The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in Connecticut houses 772 unique bird specimens. They attempt to display each species in all the plumage variations that exist. Only, many of the rarest ones are missing and nearly impossible to find.
Museum preparator Michael Anderson traditionally researched these and then painstakingly built model birds for displays by hand. He did this from scratch using clay, molds, and casts which took most of his time.
But now the museum has reinvented the way it brings specimens to life for visitors, and it’s transformed Michael’s working life.
Using an HP 3D scanner and printer, Michael and his team can print, wax, and paint stunningly realistic birds without the weeks it takes to create fragile, ephemeral clay versions.
And, with the new technology, he can create a diverse array of lifelike facsimiles of the missing bird species for the Bird Hall faster and more easily than ever.
He can even develop a missing female version of a bird with 3D rendering software, using the male counterpart as a reference. The 3D scanning and printing technology then creates a life-like model.
“It's transforming my job,” says Michael. “I used to spend more than half of my time making molds and casts.” The printer has eliminated the traditional model-making process; the 3D scanning and printing process takes about a quarter of the time it would take to sculpt it by hand. “It's a game changer,” he says.
What’s more, these printed birds are better at resisting colour fading and damage caused by bugs. As a result, they can be enjoyed by future generations.