Scanning the Sea: How I create 3D printable ocean objects using a smartphone and free software.

Trilobites!

Trilobites!

From simple sand dollars to life-sized hammerhead shark skulls, 3D printable ocean objects present an incredible opportunity for ocean outreach. Many commercial biological models are expensive, fragile, and often overkill for educators’ needs, where simple, robust, and easily replaceable anatomical models suffice. Over the last year, I’ve been honing my 3D printing skills, learning how to design 3D-printable objects, and mastering 3D scanning using free software and the now-ubiquitous smartphone. My designs, along with the open-source objects used for Oceanography for Everyone, can be found on my YouMagine profile (though Patreon supporters get early access to most prints).

Earlier this year, I wrote about how the ability to essentially photocopy a three dimensional object in a matter of hours revived my Ocean Optimism and opened up a whole new world of outreach possibilities. Since then, I’ve been working behind the scenes on some bigger projects that depend on 3D printing, one of which, Oceanography for Everyone launched last month. It’s a big ocean out there, and one person can’t possibly come close to producing a comprehensive collection of ocean objects. With several successful 3D scans under my belt, I think it’s time to share the process and invite the rest of the ocean-loving world join me in my efforts to scan the sea.

123D Catch, the software that powers it all.

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The Ocean Question: What is your favorite marine organism and why?

We caught up with 11 marine scientists (including one honorary marine scientist, paleoblogger Brian Switek) at this year’s Ocean Sciences meeting in Salt Lake City and asked them the following question – What is your favorite marine organism and why? Their responses ranged from the classic (dolphins and sharks) to the bizarre (deep-sea shrimp and snails) to the exceptionally broad (Eukaryotes, Holly? Could you narrow it down just a little?).

Check out what they had to say:

Watch our previous Ocean Question and let us know what your favorite marine organisms are in the comments below.