The NIH 3D Print Exchange: A virtual collection of biomedical 3D printing files & tutorials

The NIH 3D Print Exchange

The NIH 3D Print Exchange is an online, community-driven portal where researchers and educators can download biomedical structure files that can be printed on a desktop 3D printer or through a 3D printing service provider. The site features novel online tools that allow users to convert their own digital 3D models into ready-to-print 3D file formats, eliminating the knowledge gap to allow users of all levels to create high-quality, scientifically accurate 3D prints. Users will also find tutorials on using 3D modeling software, and educational supplements to use 3D prints as hands-on teaching aids.


The NIH 3D Print Exchange: Watch the 5 minute pitch.

Project Summary
The NIH 3D Print Exchange is the first government-sponsored website of digital 3D models suitable for 3D printing. The site enables researchers and educators by providing a trusted venue to easily create and discover community-contributed bioscientific and biomedical 3D models that are readily compatible with 3D printers. Users will also find video tutorials to learn how to create their own custom 3D prints. Educators and students from primary school to university level will find classroom supplements to use 3D prints as hand-on teaching aids.

New ways of visualizing scientific data can drive discovery, and at NIH, researchers are saving time and money using innovative 3D prints in the laboratory. But 3D printing technology has only recently become mainstream; digital 3D models are not necessarily “ready-to-print,” and there is a paucity of scientifically relevant and accurate prints available online. Converting a digital model into a 3D-printable format requires specialized software and a complicated workflow that can take over an hour, even for a skilled user. The NIH 3D Print Exchange provides novel, freely available, web-based tools that allow users to generate high-quality, scientific 3D printable models in only minutes, simply by uploading a file or typing in a database accession code.

A project advisory team was assembled of experts and educators who are all at the forefront of 3D modeling and printing for biomedical research, treatment, and education. They provided valuable feedback in monthly group meetings and one-on-one interviews, and tested the site during the closed beta release in January 2014.

The NIH 3D Print Exchange is now under construction in preparation for a public release in April 2014. The NIH Library will feature the 3D Print Exchange in their “Technology Sandbox” that makes 3D printers available to NIH researchers, and a number of other government agencies are interested in reusing our open-source tools and framework. The next steps for our project are to make the website robust and secure, and to continue to cultivate the local, national, and international community of researchers and science enthusiasts eager to use these specialized tools and 3D models.

 

Team Members
Darrell Hurt (Project Lead), National Institutes for Health
Nick Weber, National Institutes for Health
Meghan Coakley, National Institutes for Health
Jeremy Swan, National Institutes for Health
Erin Fincher, National Institutes for Health
Terry Yoo, National Institutes for Health
David Chen, National Institutes for Health
Vsevelod (Seva) Alekseyev

Project Lead’s Approving Supervisor:
Yentram Huyen, Chief, Bioinformatics and Computational Biosciences Branch, Office of Cyber Infrastructure and Computational Biology, Nat’l Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes for Health

 

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