (author)  andrewt9 months ago
Thanks! It was great meeting you! I really appreciate the photo on the 123Dapp Blog, too, along with the other great shots you got from Maker Faire KC!
ericknisley9 months ago
We have a panoramic theater here that would be a very nice display for a fly-through of a fossil. Example here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqKWrXX-yQ0
dinosaurhunter (author)  ericknisley9 months ago
That looks like a super-fun exhibit to make and interact with! What is your projection system like?
ericknisley9 months ago
Outstanding! We have several fossil skeletons here at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences that could benefit from this approach to 3D printing. I'm already familiar with 123D Catch, and I'm a 3D animator--I have no excuse. Thanks very much for posting--this is inspirational.
dinosaurhunter (author)  ericknisley9 months ago
Awesome! I look forward to seeing your virtual specimens!
PS1189 months ago
Some questions:
1) Where did you get the bones from?
2) What kind of dinosaur is this?
3) Are you going to make your files available for the rest of us?
dinosaurhunter (author)  PS1189 months ago
Thanks for taking an interest!

1) The specimen is privately owned and I have been working on it in the fossil preparation lab I have set up in my garage.

2) It is an Early Cretaceous herbivorous dinosaur called _Psittacosaurus major_.

3) There are still some holes I have to find and fix in a couple of parts before I upload the files. I had to play with the "Fix Horrible" tools in the slicing software (Cura) to get those parts to print correctly. I do plan to upload the skeleton once that's taken care of though.
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