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Monday 5 December 2016

Manchester University team helps dinosaur fans print their own 3D models

Published 21/12/2015 | 12:01

Computer-based simulations of dinosaur models which can be printed in 3D (Faculty of Life Sciences/PA)
Computer-based simulations of dinosaur models which can be printed in 3D (Faculty of Life Sciences/PA)

Dinosaur fans can receive the perfect Christmas gift of a lifelike 3D model of T-Rex, thanks to university researchers.

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Tyrannosaurus Rex and five other models were developed by a team of scientists from the University of Manchester as part of research into understanding how dinosaurs move.

The work was originally viewed as a computer-based simulation but the designs were later converted to make them compatible with 3D printers.

The research team developed an open source computer programme so they could simulate the animals' movement using Kinect, a motion sensing device popular with gamers.

Fans with some technical knowledge and a Kinect sensor can also download software to recreate the simulations and see how good they are at making lifelike dinosaur movements on their home computers, according to the university.

Apart from T-Rex, the other models available are Triceratops, Brachiosaurus, Edmontonia, Edmontosaurus and Gorgosaurus.

Research leader Dr Bill Sellers said: "These models are amazingly accurate and a lot of fun. Children will love them as will anyone who has an interest in dinosaurs.

"Just imagine their surprise when a lifelike model appears beneath the Christmas tree.

"If you haven't got the time to 3D print the whole skeleton - you can just print out the skulls. They're still very striking."

He added: "But there is a serious side to this work too. We are interested in understanding how dinosaurs actually moved - and these computer simulations upon which the designs are based are very helpful in achieving that.

"The software doesn't just animate the dinosaurs, it uses the Kinect PC interface to measure your body's movements and then drives the muscles in the dinosaur simulations.

"These muscles generate forces and the software solves Newton's Law's of Motion to calculate how the dinosaur could actually have tried to copy your movement. So it's about learning some physics as well."

The 3D print files and open source software can be downloaded for free from Dr Sellers's website at www.animalsimulation.org/files/84eab05587dbe0bdcd72eb098a692afe-7.html

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