3D Scanning, Education

3D printed replica whale bones used in stunning museum exhibits worldwide

By Karen Majerly on March 31, 2022

Using an Artec Eva 3D scanner and the large-format Stratasys F900 3D printer, the team at Camosun Innovates is creating replica whale bones to fill in missing pieces of massive displays in museums across the world.

Camosun Innovates is on the campus of Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It is home to the Camosun Technology Access Centre, an applied research and innovation centre that gives local companies access to specialized technology, equipment, and expertise. They help clients develop, test, and refine products, and generally find creative solutions to clients’ most puzzling challenges.

The centre is easily one of the most well-equipped for additive manufacturing technology and applications in western Canada, and one of the few to have the powerful Stratasys F900 3D printer, sold and supported by Javelin – A TriMech Company.

Camosun Innovates makes replicas of missing whale bones for their client Cetacea Contracting of Salt Spring Island, BC. Cetacea creates marine mammal skeleton exhibits for museums, which, thanks to Camosun Innovates, are now home to 3D printed replica bones. The stand-in parts are used to complete a display when a real bone of that type is not available.

See this example – a suspended blue whale exhibit in Perth Australia

The 3D printed parts are precise, durable, and cost-effective, and can be made quickly. Compared to traditional methods of modelmaking, such as hand carving or using silicon molds, using 3D scanning, digital data manipulation, and 3D printing saves many thousands of dollars and shaves nine months off the production time. Since partnering with Camosun Innovates, Cetacea, a small family-run business, has been able to increase their staff and capacity, helping them expand on their mission to create skeletons that inspire understanding and protection of the natural world.

Leading edge technology required

Matthew Zeleny, Applied Research Technologist at the Camosun Technology Access Centre, leads the projects that involve digitization and additive manufacturing.

He said sometimes his team receives the scanned data for the bones and sometimes they do the scanning themselves, using the Artec Eva 3D scanner. The Eva is a handheld, versatile scanner that captures precise measurements in high resolution. Using a combination of Geomagic Wrap, Geomagic Design X, and SOLIDWORKS, Matt’s team works closely with Cetacea, leveraging scanned data for articulation planning and armature design, and to create either full replicas or prosthetic caps for partial bones.

Bones they have scanned in-house include those from a Cuvier’s beaked whale and a baby humpback.

3D scanning an orca skull

Connor Yutani-Patterson of CTAC, 3D scanning an orca skull

“Manipulating scanned data is like replacing a traditional modelmaker’s hands with our digital hands,” Matt said.

Large-scale projects like these require a large-format, industrial 3D printer. One jawbone replica is 14 feet long! The Stratasys F900 tray measures 36 x 24 x 36 inches and has 18 cubic feet of build volume. It offers 16 different high-performance materials to serve any manufacturing application.

For the replica bones, the team uses white ABS-M30. They print the skeleton pieces in 1.5 mm shelled sections, fill the core with expandable foam, and connect the pieces together using ABS plumbing glue.

Camosun Innovates uses an Artec Eva 3D scanner and Stratasys F900 3D printer to create 3D printed replica whale bones for museum exhibits.

Matt said the F900’s large build envelope, along with the variety, strength, and thermal stability of the print material, meets the demands of local industry, who want reliable, repeatable results.

people holding a 14 foot mandible (jaw bone) replica of a bowhead whale

Kai Anderson (left) and Ryan Rhode (right) holding a 14-foot mandible (jaw bone) replica of a bowhead whale

“Having a premium commercial unit here differentiates us. We can do things that can’t be done elsewhere in the region.”

He added that it’s also about sharing knowledge and expertise with clients.

“Technology is always evolving, and we are the go-to. People come here not just to use the technology – they want to learn how to use it well. Our mix of technology allows us to find creative ways to blend the technology to get the best possible results.”

An impressive variety of projects

With access to premium technology in the centre, Camosun College faculty and students from a variety of disciplines can enhance their work and studies. Faculty can take on applied research projects and students get exposure to the advanced equipment and processes they will encounter in the workforce.

The centre’s diversity of advanced manufacturing projects is impressive, from laser cutting trays to aid in the safe distribution of Pfizer vaccines to remote communities, to designing and printing custom seating and assistive devices for parasport athletes.

For almost 10 years, Camosun has relied on Javelin – A TriMech Company for the latest in software, hardware, and technical advice.

“Javelin (now TriMech) is our one-stop shop. They support us with SOLIDWORKS tools, 3D scanning technology, and 3D printers, and have helped us with grant applications to secure essential infrastructural funding. They provide technology, services, and advice, just like we do for our industry clients.”

For more information, visit Camosun Innovates online at camosun.ca/innovates or email Camosun.Innovates@camosun.ca.

Want to learn more about the Stratasys F900 3D printer? 

Learn More