It was near the end of a South American expedition for Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s Nicholas D. Pyenson, when he learned fossil whales had been uncovered nearby.
Examining the fossils, which had been uncovered by a road crew constructing a new highway across the Atacama Desert, Pyenson discovered the fossils were of a dozen 7 million year old whales.
As you might imagine, Pyenson, the Smithsonian’s Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals, knew precisely what to do: he called in the SWAT team. In this case, the SWAT team was the Smithsonian’s 3D digitization team, who quickly arrived onsite with laser scanners. They successfully captured a number of excellent whale models.
Now what would you do with whale scans? Print them, of course! The team now expects to 3D print life-sized versions of the fossils for display at the venerable institution. Evidently the printing cost for this operation would normally be around USD$1M, but thanks to industry partnerships the Smithsonian can avoid that expense.
And you’ll be able to see the whales without having to visit the Atacama Desert.