Massey University Scientists 3D Print Giant Pollen

Share this Article

If you suffer from allergies, the mere mention of pollen is likely enough to make you shudder. Those tiny yellow particles can cause a lot of pain for something so small. Imagine, then, a single pollen grain the size of your head. Sound like your worst nightmare? Well then, brace yourselves, because Massey University scientists have found a way to blow up pollen particles to thousands of times their original size. The image may be horrifying to you, but be comforted by the knowledge that these particular pollen grains are unlikely to make you sneeze.

Savoian-Matthew_Holt-Katherine_Pederson-Ben_2015-04

(L to R) Dr. Matthew Savoian, Dr. Katherine Holt and Ben Pedersen may be your worst nightmate. [Photo: Massey University]

Dr. Katherine Holt, a professor in Massey’s Institute of Agriculture and Environment, knows a lot about pollen. What looks like a tiny speck of yellow dust is actually a highly complex structure that can vary in size and shape, with dramatically different structures depending on the plant species. For Dr. Holt’s students, being able to identify varieties of pollen is an important part of their education, but she noticed that they were having difficulty identifying the pollen particles under microscopes. Under a basic light transmitted microscope, she said, particles can only be observed in two dimensions, which isn’t very useful when studying complex three-dimensional objects like pollen granules. So she decided to make the granules bigger – much bigger.

“I had seen people making 3D models of pollen that could then be viewed on a computer,” she said. “I thought, why not take this one step further and print them out in 3D? What surprised me is that it’s a really simple idea but no one had actually done it before.”

New-ConfocalCompressed

Scanning confocal microscope [Manawatū Microscopy and Imaging Centre]

She worked with Massey University’s Manawatū Microscopy and Imaging Centre, which offers free access to technology including a wide range of microscopes to students and professors. Using a scanning confocal microscope, Dr. Holt created 3D models of four types of pollen granules, from New Zealand native tree species Red Beech, Matai, Mountain Toa Toa and Rangiora. She then enlisted the help of engineering student Ben Pedersen, who improved the quality of the data and the image resolution using a process known as deconvolution.

3D-printer-pollen-171Dr. Holt and Pedersen scaled the pollen grain models up two to three thousand times their original size, and then it was time to print. They experimented with selective laser sintering, which produced a high-resolution model, as well as molten polymer deposition, which resulted in lower resolution. When they were finished, they had an assortment of giant pollen that students could hold and examine in three dimensions, allowing them to see the differing shapes and textures of the pollen species.

“I used to use balloons or plasticine to demonstrate pollen morphology to students but there’s something about knowing this is based on the actual thing that makes it amazing,” said Dr. Holt. “It’s a great way to expand our resources for teaching. Anything on the microscopic scale can be blown up, while anything really large, like a mammoth skeleton, can be scaled down. Just imagine: every high school could have their own pollen models or even their own replica moa bones!”

Misc_pollen

We’ve already seen scientists using 3D printing technology to scale up tiny fossil specimens so that they can be more easily studied, and Dr. Holt’s experiment shows that nothing is too small to be enhanced in this way. Dr. Matthew Savoian, director of the imaging centre, says that the combination of sophisticated microscopes and 3D printing have a lot of potential for every scientific field.

“You might have carbon nanofibres one week and be looking at dairy products the next,” he said. “The wonderful thing about the centre is we can see what’s feasible as well as the limitations of any particular technology.”

Discuss this story in the 3D Printed Pollen forum on 3DPBcom.

Facebook Comments

Share this Article


Recent News

Korean Startup USEED to Launch Voice Activated AI Driven 3D Printer for Kids

Bralco and GE Additive Sign MoU for Increased Development of 3D Printed Magnetic Components in APAC Region



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Hollywood, FL: Sintavia Acquires QC Laboratories; Expands Testing for 3D Printed Parts

Sintavia, headquartered in Hollywood, FL has just announced their official acquisition of QC Laboratories, Inc., located in Hollywood, FL—but also with sites in Orlando, FL, and Cincinnati, OH. The purchase...

3D Printed Medical Models Give Better Preoperative Education to Aneurysm Patients

In ‘Obtaining Informed Consent Using Patient Specific 3D Printing Cerebral Aneurysm Model,’ Korean researchers delve into an area that is becoming more well-known as a benefit of 3D printing, but...

Made In Space is Helping Human Space Colonization Become a Reality

Back in 1998, five space agencies began a collaboration to build the International Space Station (ISS), but building it on the ground and then launching it into space in one...

3D Printing News Briefs: July 16, 2019

We’re starting today’s 3D Printing News Briefs off on a story with a deadline – LulzBot is currently having a two-day Amazon Prime Day Sale. Moving on with other business...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.


Print Services

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our 3DPrint.com.

You have Successfully Subscribed!