Report 3DATAPRINT: On the use of 3D printing for scientific visualisation(Publicatie)

We studied the use of 3D printing for applications in scientific visualisation. A set of different use cases, from varying scientific domains, is presented.

15 JUN 2018


The 3D prints produced for the different use cases were deemed a success, with more detail in the 3D prints possible than expected, while providing different interpretation and communication options compared to on-screen 2D/3D visualisations. For the cases involving complex 3D surfaces the advantages were in a better sense and interpretation of the spatial structures. Making the link between on-screen 3D visualisation and the physical world can also be very valuable.


Unforseen effects that were observed were 1) that a high amount of detail in a 3D print can look impressive, more so than seeing the same data on a screen and 2) inspired reactions when confronting people with 3D printed versions of data they were familiar with.


Although 3D printing has been commercially available for some time now and prices are no longer prohibitive for small- to medium-sized scientific models, several challenges for regular application to scientific visualization remain. These mostly have to do with the amount of detail than can be printed related to physical size, the limited use of color and the effort needed to go from 3D dataset to printable 3D model.


All in all, 3D printing is a very interesting technique for applying to scientific visualisation. As 3D printed scientific models are still somewhat of a rarity in most fields, there’s room for futher application and discovery of the possibilities.

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Latest modifications 15 Jun 2018