IN-FOCUS: Bigging it up: 3D printing to change the shape of microscopy.

3d pollen

Virtual to reality: a surface-rendered digital image of a single pollen grain generated by confocal microscopy (left) is 3D printed into a 2000x scale replica model (centre & right).

Imagine being able to generate a highly accurate, solid scale replica of the sample that you are visualising down the microscope; a perfectly-rendered pollen grain, or blood cell, or microscopic organism, but big enough to hold and examine in your hand.  It would allow much better 3D conceptualisation of the sample, particularly for blind or visually-impaired individuals, and would have enormous utility in teaching and in engagement activities, and what researcher wouldn’t want a tangible, physical embodiment of their research to help explain their work (and impress their colleagues) at scientific meetings? Sounds like the stuff of science fiction doesn’t it? Well, not any more. Thanks to 3D printing technology (and the help of Dr Simon Scofield‘s lab) we have started taking volume datasets from the confocal microscope out of the virtual world and making them a reality. If you would be interested in generating a highly accurate scale model of your favourite biological sample (or would simply like to handle a giant pollen grain!) then please feel free to get in touch.


 Further reading:

3 thoughts on “IN-FOCUS: Bigging it up: 3D printing to change the shape of microscopy.

  1. Pingback: Biomedia 923 | Biomedia

  2. AvatarJeroen van Westen

    Dear AJH,

    Those are very interesting posts on 3D pollen. My name is Jeroen van Westen, I am a (Dutch) artist, mainly working in and with landscapes. Currently I am working on a commission for a landscape with four beautiful latest IceAge relics, so called ‘pingo ruins’. From one of them researchers from Groningen University took core samples of its bottom and determined a number of pollen in the sediment: a floral history of some 8000 years. I would like to be able to use their shapes for art-works that unlock this history, and contribute to literary acces to the area, like seats, lights, ….
    Would like to get in touch with you to find out which of the pollen as determined in ‘our pingo’ are already transferred in 3D models, and if it is possible to make models of the other pollen (all in all 11 trees, 13 plants, and 5 mosses are found.


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