This week we’re excited to highlight Tim Eyes, designer behind fabMOL. As a molecular biologist, Tim is using 3D printing to put all those tiny molecules into our hands so we can appreciate the beauty and also learn as much as we can about the molecular world!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
I’m a PhD molecular biologist based at the University of Manchester, UK. One key area of my research involves understanding the atomic structure of biological molecules such as proteins.
What’s the story behind your designs? What inspires you?
Molecules are beautiful! The funny thing is, although there are a lot of excellent 3D artists on Shapeways, generating amazing objects, nature has got there first! Just take the symmetry of the DNA double helix for example. In the words of a James Watson (Nobel prize in figuring out DNA’s structure) ‘it’s so beautiful’ and yet it is so fundamental to life here on earth! There are some amazing functional designs in molecular biology but it is invisible to us down there at the atomic scale. Using 3D printing I can help people better communicate the science behind these molecules and open up new lines of scientific thought.
How did you learn how to design in 3D?
So it all started one day during my PhD studies, I was at my computer looking at a 3D image of the protein I was working on and I’d recently heard about 3D printing becoming more accessible – and it occurred to me why can’t I just print this as a model? It would look cool, but would also be great way to communicate molecular biology to my peers and the public. I then figured out how to convert atomic co-ordinates into printable models. I’ve since learned 3D modelling to customise molecules with supports or stands and begun to model wearable items such as jewellery.
What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
Initially I used a Dimension 3D printer at my local Fablab but the single colour material was fairly uninspiring. Then I discovered Shapeways, which opened up new materials, new customers and a whole new community to me.
How do you promote your work?
Shapeways has been helpful with promoting my work to interested parties, and I’ve recently set up a fabMOL website to increase my web presence. I’ve also made a lot of great scientific contacts through fabMOL. I’ve worked with industrial clients as well as academics. fabMOL models have been exhibited at international conferences and museums. The most rewarding thing is that through fabMOL and Shapeways I can help people promote science to inspire the next generation across the globe!
Who are your favorite designers or artists? Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
I have to mention Prof Arthur Olsen at the Scripps Institute who is a pioneer in molecular visualisation and 3D printing. Within Shapeways, fellow Brit Dotsan – I really like the ingenuity in minimizing material of models by using a polygon framework; it looks cool but it also keeps cost down.
If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
I’ve seen guys making transparent silicon moulds of molecule surfaces integrating regular colour sandstone ‘molecular skeletons’ inside which is cool (Kawakami Masaru). I think combining different modelling materials into one print run is gong to be the next leap in 3D printing.
Anything else you want to share?
The really exciting thing is we’ve literally just begun to scrape at the tip of an enormous iceberg in molecular biology. There’s thousands of unidentified molecule structures yet to be discovered from every species, from viruses to animals! 3D printing will make these fascinating discoveries available foreveryone to appreciate.
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT THIS SHOP:
- Great overall theme
- Fun branding
- Nice experimentation with materials (especially for different items like jewelry vs. scientific models)
Thanks so much, Tim! Your shop shows such a great use of 3D printing and we love the creativity of making both wearables and educational models – molecules really are beautiful when you can see them so well! Stay up to date by visiting Tim’s website and Twitter. To be featured, email aimee @ shapeways.com.