NIH Research Festival
The construction of physical three-dimensional (3D) models of biomolecules can contribute to the study of their structure and function. Over 100,000 biomolecular 3D structures have been experimentally determined using crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance, and electron microscopy. These 3D structures are most often perceived using the 2-dimensional and exclusively visual medium of the computer screen. Converting digital 3D molecular data into physical objects enables information to be perceived through an expanded range of human senses, including direct stereoscopic vision, tactility, and interactive manipulation. Tangible models can facilitate new insights and enable hypothesis testing, and can also serve as psychological anchors for conceptual information about the functions of biomolecules. Recent advances in consumer 3D printing technology now enable the cost-effective fabrication of high-quality, scientifically accurate 3D models of biomolecules in a variety of molecular representations, including Van-der Waals, ball and stick, molecular surfaces, ribbons, density maps, or combinations thereof. Optimization of the molecular representation and 3D printing parameters often requires additional steps and software expertise. Here we provide a guide on the digital design and physical fabrication of models of biomolecules for research and teaching, using open-source or low-cost software, and extrusion 3D printing technology.
Scientific Focus Area: Structural Biology
This page was last updated on Friday, March 26, 2021