Mounting the life-sized 3D-printed replica of Trix the T. rex

3D-botten van T. rex Trix in het atrium

Naturalis has created a replica of its famous T. rex, Trix, for the Dinosaur Museum in Japan. It was a dino-sized job! The entirely 3D-printed skeleton will be mounted for display in the Naturalis entrance gallery, where the public can watch, from 19 November through 16 December. You can also come and say hello to the copy of Trix during the Christmas holidays and in January. Educational assistants will be standing by to answer visitors’ questions. Come find out how replicas like this are created and what we can learn in the process!

All ages
Free of charge

From 3D scan
to mounted skeleton

After more than a year of work, this remarkable reconstruction is finally ready. The complete skeleton – over twelve meters long and four meters high – has been 3D printed and painted. But how is a replica like this created, anyway?

A dino-sized job

To start with, you make a scan of the real Trix fossil. Her skeleton consists of around 320 different bones (depending on how you count), all of which were scanned one by one. This was no easy task. It was especially tricky to lift out Trix's lower jaw, for instance – in fact, it took three people to do so. 

After scanning, the bones were digitally arranged into the correct anatomical positions in a computer model. A 3D printer was then used to extrude (print) copies of the bones in bioplastic (PLA) material. This was a time-consuming process: it took two weeks just to print the hip bone! The final step was to paint the bones and then thread them one at a time onto a previously designed frame of metal rods, which is a major advantage of the digital process. When mounting a real skeleton for display, you have to build the frame around the bones to avoid damaging them.

Replica Trix
Pasha met kaak van 3D T. rex
De nieuwe reconstructie van T. rex Trix heeft een aanvallende houding. Foto: Pasha van Bijlert, Naturalis