Fossils can tell us a lot about the incredible and sometimes violent past of our earth and the British Geological Service has launched a new database of fossils. The new database allows you to pick through different fossils and ultimately 3D print one of them out.

Currently most fossil specimens are stored in a variety of locations all over the world, making it difficult for researchers or experts to get a hold of a particular fossil. Pictures of fossils can easily be seen on the internet but they are best viewed in 3D and that is where 3D printing comes in.

Users of the fossil database can browse, rotate, enlarge and download the different 3D models of the fossils and metadata. They will also be able to see high-resolution pictures and Stereo (anaglyph) photographs. All the 3D models are downloaded in PLY and OBJ formats. (PLY format models may be downloaded and viewed using Meshlab or SpiersView software. OBJ format models may be downloaded and viewed using Meshlab, or viewed online in some web browsers.)

The National Museum of Wales holds the fossils that are included in the database. Britain’s Geological Survey’s fossil collection is at around three million different fossils, which represents the majority of organisms found from the Neoproterozoic time up until now. They will be constantly adding more and more fossils to the database over time.

Nationwide Treasure Hunt for 3D-printed fossils started on 22nd of August and will go for three weeks. It ties into the launch of the new database and a number of different places such as the Natural History Museum and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery are taking part in it.

Take a look at the video below and head over to 3d-fossils UK for more information on the new database and competition.