3D Scanning a Mammoth

Saturday, May 21, 2016
10 AM – 4 PM

Included with museum admission; FREE for Burke members or w/UW ID

How do you 3D print a mammoth? Watch as UW students and Mechanical Engineering Affiliate Instructor and Industry Advisor Steven Weidner take 3D scans of a Columbian Mammoth skull from the Burke’s collection. The scans will be used as blueprints for a 3D printed model of the skull—part of a larger project to print missing parts of a Columbian Mammoth so a complete skeleton can be displayed in the New Burke Museum’s galleries.

See in real-time how scanners create a 3D replica on a projector in the gallery, talk to students about the project, and see 3D replicas of other mammoth bones and Burke artifacts that have been printed to-date.

Mammoth Skull

This mammoth skull from the Burke's collection will be 3D scanned in the museum galleries on May 21.

3D scanning mammoth bone

UW students are 3D scanning mammoth bones in order to create digital files of fossils, and create 3D printed replicas.

3D printed mammoth bones

3D printed mammoth bone (front) with the original fossil behind it.

About the 3D mammoth project:

The Burke Museum is partnering with Affiliate Instructor Steven Weidner from UW’s Mechanical Engineering Department on a multi-year 3D printing project that will culminate in a complete Columbian Mammoth from Richland, WA, on display in the New Burke Museum.

Affiliate Instructor Weidner is leading classes with UW undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines to create 3D scans and 3D printed replicas of mammoth bones and artifacts from the Burke’s collection. The students are acting as an engineering consulting team for the Burke, and are exploring the ability to digitally scan, produce digital files of small and large-scale fossils, and then reproduce the fossils using 3D printing. The team is using cutting-edge technology—experimenting with a variety of 3D scanners, modeling software and printers—to bring new life to fossils that are thousands of years old.

To complete the missing parts of the Columbian Mammoth, Weidner’s team is using bones from other mammoths in the Burke’s collection (including the skull they’re scanning on May 21), as well as making mirror-image copies of bones that already exist from the Richland Columbian Mammoth.

To-date, the team has scanned most of the bones of the Richland Columbian Mammoth, with the goal of making the scans accessible through an online database for researchers and the public around the world. In addition, they have 3D printed vertebrae (back bones) of the mammoth and metatarsals (toe bones) using two different 3D printing technologies, as well as prototyping 3D printing techniques by printing smaller-sized artifacts like bone needles and atlatl weights from the Burke’s archaeology collection. Moving forward, the team aims to print larger bones needed to complete the mammoth, including the skull, jaw bones and missing tibia (leg bone).

This project could fundamentally change how museum collections are captured, stored, and made accessible to a larger audience while enabling the advancement of science.

Back to Top