3D printed model of an influenza virus

NIH launches 3D print exchange

The National Institutes of Health has launched a 3D Print Exchange, a public website that lets users share, download and edit biomedical 3D print files that can be used to print custom laboratory equipment and models of bacteria and human anatomy in 3D, the NIH said in its announcement.

Besides the print files of lab equipment, cells, bacteria or viruses, and anatomical models of organs, tissue and body parts, the Exchange features modeling tutorials, and educational materials.

As the first government-sponsored website dedicated to 3D printing, the Exchange is focused on  advancing the use of 3D prints in STEM education. It also encourages users to contribute classroom worksheets and other supplements so prints can be used as hands-on teaching aids.

“3D printing is a potential game changer for medical research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins. “At NIH, we have seen an incredible return on investment; pennies’ worth of plastic have helped investigators address important scientific questions while saving time and money. We hope that the 3D Print Exchange will expand interest and participation in this new and exciting field among scientists, educators and students.”

NIH uses 3D printing, or the creation of a physical object from a digital model, to study viruses, repair and enhance lab apparatus and help plan medical procedures, the agency said. The Exchange makes these types of files freely available, along with video tutorials for new users and a discussion forum to promote collaboration. The site also features tools that convert scientific and clinical data into ready-to-print 3D files.

The NIH Library, based in Building 10 on the NIH main campus, also hosts a 3D Printing service through its Technology Sandbox and is providing free 3D printing on the Makerbot Replicator 2 for a limited time. The Library wants to give NIH Staff an opportunity to try out 3D printing. This service will be offered between June 2, 2014 to Aug. 29, 2014.

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