3D printing

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(Page under construction; please feel free to add what you know)


  • Vincent Scalfani's presentation: Accessing 3D printable structures online
Vincent F. Scalfani, Antony J. Williams, Robert M. Hanson, Jason E. Bara, Aileen Day, and Valery Tkachenko. 248th ACS National Meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA, August 13, 2014
  • Henry Rzepa's hints. We have 3D printed about 30 models in full colour (the material is gypsum + inkjet) and there the secret is to adjust the bond radius to ensure that the resulting model is reasonably robust. Despite such precautions, the models do tend to be fragile. This site also has instructions on how to scale the model (we adjust the scale to produce models of about 10-15cm in size, or ~£60) and how to produce surfaces (molecular and NBO orbitals for example). Also not found in standard coordinate databases are computed transition state models, which are useful for inspecting eg steric clashes/attractions which may determine reaction outcomes.
  • An introduction to 3D printing and specific advice for preparing models in Jmol:
MSOE Center for Biomolecular Modeling (2010). Jmol Training Guide, Section III: Designing Models for 3D Printing.

File repositories for 3D models

NIH 3D Print Exchange


Target audience and data is for biomedical applications (e.g., anatomy, labware, protein and macromolecular structures, bacteria, cells).

Searchable by names and phrases. This seems to work well for the target data.

RSC Crystal Data Repository


One of four planned new RSC repositories (crystals, compounds, reactions, and spectra). Currently contains:

  • The entire Crystallography Open Database (COD) of 289 395 .cif and 48 022 .hkl files of molecules and extended solids;
  • 3D Printable Files: 31 239 .wrl files (color printing) and 11 732 .stl files

Still in beta mode, you can manually browse through files. Repository will soon have a user interface that is fully searchable (name, structure, formula, SMILES, InChI, and others) with deposition and crowd-source curation/annotation platform.

Yobi3D - 3D Model Search Engine


Search 3D models with keywords. Provides a built-in 3D viewer, so you can see the models in 3D on browser.

3D printing services

Online services:

  1. You prepare a model file (e.g. File icon.gif.wrl exported from Jmol).
  2. You upload the file to their server.
  3. You choose the material, number of copies, and (possibly) the size, and place the order.
  4. They produce the model in their 3D printer and send it to you.
  5. Optionally, you can offer your model in their website (through an agreement) so that others can buy it.
Produce multi-color objects Adjust the scale of the model Sell your models in their site
Shapeways yes no yes
i.materialise yes yes yes
Sculpteo yes yes yes


Rzepa, AngelHerraez, Yobi3d