In the first part of the process, Fisher and students in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) created digital representations of each bone using a device called a 3-D digitizer, a process that took three years for the whole skeleton. Next, technicians in the UM3D lab made the replacement bones with a rapid prototyping system that converts a digital representation back into a three-dimensional, physical object, building it up layer by layer, with each layer only 0.1 millimeter (0.004 inch) thick.
Crews of UROP students and community volunteers also made molds of the bones, which took about a week for the ribs and almost a year for the skull, said biology undergraduate student Kelly Iknayan, of Gaylord, Mich., who worked on the project last year. From the molds, students and volunteers then made fiberglass casts.
"Casting the skull was a real process, too," Iknayan said. "The exhibit preparators and lab crew spent about eight hours working together on it. It was probably the hottest day of the summer, and we all had to wear face respirators. That was unforgettable."
The skeleton in the exhibit will be assembled from the fiberglass casts so that researchers can continue studying the real bones, which are on loan to the museum from the Buesching family.
When complete, the exhibit will be significant for a number of reasons, Fisher said. "To my knowledge it will be the only display in the world with an adult male and an adult female mastodon shown together." It will also recognize the American Mastodon as Michigan's state fossil, a distinction bestowed in 2002, after Washtenaw Community College professor David Thomas and students from Ann Arbor's Slauson Middle School petitioned the State Legislature.
The expanded exhibit will showcase
Source:University of Michigan