Molecular Models: The Future of Health Education

With a background in video game animation, Casey Steffen of Biologic Models isn’t your traditional health care education advocate. That doesn’t bother him at all, though.

Working with a Form 1 3D printer, and the crowdfunding website RocketHub, Steffen is working to increase awareness of one of the simplest tests for monitoring diabetes and other conditions affecting blood chemistry.

Steffen’s masters’ degree in biomedical visualization gives him unique insight into the field of health care.

His particular area of interest, in measuring blood glucose levels via the much-used but little-understood HbA1c test, utilizes the Form 1 to produce prototypes of human blood proteins—hemoglobin—in various states of glycation or oxygenation.

3D printed glycated hemoglobin molecular model by Casey Steffen
The pièce de résistance of the HbA1c campaign: a glycated hemoglobin molecular A1c (HbA1c) model.

These models, produced from real X-ray crystallography data sets, showcase the effect that the presence of different molecules can have on blood chemistry.

What is most eye-catching about Steffen’s Form 1 prints is their bright, translucent colors.

The post-printing dyeing method came about as a matter of practicality. In educational illustration, color is one of the most important carriers of information, so it was crucial that Steffen find a way to get color into his Form 1 prints.

Examples of dyed 3D printed molecular models
In educational illustration, color is one of the most important carriers of information.

Steffen hit on success with a combination of rubbing alcohol, food coloring, and RIT dyes, plus an essential UV-blocking coat of clear varnish. The process works on completed Form 1 prints made with Clear resin. The results are breathtaking.

“It turns out that most of these types of educational products get made by really large companies that distribute them throughout their network of industry contacts,“ stays Steffen. That leaves many patients in the lurch, when it comes to understanding their own medical test results.

Learn more about how stereolithography 3D printing is helping students, educators, and researchers around the world on our education industry page.

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