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Fossil Lithophanes and Bas-Reliefs for 3D Printers

I was wondering what else would be good to print on my DaVinci 3D printer. The planetary maps are good when they are not photos but greyscales related to the height of the planet, for example here is a part of Mars as a DEM file bitmap:

Surface of Mars for 3d printers

These maps are sometimes called DEM files, Digital Elevation Models. Dark areas of the image are low lying areas, white areas are highlands, and grey areas are in between.

Photos of planet surfaces are no good because shadows of craters, for example, are not lowlands, they are just shadows. So a bas-relief of a photo may turn out interesting, but it would not be a proper 3D representation of the planet's surface. For that you need the DEM file type image. So, I've done a few planets, see here for the globe of Mars.

Then I thought about fossils...

Surely there is some copyright free DEM type file bumpmaps of fossils? Some museum would have put the files up for other researchers and enthusiastic hobbyists? But I could not find a single one. Mr.Google showed me lots of image fossils, but no bump maps....

3d printing fossils

No bump maps, but... looking at the images I saw that the fossils are in general flat, with different coloration where the bones and other material was. Hmm, looks ideal for bas-reliefs and even lithophanes.

So despite not being DEM files, many of the images could probably be used to create 3d reliefs of fossils.

What is the best fossil image for 3D printing as a bas-relief or lithophane? It needs these three things:

  1. Good contrast between bones and rock.
  2. No highlights on the bones.
  3. No shadows from the bones.

The highlights and shadows mean that the image is less DEM-like and more normal-photo-like.

Here is, for our purposes, a bad fossil image:

Here is, for our purposes, a good fossil image:

And here is what a good fossil image looks inside PhotoToMesh:

Preview of fossil 3d print

To be honest the Ida (see Wikipedia) image is not ideal, but the image is so strong I had to print it!. Anyway, there are highlights, which in general is bad, but they tend to occur in the center of the object. There are no strong direct shadows either, which is good.

So I created the STL file (60Mbytes) inside PhotoToMesh and then imported the file into the XYZ pinter software. The settings I decided on are shown here:

3D print fossil setup

The object slicing of Ida took more than 25 minutes....

Slicing a 3D print of a fossil

(Then of course you never know if the expletive-deleted DaVinci 3D printer is going to say "extruder stuck at 10" because it has a dodgey connector or solder joint. Hells bells, tons of customer have complained about that problem, and it must be easy to correct in production, why haven't XYZ got their finger out?)

It took about 3 hours, but the final object was quite nice:

3d print of a fossil

It even does well as a lithophane:

PhotoToMesh has a free demo download (click on the button below) and can be ordered here.

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