Student holding printed object

Transparent Soil Diffusion Chambers

Soil is home to billions of microbes, who make life aboveground possible and produce many chemicals that we use in daily life, such as modern-day antibiotics.


Inspired by a tool called the iChip (Ling, Schneider et al, Nature, 2015), Kriti Sharma (PhD Student, Shank Lab, UNC Biology Department) used 3D printing to create a device that literally sheds light on how soil bacteria live and interact with each other. Sharma creates small chambers in a microscope slide, packs the chambers with soil bacteria mixed into a substrate called “transparent soil” (Downie et al, PLoS One, 2012), puts a membrane on either side of the slide so that nutrients can get in and wastes can get out but the bacteria stay in place, places the slide into the 3D printed device, and buries the entire apparatus in soil. Bacteria live, grow, and interact with each other in the transparent soil matrix, and when the slide is taken out, they can be visualized with a microscope in the transparent soil environment.

3D printing allowed the Shank Lab to quickly and inexpensively test an existing design, discover ways to improve the design for their application, and create a new tool suited to answer a novel research question.

-Elizabeth Shank and Kriti Sharma, Shank Lab, Department of Biology


Wheelchair Joystick Cap

Jeffrey Olander 3D printed a custom designed replacement part for adaptive technology to enable precise control over the movement of a power chair.

The first image shows a side profile of the cap on the joystick. It extends the control head of the joystick.

wheelchair joystick cap with thumb

The second image is a top-down view. The cup shape fits the ball of the thumb and gives precise control over the movement of the power chair.

WNCN featured a news report about this project.

-Jeffrey Olander, Ph.D. student in Department of Physics

scott magness

High-Throughput in Vitro Physiology for the Human Intestinal Epithelium

Our project entails the injection of various cargos into organoids formed by gastrointestinal stem cells in cultured and downstream analysis of the injected cargo. The 3D printed objects allowed us to mount the injection equipment with the confines of a physiologic chamber mounted on a automated microscope. The blue control-arm connects the microneedle holder to a robotic manipulator, allowing for fine control of a microneedle that is driven into the organoids. The white stage insert holds the culturing device containing the organoids in a specific orientation suitable for injection.

A) 3D Printed Control Arm and B) Stage Insert in a Microinjection Platform

-Scott Magness, Magness Lab, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology


Dengue Virus Envelope Protein Structure and Topography

In the Baric lab we study the structure of dengue virus to understand how it infects people, and how our immune system attacks it. To better understand the structure of the dengue virus, we can use 3D models of dengue proteins to predict how they will interact with other dengue proteins, and with our immune system. Our 3D model of the protein that covers the dengue virus allowed us to gain insights into the structure that weren’t obvious from 2D models.

Ralph Baric, Baric Lab, UNC School of Medicine and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health -Emily Gallichotte

Makerspace Quilt

In order to “tag” our new Research Hub MakerSpace as true makers would, a quilted sign was proposed and the Kenan Science Library invited the UNC community to help with its construction. The quilt was designed by two quilter librarians and made by eleven makers from across campus including three undergraduate students, one graduate student, six librarians and one chemistry researcher.

Several of the undergraduates were first time quilters and utilized the sewing machines in the MakerSpace to complete their blocks. The designers and two of the makers are part of the MakerSpace “String Theory,” a group of makers that meets monthly to work on their own projects including quilting, knitting, jewelry making and others. The quilt design uses the three primary colors of the MakerSpace and incorporates the Research Hub logo and University’s logo of the Old Well.

owl mask

Maker in Residence Program

The BeAM Makerspace at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosts a Maker in Residence (MIR) program, where undergraduate students participate in design-build projects under the guidance of expert Makers who are skilled in a particular technology or craft. The goals are to foster interdisciplinary student collaboration and to provide students with the opportunity to learn and apply the hands-on skills promoted by the Maker culture. Each semester, a different Maker is selected through an application process. The Maker leads a small group of students through a series of hands-on fabrication workshops during the semester. When the project is complete, the program culminates in a capstone event that shares the project with the larger University community.

The first MIR was Jim Pressley, an amateur astronomer who led students in the fabrication of a telescope. Using this telescope, more than 500 students and community members have been able to view the moon, planets and stars during the capstone event as well as other events both off campus and at the planetarium on campus.

The second MIR was Elliot Inman, a local engineering professional who led workshops in the fabrication of musical circuits. A musical circuits demo and jam was held as part of the day long celebration of the official launch of the KSL Makerspace on April 12, 2016.

The third MIR recipient was Forrest C. Greenslade, biologist and nature-inspired artist, who lead a design build project to create nests for native bees. Participants learned about bees native to the Carolinas and the critical role they play in pollination and thereby food availability. Students worked in the UNC makerspaces to design and build native bee nesting units using wood, metal, and other materials. The capstone event was hosted by the Coker Arboretum and the Carolina Community Garden.

The latest MIR recipient was master puppeteer Donovan Zimmerman of Paperhand Puppet Intervention, who guided students in creating masks and giant puppets, with a capstone performance in in the Historic Playmaker’s Theatre.

Periodic Table of the Elements Project

The Periodic Table Project was conceived as a key and defining element for the launch of the Kenan Science Library Research Hub and Makerspace. Members of the UNC community were invited to help create an artistic interpretation of an element to form part of a Periodic Table of Elements. Contributors drew inspiration from the element’s physical properties, who discovered it, where and when it was discovered, how it got its name, its chemical family, and how it has been or is currently used. The table is comprised of 5.5” x 5” tiles and is approximately 5′ x 8′ in size.

Textile printing block

Digitally Driven Replicas of an Antique Textile Printing Block

The item printed is an antique textile printing block replica, printed this past spring at the Makerspace.

This was created in the costume production MFA program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. My textile printing project includes an antique, wood carved printing block in need of repair and the process of creating a new print block in the form of 3-D printed plastic and a new carved wood block made on a C & C machine. The project covers the process of printing with a traditional block, creating a 2-D file, translating it to a 3-D file, and the printing process of the repaired blocks. The study also includes printing pros and cons with new blocks versus the antique block.

-Katie Keener, MFA Candidate, Department of Dramatic Arts

Rachel Pollock holding mask

Survey of Nine Media/Methods for Making Theatrical Masks

There are many methods and materials for making masks to use in performance, but all of them begin with a matrix sculpture upon which the mask is based. The medium chosen is often determined by the requirements of the play, the needs of the performer, and the available resources of time, budget, and labor. In this case, the matrix was 3D scanned, digitized, and printed in PLA plastic to create a rigid mask with a 10-hour production time. The eight other masks created in the survey include media such as cast neoprene latex, papier mache, thermoformable felt, and more; all of which have different physical properties in terms of rigidity/durability, cost, and both the time and skilled labor to create. The results of this survey are in consideration by the industry journal Stage Directions for future publication.

Rachel E. Pollock, Department of Dramatic Art

lizard-shaped blocks, shapes from an Escher painting.

The Worlds of M.C. Escher

mccombs These tiles are part of The North Carolina Museum of Art’s exhibit “The Worlds of M.C. Escher”.

I used the tiles to demonstrate how Escher uses rotational symmetry to create his Reptiles tessellation. My video interview will be included in the iPad app that will accompany the museum’s Escher exhibition. I also plan to use the Kenan Science Library printer to create 3D models for lesson plans in my First Year Seminar, “Math, Art, & the Human Experience.”

-Mark McCombs, Department of Mathematics


Low-Field NMR Spectrometer

F9508AA7-BB2C-40F2-8445-9DA1B01BFBDA Our lab performs magnetic resonance experiments with hyperpolarized Xenon gas produced by a commercial polarizer. The polarizer uses light and alkali metal vapor to polarize Xenon nuclei via spin-exchange optical pumping (SEOP). We are currently building a low-field NMR spectrometer to perform measurements of Xenon gas polarization across the polarizer’s optical pumping cell. In order to measure polarization across the cell simultaneously, we need to construct multiple, identical NMR surface coils. By using the 3D printing capabilities at the Kenan Makerspace, we have been able to accomplish this task quickly and easily, and devote more time to the physics involved in the SEOP process.

The first image is a homemade NMR coil positioned on the top of the polarizer optical cell. This coil enables us to measure Xe polarization during the spin-exchange optical pumping process.

The second image is low-field NMR coils wrapped on 3D printed coil forms designed to better fit on the polarizer optical cell surface.

-Tamara Branca, Branca Lab, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Mouse cradle

Small Animal Imaging With Hyperpolarized Xe Gas

MR compatible catheters fabricated using the 3D printer Our lab performs various magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) experiments using hyperpolarized Xenon (HPXe) gas to look at the lungs of mouse models of cystic fibrosis.

In order to keep images undistorted, everything must be metal free, including the small plastic catheters used to deliver the gas to the lungs of these small animals. Therefore, we replaced commercially available catheters, which use ferromagnetic materials to reinforce the catheter tubes, with 3D printed catheter fittings, which are completely metal free and keep our images undistorted. In addition, we designed and 3D printed an MR-compatible cradle used to position mice accurately and consistently during our imaging experiments.

The first image is a mouse cradle designed and fabricated using the 3D printer, used to image the lungs of small animals using MR visible gas. Gas for inhalation is delivered to the mouse through the tubing coming from the bottom left, through the 3D printed catheter, directly to the lungs.

The second image is MR compatible catheters fabricated using the 3D printer.

-Dr. Tamara Branca

camera attached to PC, imaging sections of tumors

Modernization of Legacy Microscopy Equipment

Our lab runs a small microscopy facility for the McAllister Heart Institute in the School of Medicine. We were able to acquire cutting-edge microscope cameras for use in this facility, but due to the age of one microscope we were unable to mount the camera’s optics to the scope body. I designed and printed a phototube adapter to allow the camera to be mounted to the microscope, where it is used by several research labs in a number of cardiovascular research projects. We have also printed an adapter for imaging cell culture dishes in this same microscope facility.

This photo demonstrates the camera in action, imaging sections of tumors our lab is interested in. The part I manufactured with Makerspace is the blue cylinder at the top of the microscope, which is bolted to the microscope body and holds the camera in place with tension screws.

-Andrew Dudley, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology -Jim Dunleavey

microscope with custom 3D printed apparatuses.

Fluorescence-Based Quantification of Oxygen in Three-Dimensional, Paper-Based Cultures of Mammalian Cells

3D mold for polymeric flow cell production. Our lab is very interested in developing simple tools to study the invasiveness of tumor cells in tissue-like environments.

We utilize paper-based scaffolds to generate our cultures because the material is readily available, easily processed, and accessible to many tissue culture laboratories regardless of their engineering expertise. As we develop these three-dimensionsal cultures, we are particularly interested in understanding how different environmental factors affect invasiveness (the first step in tumor metastasis).

Oxygen is particularly important because the concentration of oxygen in a tumor mass is much lower than the concentration in the surrounding healthy tissues. We are using our system to ask the question, do cancer cells selectively invade regions with higher oxygen concentrations? To quantify the oxygen in our cultures we have developed thin films, whose fluorescence intensity is dependent on the concentration of oxygen present in the culture. To test our thin films, we use 3D printing to prepare different apparatuses.

Pictured above is a flow cell used monitor the fluorescence of the film in the presence of different concentrations of oxygen.

The other figure shows a 3D mold for polymeric flow cell production. Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) flow cell, outlined by the red dashed line, in use with an inverted fluorescence microscope. Gas with varying concentrations of oxygen is delivered to the flow cell, and the emission of the sensor is measured. (Inset) Comparative view of the (left) assembled flow cell, (middle) cured PDMS flow cell before assembly, and (right) 3D printed mold for flow cell production. (Dime for scale)

-Matthew R. Lockett, Lockett Lab, Department of Chemistry -Matthew Boyce

CAD prototype of rat holder

Developing Small Animal Holders for MR Imaging of Rats and Mice

Motion artifacts in rodent holders currently utilized by this laboratory have contributed to issues in analysis that require extensive post-acquisition motion correction algorithms to properly analyze.

To address these issues we designed several MR compatible rodent holder prototypes using CAD software in order to improve on their structure and strength. Beyond this we are developing several prototypes for novel MRI head coil with head restrainers to be integrated into the holder to be utilized for functional MR imaging in conscious rodents.

This project aims to reduce motion artifacts during function MR imaging acquisition while improving overall image quality and consistency of all scans while also addressing the issues of how to interpret functional MR data acquired using anesthetized rodents.

The image shows a CAD prototype of our custom designed plastic rat holder that is currently being 3D printed in ABS at the UNC Makerspace. This cradle not only takes advantage of a strengthened design to minimize motion artifacts but will also allow the implementation of conscious animal imaging, which to date has not been implemented in small animal MR imaging on rodents at UNC.

Yen-Yu (Ian) Shih, Experimental Neuroimaging Laboratory, Biomedical Research Imaging Center (BRIC) and the Department of Neurology

small 3d-printed shapes with labels

Tactile Graphic Symbols

A girl using 3D-printed blocks to identify words and concepts

This 3D printing project is a component of a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The grant, Project Core (#H327S140017) is focused on developing an implementation plan to help schools meet the communication needs of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

The project emphasizes the use of graphic symbols that represent the most common words in spoken English; however, within the group of school-aged students with significant cognitive disabilities, there are a substantial number of students who have concomitant visual impairments. These students cannot see well enough to use graphic symbols. They require tactile information instead of visual information.

The 3D printer allows us to create tactile symbols for these students. While tactile symbols have been available for some time, 3D printers have advantages over prior approaches to creating tactile symbols. Perhaps most important among these advantages is the fact that symbols can easily be replicated when they are lost or more are needed for use across environments.

-Karen A. Erickson, Center for Literacy & Disability Studies, Department of Allied Health Sciences

fabric purse with 3D-printed handle

Art Nouveau-Influenced Purse Handle

This project is a hand-held purse intended to be large enough to use on stage while maintaining an aesthetic appropriate to the 1890s. The design of the purse handle was hand-drawn based on art nouveau border designs and altered to be thick enough to extrude into a printable file. The bag itself was patterned to be stitched to the handle and to be large enough to accommodate a prop to be used onstage by an actor.

-Emily Plonski, Carroll Kyser Costume Complex, Department of Dramatic Art

GlaznerDr. Allen Glazner of the Department of Geological Sciences with a ternary eutectic phase diagram he designed. Dr. Glazner had long wanted to produce a 3D model of this diagram for instruction, but lacked the tools to do it himself. He was able to design it in Tinkercad very quickly.
projectsA print of the upper femur, from a 3D model at the NIH 3D Print Exchange. A physician at the UNC Hospitals printed this model to explore using it for surgery training
projectsA depiction of the iron atom, with its electron orbitals shown as spinning rings. One of several learning objects printed on the MakerBot Replicator 2. The model was downloaded from Thingiverse.
iphone 6plus standA very interesting looking iPhone 6 Plus stand, printed only a day after the devices were released – 3D printing is faster than traditional manufacturing

old well proto 1Print of UNC’s Old Well, with dissolvable support filament still intact.
2xtzA 3D print of a guanine nucleotide-binding protein (G protein). Protein Data Bank (PDB) models are easy to convert to .STL files for 3D printing by using PyMOL and MeshLab.

cgsnyders1HEMEA model of a myoglobin protein (white) bound with a heme molecule (red).
bearsThe object on the right is an iron bear figurine that was scanned using the NextEngine 3D scanner. The resulting file was edited with MeshLab and printed on the MakerBot Replicator 2X. The object on the left is the printed copy.

OldWellThe Old Well, designed by James Skinner, with the dissolvable support filament removed.
small 3D printed life mask of Abraham Lincoln's faceA life mask of Abraham Lincoln from Smithsonian X 3D.
spindle5Mitotic Spindle model with support structure still in place before dissolving, designed by Dr. Kerry Bloom of the Biology Department.
caddy2This instrument caddy was designed by an undergraduate student in the chemistry department. 3D printing is a useful tool for prototyping, allowing development of models over several iterations.
horseA 3D print of a horse in-process. The horse was designed in Maya, which is useful for 3D animation and modeling, by a student in Spencer Barnes’s 3-D Design Studio class.

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