Tyrant King Pocket Fossil: 3D Printed Tyrannosaurus Rex Tooth Made with Real Fossil Material
Tyrant King Pocket Fossil: 3D Printed Tyrannosaurus Rex Tooth Made with Real Fossil Material
Measuring 40ft (12m) in length and weighing upwards of 14 tons, Tyrannosaurus rex was one of the largest and most powerful terrestrial predators in history. The most advanced in an 80 million year chain of tyrannosaurid evolution, T. rex had heavy, deep skulls reinforced with sutures, lightened by hollow chambers... and of course, big, sharp teeth!
This item is a 3D printed T. rex tooth infused with actual Tyrannosaurus rex fossil material.
Created here at Mini Museum, this is the very first 3D printed dinosaur fossil infused with actual dinosaur fossil material.
Well, at least the first that we we know of!
📸 3D Printed T. Rex Tooth with Cushioned Storage Box and Specimen Card
The Tyrannosaurus rex fossil material in this specimen was recovered on private land in South Dakota from the Hell Creek Formation. Complete details on the processed used to create the teeth appears below.
As pictured, each 3D printed tooth measures roughly 1" in length (26 mm). The top of the tooth is flat by design so that you can see inside the specimen.
The teeth ship in a cushioned black box with a small specimen card that also serves as the certificate of authenticity.
It's the perfect "tiny dino" gift!
📸 3D Printing at Mini Museum: From Community Support to Production Manufacturing
Created at Mini Museum
Over the last few years, 3D printing has become a very important part of our manufacturing process here at Mini Museum.
During the early days of the pandemic, we set up a small print farm to create PPE for healthcare and first responders. We've also created a wide range of tools, jigs, and molds, to help us craft the tiny treasures we share with the world.
With all that printing, it only seemed natural that we'd start printing fun things for the workshop.
But then we had another idea...
📸 Tyrannosaurus Rex Fossil Bone Fragments (Mini Museum)
Dinosaurs Made from Dinosaurs?
Like a lot of things at Mini Museum, a simple (though often totally crazy) idea becomes a complicated project, and these 3D printed Tyrannosaurus rex teeth are no exception.
We started with a selection of small Tyrannosaurus rex fossil fragments from the Hell Creek Formation.
The Hell Creek formation of North America is one of the most famous fossil hunting locations in the world. Spread over portions of North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, Hell Creek is a unique time capsule, capturing the final years of the dinosaurs as well as many other flora and fauna.
These fragments are really not much larger than a human fingerail, but they'll need to be much, much smaller.
Luckily, we have some experience with doing very unusual things, and some great friends who were up for a little scientific adventure... 😎
📸 Exposures of the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek and Lance formations in western North America. (Lamanna MC, Sues H-D, Schachner ER, Lyson TR - Lamanna MC, Sues H-D, Schachner ER, Lyson TR (2014) A New Large-Bodied Oviraptorosaurian Theropod Dinosaur from the Latest Cretaceous of Western North America. PLoS ONE 9(3): e92022. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092022)
📸 Step by Step images of preparing the fossil material for 3D printing: 300, 100, 20 micron images (AVEKA)
SMALLER, SMALLER... SMALLER STILL!
As you know, we're used to working with very small things, but 3D printing is all about ultra precise tolerances. So, for this project, we knew we'd need to use something a little more specialized.
Since we don't have a cryogenic grinder just chilling in the workshop, we called on our friends at AVEKA, a scientific milling lab.
With loving care (and not a small amount of giddy excitement), the researchers at AVEKA cooled our Tyrannosaurus rex samples with liquid nitrogen. At that point, the grinder takes over, pushing the material back and forth in a vial using powerful magnets. This pulverizes the material inside to an extremely fine powder.
How fine? How about less than 90 microns? Thinner than a human hair.
As a bonus, AVEKA also conducted an indepth chemical analysis of the coarser bits, which showed the fossils still contained hydroxyapatite, the mineral that makes up most of the composition of typical vertebrate bones.
"No Fluorine was detected, so I guess that communities weren’t using Fluoride to strengthen their teeth or bones 65 million years ago.
Admittedly, I was surprised to see that the dino bone had remained, even after 65 million years, essentially unchanged from the original bone. Or so it would appear chemically." ~ Dr. Charles Bowman, AVEKA
So, just in case you were wondering... yes, it's real.
📸 The First Successful Run of 3D Printed Tyrannosaurus Rex Teeth
Back to the Workshop
With dino dust in hand, we went back into the workshop to work with the material and to our surprise... it actually worked.
Months of testing and experimentation followed. Then, even when we got it juuust right, we had to come up with even more technical solutions to make the process scalable.
As John Hammond might say, "We spared no expense."
Needless to say, this was an awesome and fun experiment with great potential for the future. This particular item is a limited run, but who knows what the future might bring!
"We need to start thinking of dinosaurs as not just brutes and not just monsters, and not just things with sharp teeth and sharp claws, but as really active, intelligent, energetic animals that oftentimes had keen senses. An animal like T. rex was a predator that used brain and brawn: its big brain, its great sense of smell and its really keen sense of hearing were probably as important to it, if not more so, than its sharp claws and its sharp teeth and its big jaw muscles." ~ Steve Brusatte, Paleontologist, University of Edinburgh, author of "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World" (2018)
📸 How do you like your T. rex? With scales or fluffy like a baby chick? The science is still unsettled about adults as depicted here but juveniles definitely had feathers.
Various mechanical studies of T. rex power place the "Tyrant Lizard King" firmly at the top of the charts. Paired with this incredible power, T. rex also had some of the largest teeth of any carnivorous dinosaur, with the largest measuring 1ft (30 cm).
We now know many theropods possessed feathers, including smaller tyrannosauroids such as Dilong and Yutyrannus. Recent evidence suggests that larger tyrannosaurids did not sport full-body feathers as adults, but they certainly did during their early years.
📸 Skulls of Tyrannosauridae: a) Tarbosaurus bataar b) Daspletosaurus torosaurus c) Gorgosaurus libratus d) Bistahieversor e) Albertosaurus sarcophagus f) Tyrannosaurus rex
Most research suggests that T. rex and its fellow large tyrannosaurids (Gorgosaurus, Albertosaurus, and Tarbosaurus) both hunted and scavenged to meet the requirements for powering such huge bodies.
Among the other dinosaurs bearing tyrannosaurid bite marks are ceratopsids, hadrosaurs, and other tyrannosaurs (reflecting the sort of opportunistic cannibalism also widespread among predators). Sauropods such as Alamosaurus, which overlapped with T. rex in North America, and Opisthocoelicaudia, which shared Asian landscapes with Tarbosaurus, may also have been tyrannosaurid quarry.
📸 Tyrannosaurus rex tooth (Mini Museum)
Studies suggest the great tyrannosaurids achieved their huge size through accelerated growth spurts. At the peak of its growth spurt, a young T. rex may have put on the better part of a ton annually.
Bite marks from conspecifics have been found on the skulls of large tyrannosaurids, suggesting they may have bitten each other in dominance or reproductive interactions. It’s possible some species were gregarious, perhaps even pack-hunters; the first known tyrannosaurid trackway, from a Late Cretaceous formation in British Columbia, hints at three animals traveling together.
📸 Tyrannosaurus rex vetebrae (Mini Museum)
Despite popular depictions of poor depth perception, studies show that when compared to other giant theropods, tyrannosaurids had a wide postorbital skull which resulted in forward-facing eyes and acute binocular vision.
The spine of a Tyrannosaurus Rex was subject to tremendous force. The size and strength of the vertebrae were essential to providing support for this enormous predator, but the entire apparatus also had to allow for rapid changes in movement and critical striking speed.
Front of the Specimen Card
Back of the Specimen Card
Snively, Eric, et al. "Lower rotational inertia and larger leg muscles indicate more rapid turns in tyrannosaurids than in other large theropods." PeerJ 7 (2019): e6432.
Yun, Chan-gyu. Tyrannosaurids didn't use their claws in combat. No. e1207. PeerJ PrePrints, 2015.
Bell, Phil R., et al. "Tyrannosauroid integument reveals conflicting patterns of gigantism and feather evolution." Biology letters 13.6 (2017): 20170092.
Frederickson, J. A., M. H. Engel, and R. L. Cifelli. "Niche Partitioning in Theropod Dinosaurs: Diet and Habitat Preference in Predators from the Uppermost Cedar Mountain Formation (Utah, USA)." Scientific reports 8.1 (2018): 17872.
Longrich, Nicholas R., et al. "Cannibalism in Tyrannosaurus rex." PloS one 5.10 (2010): e13419.
Brusatte, Stephen L. , et al. “Tyrannosaur Paleobiology: New Research on Ancient Exemplar Organisms.” Science, 329, 2010, pp. 1481-1485.
McCrea, Richard T., et al. “A ‘Terror of Tyrannosaurs’: The First Trackways of Tyrannosaurids & Evidence of Gregariousness & Pathology in Tyrannosauridae.” PLOS ONE, 9(7), 2014, pp. 1-13.
Weishampel, David B., et al. (eds). The Dinosauria – Second Edition. University of California Press, 2004.