Molecules in 3D?! And in color!? That I can hold in my hand? No way!!!

Name: Victor Hsu
Affiliation: Oregon State University
Phone: 541-737-4398
Knowledge Required: A programming language such as python that can be used to generate small programs to "link" existing software packages in order to facilitate the use of the developed workflow by non-computer savvy users. Some understand of how 3D printers work, and an interest in figuring out "how things work".
Motivation: When teaching biochemistry courses, it is often very useful to explain ideas and concepts using models that the students can hold in their hands, look at and explore. Protein function is largely dictated by their structure, and alterations in DNA structure arising from mutations have serious implications in, for example, cancer etiology. The importance of understanding the role of biomolecular structure in biochemistry cannot be overstated. Having the ability to 3D print molecular structures can greatly facilitate a student's understanding of this important concept. Currently, 3D printing single-color models is doable, but the end products lack the information that can be conveyed with color - atom types (carbon atoms vs nitrogen vs oxygen, etc), hydrophobic surfaces, etc. Currently we have been printing the models using white filament, then hand painting atom colors. This is beyond tedious, not to mention rather difficult. We have purchased a multifilament interface (Palette by Mosaic Manufacturing) to allow us to print in multiple colors. Now we just need to figure out the best, most efficient, and robust way to use this equipment.
Description: Do you remember learning about molecules and their structures in chemistry? And that the shape of the molecule is essential to its function? Well, it's true. And perhaps even more so for the larger biomolecules like proteins and DNA. The OSU Biochemistry department has purchased two 3D printers capable of reasonably sized print volumes for the purpose of 3D printing molecular structures. We have also purchased a multimaterial printing interface that will allow us to print in at least four different colors. The idea is that a specific molecule of interest can be chosen (for research, teaching purposes, or whatever) and processed, the resulting STL file sent to the printer, and a few hours later, a 3D print of the molecule can be picked up. Sounds straightforward, doesn't it? Well, it turns out that for printing in one color it isn't too difficult. Multiple colors? Forget about it. But, sadly, it shouldn't be so problematic. It's hard because multi-filament printers are only now becoming available, but also because multiple software tools are needed to generate a multi-color STL file. The goal of this project is to develop a streamlined workflow for printing multi-colored molecular models using existing open source or free programs. Ideally, this workflow would also be useful not only for molecular models, but for any multi-colored 3D model.
Objectives: Many open source or free programs already exist for taking a molecular structure and yielding a 3D printable STL file. There are also many online tutorials for doing exactly this
(,,,,,, etc.)but none of the tutorials tackle the details of multicolor 3D printing. The objective of this project is to develop a simple, straightforward workflow for processing and printing 3D multicolor biomolecular models (and any other multicolor 3D model).
Deliverables: At the end of the process, there will be a robust workflow for multicolor 3D printing. I would then propose to write and submit for publication a journal article describing the process. There are examples of such articles, but for monochromatic prints (,,, etc.).
Other comments: The two 3D printers that you will have access to are a Zmorph 2.0s (which also includes a laser toolhead and a router toolhead), and a Rostock MAX delta printer. The Palette multifilament interface can be used with either printer. I am looking into upgrading the Palette to a Palette+ ( Just last week a Palette+ user completed an eight-color print!: I will also provide filament for printing.

   D. Kevin McGrath
   Last modified: Fri Oct 20 09:31:13 2017