3D-printed dinosaur bones and invisibility cloaks

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

3D printed fossils
3D-printed fossils.

Have you ever been to a museum and wished you could be invisible? I know it’s a weird question, but think about it. You could stay inside the building long after it closes and take your sweet time look at different fossils and artifacts! Heck, maybe you could even find a way to take them out of the protective cases and actually hold them in hand! Well, a 3D-printed invisibility cloak will let you do just that! It’s not like you’d need to though, since researchers from Britain have created a database of 3D fossils that are available for printing anywhere in the world!

Paleontologists and curators from museums all across the UK teamed up to make the fossil database possible. Their goal is to show the public fossils better than a museum display room ever can. “A typical museum will have thousands of specimens, but most of them are tucked away in drawers,” said Dr. Michael Howe, the chief curator from the British Geological Survey, which has a collection of over 3 million fossils. “That might make for a more appealing exhibit to the public, but it also means that very few people are ever able to see these incredible fossils.”

In order to create the large database, the team scanned the fossils using lasers! As of now, they are using the scans for interactive displays in the museums and almost 200 are available to print for free! “In as little as four or five hours, you can create a really good replica,” Howe said. “Here at the museum, we’ve actually been stunned by how easy it is.”

I guess there’s no need to use a 3D invisibility cloak, to sneak in huh? Not like it would work too well anyway. Sure the cloak has holes inside that decrease an object’s shadow and absorb light, making it harder to be seen. However, it only works in microwave light, which is often used by radar speed guns. “The design of the cloak eliminates the ‘shadow’ that would be cast, and suppresses the scattering from the object that would be expected,” said Yaroslav Urzhumov, a Duke engineer who was involved in the research. “In effect, the bright, highly reflective object, like a metal cylinder, is made invisible. The microwaves are carefully guided by a thin… shell and then re-radiated back into free space on the shadow side of the cloak.” The overall effect renders objects invisible in microwaves.

Well, since radar speed guns use microwaves, I guess the cloak could be useful for getting out of a speeding ticket! At the very least, I can make my food disappear in a microwave as I heat it up.

Featured image courtesy of Yaroslav Urzhumov. Fossil image and video courtesy of British Geological Survey.