Table of Contents
Journal of Crystallography
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 3054573, 8 pages
Research Article

Rapid Creation of Three-Dimensional, Tactile Models from Crystallographic Data

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Arizona University, P.O. Box 5698, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5698, USA

Received 4 March 2016; Revised 30 June 2016; Accepted 4 July 2016

Academic Editor: Rajesh G. Gonnade

Copyright © 2016 Nathan B. Fisher et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A method for the conversion of crystallographic information framework (CIF) files to stereo lithographic data files suitable for printing on three-dimensional printers is presented. Crystallographic information framework or CIF files are capable of being manipulated in virtual space by a variety of computer programs, but their visual representations are limited to the two-dimensional surface of the computer screen. Tactile molecular models that demonstrate critical ideas, such as symmetry elements, play a critical role in enabling new students to fully visualize crystallographic concepts. In the past five years, major developments in three-dimensional printing has lowered the cost and complexity of these systems to a level where three-dimensional molecular models may be easily created provided that the data exists in a suitable format. Herein a method is described for the conversion of CIF file data using existing free software that allows for the rapid creation of inexpensive molecular models. This approach has numerous potential applications in basic research, education, visualization, and crystallography.