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Researchers to Build 3D-Printed Robotic Dinosaur Skeletons for Completely Benign Reasons, Really

While humans have been studying the bones of dinosaurs for over a hundred years, there are still some fundamental questions that we simply cannot answer. Without being able to directly observed these enormous creatures, we can only guess at how these creatures moved about their environment. Even our best hypothesis are limited by the few remains available, and the fragility of bones millions of years old. However, some scientists are trying to change that with a new effort to create 3D-printed robotic dinosaur skeletons.

Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, a paleontologist at Drexel University, has already begun work to digitally scan dinosaur bones. With these 3D scans, researchers can study the remains of dinosaurs from the comfort of their computers, and even experiment with the musculature of these enormous creatures. After all, digital bones are far less fragile than real ones and also easier to share between academics.

Importantly, the detrimental effects of compression on the bones can be corrected for, giving scientists a more accurate view of these remains than if they’d been working with fossils.

However, Lacovara has plans that go beyond the digital and into the physical realm. He aims to use the 3D-scanned bones to produce 3D-printed bones and eventually construct  a fully robotic dinosaur skeleton. Lacovara is quoted by Drexel university as saying:

“We don’t know a lot about the way dinosaurs move,” Lacovara said. “How did they stand? How did they ambulate? Did they run or trot? How did they reproduce? It’s all a bit mysterious,”

Using a robotic surrogate, Lacovara hopes to answer some of those critical questions — or at the very least, start making better guesses. His plans are already underway, and he aims to have a completed robotic dinosaur limb functioning by the end of 2012. He says that once that is complete, he anticipates it taking only two more years to complete a fully functional dinosaur automaton.

For those amongst our readership with aspirations of becoming supervillains with an army of robotic dinosaur skeletons, Lacovara is probably the man to see.

(Drexel University via IEEE Spectrum, image via Drexel University)

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