How to 3D print a crystal structure model
US scientists have worked out a printing method for creating 3D crystal models, the genuine and innovative CIF file and freely available software that can be run on standard operating systems.
Crystallographers like to sketch composite 3D crystal. They do it with some special software for visualizing crystal patterns in virtual space. A physical model is much better, as you can touch it with your hands.
Ognjen Miljanić and colleagues at Houston University in Texas have worked out a way of doing that. Their precise instructions explain how files that commonly accumulate crystallographic information (CIF files) can be transformed into printable formats, using Mercury, software widely used crystallographers, and Blender, which is a 3D computer graphics product with which animated films are produced. There is no need in programming experience and knowledge of 3D printing techniques to use these instructions efficiently. The team hope to make their procedure easy for everyone to use a 3D printer for producing and verifying composite 3D crystals. Miljanić indicates that similar technologies already exist, but their own technology is extremely easy to use and it’s more flexible and suitable for printing particular structures like segments of infinite structures.
Simon Leigh is an expert in 3D printing at Warwick University. He said that it’s an excellent opportunity for researchers to see and understand the structures instead of seeing it on the computer screen. For James Bannock from the Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London, UK, 3D printing is part of the research and says that it’s a good perspective for schools and universities. The application is of great interest for teaching activities for which vibrant models of high quality are used for carrying composite constructions in an interesting way. The major obstacle that prevents us from wide use of the technology is that 3D printers are hardly available. People don’t even imagine that 3D printers now cost far less than a decade ago. They are still sure that it’s extremely expensive, but it’s not so. Producers hope that the technology will soon be usual for everyone.