It's generally accepted that a lot of the earth was covered in water millions of years ago allowing all sorts of sea creatures to travel to places that are landlocked today. That's why we can find fossils of sea creatures in the mid-West. Now scientists at the Smithsonian are trying to figure out how a bunch of whales ended up in the desert of Chile.
3ders reports that the Smithsonian and Chilean scientists stumbled upon an enormous find when they found a bunch of whale fossils in the middle of the Chilean desert. Now, they have an idea of how they died, but it would require more research. The only problem is that the government was building the Pan-American Highway next to the dig site. The site would only be available for five more days so what were a bunch of scientists wanting to preserve this find going to do?
That's where 3D scanning and printing comes in.
The Smithsonian used its state of the art 3D scanners to scan the entire dig site. This allowed them to create a 3D model of the fossils that could then be 3D printed for later research. It's not the real thing, but it's certainly close enough.
As the Smithsonian notes, the prints of these Whale fossils, once completed, will be the largest 3D prints of their kind. I would assume that they will also be put on display for all to see as the 3D printers being used by the Smithsonian allow them to faithfully recreate the dig site and fossil as if it was still around.
Oh, and as a bonus, the 3D model of the dig site is available online via Smithsonian's X 3D service. That means you can download the CAD file and 3D print a miniature version of the dig site yourself.
In short, science is awesome and 3D printers is making it even moreso.
Image via Smithsonian X 3D