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Vic school prints museum artefacts in 3D

AAP logoAAP 17/11/2016 Luke Costin

Students in Melbourne will soon be able to hold their own replica of the only known skull of the Flores Hobbit - just as soon as they finish printing it out.

Three-dimensional printers are now in a select number of Victorian classrooms, meaning rare artefacts can be created and handled by keen pupils.

The technology opens the door for students wanting to hold the bones of Tutankhamun or pick apart the skeleton of a Tasmanian tiger.

"We're learning about pterodactyl limbs so I think holding those would be better than just seeing a picture," Wesley College year 11 student Tia Baptista told reporters on Thursday.

Few artefacts are as rare as the Flores Hobbit, also known as Homo floresiensis.

Scientists who found the skull on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003 took a CT scan before handing the bones to the Indonesian government.

The Indonesians carefully guard the Hobbit skull, but the data from the scan is available to the world through online library Diversity.

The portal is the creation of Melbourne medical technology company Anatomics.

"With CT and laser scanning, we don't even need to touch the object, and we can get the rarest types of treasures and scan them," Anatomics founder Paul D'Urso told AAP.

"We can scale it up and down - we can make little ones and big ones - so it is a fantastic platform for sharing amazing artefacts that would normally be locked away and totally inaccessible to most kids around the world."

Wesley College principal Helen Drennen said 3D printers are inspiring for teachers too.

"It's encouraging everyone to be much more trans-disciplinary and connected in the way they learn and teach," Dr Drennen said on Thursday.

Each plastic model skull takes around 20 hours to print. Wesley students started printing their replica on Thursday.

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