Using biological macromolecular structures to improve 3D model design

THE CHALLENGE: Backfill My Model

Create a tool that will accept a very thin (scaled down), or "surface only" (tessellated model) and "fill in" behind the surface to a sufficient depth to allow printing on a 3-D printer.


Many computer simulation programs are available that allow to manipulate and design small biological molecules at atomic/sub-atomic details. These tools help identify the clashes and non-feasible contacts in a model and help to correct them. In addition, study of physical concepts regulating atomic interactions permit to figure out their behavior under various environmental conditions.

Probe tracing has been utilized to map the surface of biological macromolecules. In this process, a probe of defined radii is simulated to roll over the stick representation of a macromolecule. The average radii of contact with accessible surface is then used to generate the molecular surface automatically. This method can be applied to any form of structure. Further, by modifying the probe radii, the depth of surface details can be controlled. This approach can thus aid in backfilling a model for 3D printing.

Another potential application of this approach could be in designing mechanistic objects mimicking the biological macromolecules (biological macromolecules display a vast array of accurate and elegant mechanistic movements). The machines can be 3D printed and then be used to perform various everyday tasks in an least energy consuming manner. Thus, the approach shown here can have multipronged applications and can prove to be invaluable for various activities ranging from medicine to space travel.

Resources Used

NIH 3D structure database



Mathematica 9.0

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