A paper published in the journal Radiology explores new techniques used to capture 3D information from dinosaur fossils. The new approach overcomes the problem of removing non-fossil material from the actual fossil during excavation and subsequent processing. Apparently when surrounding material is removed, small portions of the true fossil can be lost.
The new technique involves performing a 3D CT scan of the piece before removal of material and developing a comprehensive 3D model. The model can then guide researchers to remove material with far less fear of losing fossil material, because they "know" what lies under the surrounding rock and soil. They say:
The process chain of CT scanning, segmentation, and three-dimensional printing provides new insights into fossil objects, and full accessibility of a fossil’s virtual and physical copies opens up new ways of observation, interaction, and modification.
It's also now possible to leave the fossil permanently encased in material and simply 3D print a replica for analysis.
Of course, once the 3D model is captured it can be 3D printed. Our only question is, will this technology be used to release 3D models of fossils, or will captures remain private, hidden in research databases where few people can use them?