Radical Sustainability through Biomimetics and 3D-Printing

Bionik-Netzwerk Hessen

by Bionik-Netzwerk Hessen

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3D Printing and Microscopy for Biomimetic Education

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Posted by Maria Leano on 30-09-2015 - Last updated on 30-09-2015

The connection with Nature is a key element in Biomimetics, which lead creativity to sustainable innovation. In many ways, Science is out of reach to many people, and it is quite difficult to teach it through texts and arguments. It is well known that Science can better be taught trough images, as scientific images have always fascinated people by getting their attention and interest. Today it is possible to go beyond images using 3D printing for teaching. In my project, I even go further by using modern Microscopes, which allow me to blow up microscopic organisms, as pollen grains and spores, and represent them volumetrically to a size easy to appreciate for anyone. Besides, 3D printing can be done locally, using images sent via Internet. In this way, in those places where it is difficult to use such advanced technology, as Confocal and Electron Microscopy, people would still be able to obtain advanced material of study.

  • This project is sustainable because it is an easy way to take Technology to remote places, and the other way around, to take Nature to cities. The material created using 3D printing can be used as models for Biomimicry studies and projects, where the first step is to reconnect with Nature to obtain ideas from natures’ knowledge.

    3D printing is in itself sustainable, but it could get out of hand. One day every house would have one. Before that happens, people have to learn to deal with its pros and cons or we will end up in a pile of garbage. By combining it with Natural Studies and Biomimicry it is possible to educate responsible citizens that will eventually create sustainable Solutions to problems in their communities. This is my idea.


  1. Ursula T. Ursula T.

    Dear Maria, what a nice idea. So the purpose is to familiarize people with the fascinating opportunities of 3D-Printing and Biomimicry, it is an educational project, right? Could you explain a little more in detail the practical application you foresee? Is it used in schools or for public exhibitions, will you offer a database online for the 3D Models of the micro-organisms you have analyzed and modelled etc.... thank you !!

    1. mariajose mariajose

      Dear Ursula, it is definitely an educational project with lots of applications, see, I am now teaching microscopy to designers at the University of los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, which has become a very special place to teach Biomimicry as well, and it has involved scientists and engineers as well. Scientists have given me lots of samples and information relevant to biomimic design, and engineers are seeking to participate in the imaging processing, not only to create “beautiful” images but also to help analyse them and to develop software to convert those images in 3D prints. Among them are botanists that are interested in using those 3D prints of pollen grains to be used in their studies, and medical doctors that would like to help students in rural areas, where it is difficult to access models for their studies (this is not only microscopic). I live in the city, but Colombia has lots of biological diversity in rainforests, deserts and mountains, with extensive ideas for Biomimicry and where technology comes only though cellphones and Internet. The idea for them to obtain 3D printers and be able to use them for education purposes is not new, but hasn’t been implemented yet, due to a lack on support and of an organized project. On the other hand, we (the team has yet to be created, but I know lots of people that would love to get involved), will be able to analyse and prepare the material to be printed anywhere around the world, using advanced microscopic technology available in educational centres like the University where I work. What will happen is that this project could become viral (and it is happening), people in areas with biodiversity could send material to be analysed and prepared for printing, and will receive in return the equipment to reproduce the 3D models. It is a win-win project that could be used around the world as well.