Cassiopeia A and SN 1987a 3D models by NASA CXC K.Arcand

Exploring our galaxy—and beyond—with 3D printing

  • Education

April Jubett’s background in scientific illustration and 3D animation paved the way for her work with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, a space-based telescope that orbits our planet collecting information for scientists. She began working on Chandra’s communication team fifteen years ago, exploring her strong desire to explain science through creative mediums like 3D printed models. With the help of Ultimaker, April and her team make it possible for inquisitive learners of all ages to hold supernovas right in the palm of their hand.

From mapped data to palm-sized supernovas

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts controls Chandra's science and flight operations. SAO, partnered with the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is one of the research branches of the Smithsonian Institution. They work with telescopes of heightened sensitivity and resolution in order to study the cosmos and make groundbreaking discoveries, sharing their research through innovative means.

Chandra X-ray Observatory
An artist's rendering of the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Credit: NASA/CXC/NGST

The sole purpose of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is to amass data in the form of X-ray light from high-energy objects—such as exploding stars and black holes—within and beyond our galaxy. Incorporating the latest technologies into their processes, Chandra’s Communications and Public Engagement group, of which April has been a member since 2001, creates 3D models and 3D prints in order to raise awareness and further understanding of our high-energy universe.

With recent breakthroughs, such as our ability to map X-ray data of astronomical objects in three dimensions, my team has expanded its role to include 3D printing of such objects, and now even virtual and augmented reality experiences around those data sets.

While they’ve found that videos and podcasts are an effective way to explain science to the masses, holding a 3D print is invaluable for learning about otherwise unreachable phenomena and data. “We use our 3D prints with people of all ages and of varying interests and abilities,” April says. “The idea of holding a ‘dead star’ in your hand seems to appeal to most people with a curious mind.  We can use our prints to help explain basic X-ray astronomy, physics, and technology to even very young children.”

Student with 3D model and 3D print
A student examining a 3D printed model and print. Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Jubett
Student watching Ultimaker 3
Another student watching the Ultimaker 3 in action. Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Jubett

April’s team runs STEM workshops for middle school and high school students interested in learning about the Chandra mission and the evolution of the stars, utilizing the 3D printed models as hands-on learning tools. In addition, they work with blind and visually-impaired communities. Having 3-dimensional models of objects that were previously only represented as 2-dimensional images allows her team to provide much more accessible education to learners of all ages and capabilities.

Cassiopeia A was the first model printed in 2014, though April and other members of the Chandra group had been working with models of the exploded star since the 3D mapped data was created by astrophysicist Tracy Delaney in 2009. “3D printing the Cassiopeia A model and others that have followed was a logical progression of my skills and interests,” April says. Despite lacking the first-hand experience with 3D printing, April was able to pick it up through trial and error, as well as with the help of more experienced users along the way.

Cassiopeia A
A false-color image of Cassiopeia A. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Cassiopeia A 3D print
A 3D printed model of Cassiopeia A. Credit: NASA/CXC/K. Arcand

PVA supports for quality 3D printed stars

Although the Chandra X-ray Observatory does not endorse any commercial product and aims to use all available tools for greater flexibility, the 3D printing program at Chandra has an Ultimaker 2+ and an Ultimaker 3 on hand for model making. Dual extrusion is one of the features that the team enjoys most about their Ultimaker 3, allowing for more than one color filament and the added benefit of water-soluble PVA supports.

The use of 2-color printing and dissolvable filaments for support and print-bed adhesion has been important. It is so much faster to not have to hand-remove the support structures, and we get a better quality print as a result.

Despite mainly printing with PLA and PVA, April has experimented with ABS and is interested in branching out to other materials in the future. The Ultimaker printers at Chandra often run 24/7, though trial and error for designs sometimes results in one model per week. In the future, April hopes to be able to produce better 3D files from mapped X-ray data that will result in prints with shorter production time and greater durability.

3D printed models of Supernova V745
Three models of Supernova V745 Sco. Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Jubett

Expanding their efforts for education, it’s important to the team that they provide STL files for anyone to print, encouraging students to get involved with Tinkercad and lessons on 3D modeling. They’ve already begun compiling files for download on the Chandra X-Ray Observatory website, with 3D models of supernovas and the Chandra spacecraft available to those interested in this research.

With the help of 3D printing, April and her team at the Chandra X-Ray Observatory have seen success in translating scientific data into tangible learning tools that anyone can use. “In my experience, it helps to use a mixture of technical (but non-jargon-loaded) and common language,” April says, “combining animations and other visual or tactile aids with hands-on experiences.” Through these innovative technologies, deep-space phenomena is simplified with everyday physics experienced on Earth, satisfying curious minds of all ages.

3D printing in education

Sources:
Arcand, K., Watzke, M., DePasquale, J., Jubett, A., Edmonds, P., DiVona, K., "Bringing Cosmic Objects Down to Earth: An overview of 3D modeling and printing in astronomy" Communicating Astronomy with the Public. issue 22, p. 14. 2017. Arcand, K. "How To Hold A Dead Star In Your Hand" Forbes Starts With a Bang, 2016.

Read more customer success stories

  • Ultimaker-idea-reality

    Idea Reality: Rapid prototyping and the art of failing forward

    Product design and development studio Idea Reality is using 3D printing to reduce costs and save time in bringing consumer-targeted projects to market.

    Schubert-Ultimaker

    Schubert: A digital warehouse for on-demand manufacturing

    Schubert uses 3D printing to deliver tools for its future-proof, high-performance packaging machines, making them even more versatile and easy to operate.

    Ultimaker and Killa Design

    Killa Design: 3D printing the buildings of tomorrow

    Killa Design uses 3D printing to create iconic designs that are fast becoming landmarks – including one of the most complex structures ever built.

  • heineken-ultimaker-ensuring-production-continuity-with-3d-printing

    Heineken: Ensuring production continuity with 3D printing

    Learn how Heineken increased line uptime and efficiency at its Seville brewery using 3D printing to create custom safety devices, tooling, and functional parts.

    Reducing costs and improving efficiency

    Reducing costs and improving efficiency with the Ultimaker S5

    IMI Precision Engineering, a leader in motion and fluid control technologies, use 3D printing to help create solutions that provide speed and precision for machinery.

    Ultimaker S5 at Health+Design Lab

    Enhancing patient care with 3D printing at Jefferson Health

    Jefferson Health, a hospital system located in Philadelphia, is at the forefront of healthcare technology, have integrated 3D printing into their Health+ Design Lab.

  • 3D-printed-mold-cores-on-Ultimaker-S5-build-plate-hero

    3D printing custom refractory mold cores for industrial ceramics

    Discover how a Czech industrial ceramics supplier benefits from Ultimaker 3D printers to create bespoke 3D printed refractory mold cores.

    Ultimaker-Ford-36

    Ford: Reinventing efficient manufacturing using 3D printing

    Ford has been working on creating an optimized workflow to create jigs, tools, and fixtures for Ford’s manufacturing process.

    royal netherlands

    Royal Netherlands Air Force: Speeding up maintenance with 3D printed tools

    The Ultimaker 3D printers help mechanics of the Royal Netherlands Air Force to speed up the maintenance of helicopters, fighter jets and large cargo planes.

  • Rosewood Bangkok

    Transforming the face of architectural design with 3D printing at KPF

    The role of physical models within the architectural design process has evolved over the past few years. At firms like Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) desktop 3D printers enhance the day-to-day iterations of design and the three-dimensional understanding.

    Owens Corning XSTRAND™

    Owens Corning: Creating the perfect material profiles for customers’ solutions

    To help customers get the best out of the XSTRAND™ range, Owens Corning collaborated with the engineers at Ultimaker to create optimized material profiles that are now available in Ultimaker Cura.

    Ultimaker at New Lab

    New Lab innovators print their way to faster iterations and design freedom

    In an era when startup incubators and co-working spaces spin up as a matter of course in densely populated urban centers, New Lab offers a fresh take on what it means to bring people and companies together to work under one large roof.

  • Florenradic Ultimakera 3

    Producing customized fashion solutions with Ultimaker 3D printers

    Florenradica is a design company fabricating prototypes and end-use parts for fashion houses. After discovering 3D printing, they were interested in exploring it further, as it allowed them to realize products that were not possible with CNC machines.

    Assembly9

    BOSEbuild: Accelerating design and testing phases with 3D printed parts

    Learn how BOSEbuild took advantage of Ultimaker 3D printers to quickly and seamlessly prototype their latest build-it-yourself headphones, saving time and money through in-house iterations.

    Ultimaker at Make Architects 1

    Make Architects: From 3D print to award-winning building

    Learn how Make Architects have transformed their model-making and prototyping process thanks to a suite of Ultimaker desktop 3D printers.

  • NYU-Tandon

    Empowering student innovation at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering

    The NYU Tandon School of Engineering is more than just a resource for students who want to learn about the technology of today and tomorrow. It prepares students to be motivated and self-sufficient when tackling science and engineering issues.

    3D printing for product development

    3D printing for product development to cut costs and save time

    Hartfiel Automation is a specialized high-tech provider of pneumatics, motion, and mobile control solutions. With the addition of an Ultimaker 3D printer to their product development process, Hartfiel Automation was able to save time and money while diversifying their services with product offerings...

    Ultimaker S5

    The Ultimaker S5 is here

    We are proud to announce our most advanced 3D printer yet – the Ultimaker S5. Built for the office, the Ultimaker S5 is a powerful, reliable, and versatile 3D printer that delivers industrial-class results.

  • 3D printing prototypes to save money and minimize risk

    3D printing prototypes to save money and minimize risk

    NoiseAware, the startup behind a noise monitoring and management system for high-risk, short-term rental properties, designed and prototyped their product with their in-house Ultimaker 3 printer. Saving thousands on the initial prototyping process for all parts, the NoiseAware team is able to create...

    Elizabeth-tilburg-96-optimized-cropped

    Research on the benefits of 3D printing in a trauma hospital

    3D printing is seeing increasingly widespread adoption in the medical field. It has already been used to visualize bone fractures, but pioneering researchers believe it can also be used to help treat trauma patients.

    Fittle IVPEI

    3D printed puzzle breaks down braille barriers

    For visually impaired people, learning to read braille is essential. But for many, braille learning devices are either too costly or ineffective. Now a 3D printed puzzle is making this vital skill accessible to all.

  • Iris-van-Herpen-Exhibit

    A study in innovative design at the Cincinnati Art Museum

    Dedicated to promoting inventive art-related exhibits and programs, the Cincinnati Art Museum is exploring the relationship between 3D printing and fashion by highlighting the work of designer Iris van Herpen.

    Astronaut Necklace Stern Design Works Model

    3D printing and the jewelry boutique: A model for small business success

    Cameron and Rebecca Stern, co-creators of Stern Design Works, bring together their innovative approach to traditional jewelry manufacturing with a fleet of Ultimaker professional desktop 3D printers.

    Cassiopeia A and SN 1987a 3D models by NASA CXC K.Arcand

    Exploring our galaxy – and beyond – with 3D printing

    With the help of 3D printing, the communication team at NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory makes it possible for inquisitive learners of all ages to hold supernovas right in the palm of their hand.

  • sylatech-header

    Casting metal parts for prototyping from 3D prints

    Sylatech uses Ultimaker 3D printers to optimize their metal casting prototyping process. The accelerated placement of tooling orders and reduced number of tooling modifications result in significant time- and cost savings.

    Cost-efficient, functional prototypes for small bore motorcycle parts

    Cost-efficient, functional prototypes for small bore motorcycle parts

    With Ultimaker, MNNTHBX found a more efficient way to design and produce prototyped parts in the small bore motorcycling industry. By switching from traditional methods of manufacturing to 3D printing, the team replaced dozens of hours at the CNC mill and saw a 90% reduction in raw material cost.

    jessica joosse designer 3D printing

    3D printing and the future of personalized fashion

    For designer Jessica Joosse, the fourth industrial revolution is transforming fashion, and an Ultimaker 3D printer is the perfect tool to explore possibilities.

  • farmshelf

    Farmshelf: Cost-effective custom parts for an urban farm system

    By using Ultimaker 2+ 3D printers, Farmshelf was able to iterate designs and print hundreds of custom parts; far more quickly than other methods of fabrication.

    3D Printed Texas Bridge

    Taking architecture from dream to design with 3D printing

    3D printed architectural models do more than simply provide tangible build site plans. These 3D prints show clients how key architectural features can bring the entire design to life.

    3D printed chess set

    An innovative 3D printing venture at Atlantic University College

    With support from students knowledgeable in 3D modeling and CAD software, Professor Vicente Gasco has set out to send 3D printing-savvy graduates into the working world through courses featuring the latest technologies.

  • HERO - Faulkner scale model with sky Faulkner 00

    Faulkner Industrial: 3D printing the future of architectural design

    Thanks to a streamlined digital-to-physical pipeline and a reliable Ultimaker desktop 3D printer, Faulkner Industrial is able to deliver architectural scale models at a fraction of the cost and turnaround time compared to competitors.

    Morrill 3D print Ultimaker

    St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day Maker Lab: Inspiring through innovation

    By providing a space for students to design, iterate, and print objects from their own imaginations, the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day Maker Lab is able to amplify the learning experience in meaningful, impactful ways. Keep reading to learn more.

    MIT Launch Students using Ultimaker

    Entrepreneurship at MIT Launch: 3D printing for the future

    The minds behind MIT Launch understand that there are limitless possibilities for 3D printing. By challenging students and encouraging innovation through the latest technologies, Launch is preparing young minds for the challenges that lay ahead.

  • 3D printing fashion heels store

    Eram heels: 3D printing personalized shoes in-store

    Have you ever been shopping for shoes and found it hard to get exactly the style you want? Now, with the help of a couple of Ultimaker 3D printers, fashion retailer Eram and Unistudio design studio are giving customers the power to create their own heels.

    Snow Business

    Snow Business: 3D printing final parts for high-value snow machines

    Snow Business is the world leader in snow and winter effects. The company uses their Ultimaker 3D printers for prototyping, functional testing, and creating final parts for their snow machines.

    Gantri team with Ultimakers

    Gantri: Shedding light on unique 3D printed designs

    Prototyped and manufactured with an Ultimaker 2 Extended+ print farm, Gantri products celebrate traditional techniques bolstered by new technologies that save time and money for a passionate community of designers.