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A Simplified Method for the 3D Printing of Molecular Models for Chemical Education


Journal of Chemical Education Volume 95, Number 1, ISSN 0021-9584


Using tangible models to help students visualize chemical structures in three dimensions has been a mainstay of chemistry education for many years. Conventional chemistry modeling kits are, however, limited in the types and accuracy of the molecules, bonds and structures they can be used to build. The recent development of 3D printing technology has allowed a much wider variety of molecules to be created for teaching but is not simple to do. Creating the files needed to print molecular structures is often technically difficult and requires the use of multiple software programs, which are not always user-friendly. Not all educators or students have the resources or technical skill to create such files and so are put off trying to use 3D printing in the classroom. Here we demonstrate a simple method to easily generate the files needed for the 3D printing of almost any molecule using the National Institutes of Health Print Exchange server (or simple alternatives). The basic molecule structure may be created in-house or easily sourced online from databases such as UniProt or PubChem. The options for quickly and cheaply printing such structures in a range of materials using online and local stores, as well as in-house 3D printers, are explored and a simple protocol is described. The method brings 3D printing to a wider audience, thus helping to spread its use in chemical pedagogy, and may also be used in self-directed learning exercises by students themselves.


Jones, O.A.H. & Spencer, M.J.S. (2018). A Simplified Method for the 3D Printing of Molecular Models for Chemical Education. Journal of Chemical Education, 95(1), 88-96. Retrieved January 17, 2020 from .

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