Teachers often rely on two-dimensional images to teach complex three-dimensional concepts, such as the structure of molecules, but students cannot fully grasp these concepts with two-dimensional images alone, the researchers noted. Kits with 3D models are used for teaching purposes, but they "cannot handle the size and detail of macromolecules".
However, 3D printing allows teachers to create detailed custom models of molecules of any size.
In the paper, the researchers describe a 3D model-based course on DNA superhelix, designed for undergraduate biology classes. They chose this particular model so that students could “feel DNA relaxation and witness contortions resulting from twists in DNA.” They designed and 3D printed flexible plastic models with magnetic ends to simulate DNA supercurls.
The study reiterates what many researchers and education professionals have learned - that 3D printing models are an excellent way to teach students of any age. From preschoolers learning shapes and textures to college students learning DNA superspirals, hands-on models help make concepts real and easy to understand. 3D printing is a cost-effective way to create these models that can present details in a way that other manufacturing methods do not.